Proposed in 1956 by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, Bloom’s Taxonomy is a hierarchical ordering of cognitive skills that helps teachers teach and students learn.
Here are a few things that Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used for:
- assessment creation
- lesson plans and curriculum map design
- online course development
- project-based learning plans
This taxonomy’s structure helps to organize the messy mastery of information into smaller bite-sized pieces like memory, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. Unfortunately, many see Bloom’s model as a hierarchical one. The first step in the learning process is remembering knowledge. Next, we begin to understand it. However, we all learn differently and for some, learning doesn’t always occur linearly. Some of us skip steps. Consider the boy genius who designs a work of art that implies an almost intuitive mastery of complicated information but when asked to explain the formula or logic behind the work of art – can’t.
Why use Bloom’s Taxonomy?
Although it started over five decades ago, Bloom’s Taxonomy is still just as important today as it was back in the ’50s. There are many reasons for the popularity of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Many educators love Bloom’s because it provides them with a thorough breakdown of their teaching—and the subsequent learning of their students.
Educators can organize objectives and create applicable lesson plans that effectively guide students through the learning process. Educators can also design assessment tools to validate whether their lesson plans worked. What level of mastery did students reach as a result of their participation in the class? Do I feel confident that the course material led learners toward what I want learners to be able to say or do after the class ended? For many, this granular approach to setting classroom expectations far surpasses generalizing learning achievement with the word, “mastery.” What does it mean to say that I expect all learners to ‘master’ information?
At the heart of the Bloom’s Taxonomy framework is the ability to create achievable learning goals along with a structured and organized plan to meet them. Instructors are encouraged to view learning objectives in behavioral terms, in order to see what students are capable of as a direct result of the instruction they have received in each level.
For students, the hierarchical model in Bloom’s Taxonomy levels maps where they are in the knowledge acquisition process. It tells them what they know now and outlines what they need to learn in order to attain a higher level of enlightenment. At the end of the learning process, the aim of Bloom’s Taxonomy is that a student has honed a new skill and reached a new level of knowledge.
What are the downsides to Bloom’s Taxonomy?
Some believe that this taxonomy is only appropriate for lower levels of learning, and that it fails to address more recent developments in cognitive psychology. Some also frown on the idea that students must start at the lowest level and work their way up before engaging in a meaningful dialog about facts. These critics argue that oftentimes those engaging discussions need to happen sooner.
That being said, Bloom’s Taxonomy does not need to be followed strictly without any wiggle room. It is designed to be interpreted in many ways in order to fit various teaching styles, courses and lesson plans.