How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Benjamin Bloom created his taxonomy in order to categorize different levels of abstraction of question that appear in educational settings. It has particular value in planning teaching and assessment.
Knowledge is about capture and recall of facts. It involves observation, reading and listening, then structuring and regurgitating them on demand. Memory is a very important aspect of knowledge. At this level in the taxonomy, by the way, 'knowledge' is more 'know what' than 'know how'.
Questions to elicit knowledge include: define, describe, label, list, show, tell, when, where, who.
Comprehension adds understanding to knowledge, linking things together to create meaning. The skill of comprehension is largely about matching patterns of perception onto patterns that have already been learned or created. Recognition is hence an important element.
Comprehension and pattern-matching to existing models allows you to project forward and predict what may or may not happen in the future. This is a critical survival skill and can enable you to avoid risks and take advantage of opportunities.
Questions to elicit comprehension include contrast, compare, describe, differentiate, estimate, explain, interpret, predict, summarize.
Application takes knowledge and comprehension and turns it into positive action that achieves goals and creates value. Whilst knowing and comprehending are about memory and thinking, application is about doing.
Doing can be physical or mental. Applying knowledge at the cognitive level includes applying this ability to solve problems. Physically, it can range from simple acts of strength to working with others towards joint goals.
In a material and an action-oriented world, the application of partial knowledge is often valued more than the possession of perfect knowledge, and achievement is often framed in these terms.
Questions to elicit application include: calculate, classify, examine, how, illustrate, modify, relate, show, solve.
Synthesis is about creating new thoughts, ideas, designs and other generative activities. It includes reasoning that may be deductive or inductive, creative or innovative. It may connect disparate things into something new or pull ideas out of the air.
Questions to elicit synthesis include: combine, compose, create, design, invent, prepare, rearrange, rewrite, what if.
Evaluation is a act of judgment. It compares and discriminates between proposals and ideas. It considers the wisdom of whether actions might be effective or not, including over the longer term. It assesses theories and ideas, determining the effective value contained therein. It is about deciding and making the best choices.
Questions to elicit synthesis include: argue, assess, choose, conclude, decide, explain, grade, judge, rank, recommend, select, summarize, support.
So when you are teaching or otherwise educating, deliberately plan for learning to happen at the appropriate levels.
And when you are checking what has been learned, use this simple taxonomy to help design your methods of assessment.
Bloom, B.S. (1984). Taxonomy of educational objectives. Allyn and Bacon, MA:Boston
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