Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Learning

My last post challenged us to think of ways to help students deal with the emotional stress of college and more challenging classes.  One of the questions I asked was “How do we help students gain the skills to succeed in the rat race?” One of the most common tools teachers use for this is Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Learning.

What is it?

It was developed in the 1950s as a way to compare course objectives and assignments across schools, grade levels, teachers, and courses; but teachers have come to use it in order to plan their classes so that students achieve the student learning outcomes.

Bloom’s Taxonomy has become so useful for teachers because it assumes that one cannot move from one step of the taxonomy to the next without mastering the first step. A student can’t analyze the data unless she knows the data.  Charts like this one are helpful because they offer verbs to help teachers know what level of the taxonomy their SLO is.  For example, “At the end of this course, students will be able to diagram a Latin sentence” is in the “Analysis” category.  It would require students to be able to identify know what a subject is (Knowledge), identify the subject (Application), and differentiate the various uses of the Ablative (Analysis), so it is a pretty high-level task (To say nothing of learning the procedure behind making a sentence diagram).

This taxonomy was revised in an article by David R. Krathwohl in Theory into Practice 2002 in order to take the different kinds of knowledge into account: factual, conceptual (how facts relate to each other), procedural (how to do something, how things happen), and metacognitive (how students think about their own work).  Others have separated the “procedural” into “processes” (how things work) and “procedures” (how to do things).  These revised taxonomies are well explained and illustrated on these two blog posts: on EdPsyc and by Don Clark. This chart is copied from the former:

Remember Understand Apply Analyze Evaluate Create
Factual Knowledge Terminology
Elements & Components
Label map
List names
Interpret paragraph
Summarize book
Use math algorithm Categorize words Critique article Create short story
Conceptual Knowledge Categories
Define levels of cognitive taxonomy Describe taxonomy in own words Write objectives using taxonomy Differentiate levels of cognitive taxonomy Critique written objectives Create new classification system
Procedural Knowledge Specific Skills & Techniques
Criteria for Use
List steps in problem solving Paraphrase problem solving process in own words Use problem solving process for assigned task Compare convergent and divergent techniques Critique appropriateness of techniques used in case analysis Develop original approach to problem solving
Meta-Cognitive Knowledge General Knowledge
Self Knowledge
List elements of personal learning style Describe implications of learning style Develop study skills appropriate to learning style Compare elements of dimensions in learning style Critique appropriateness of particular learning style theory to own learning Create an original learning style theory

This image provides some verbs to help SLOs and ideas for activities or technology to use for them:

Revised Blooms Taxonomy


How do we use it?

  • Help write student learning objectives.
  • Help our assignments and classes have rigor.  Many people note that most assignments and tests do not ask students to go beyond the “Knowledge”/”Remembering” level of the taxonomy, but most of us want to get our students to at least the “Analyzing” level.  We need to remember to use rigor in our assignments, and this taxonomy can help us get there.
  • Help our assignments and classes actually teach skills.  When I first started teaching Latin, I didn’t think about what the students actually need to learn how to translate Latin sentences, so they did not learn well.  When I took a step back and thought “What are the actual steps they will need in order to learn how to translate this verb or that construction?”, students were able to learn Latin from me.  We need to make sure that students develop skills and that we work up to the more complex skills rather than ask them to do something complicated on the first day.  Building skills throughout the course and throughout class periods are good ideas.  You can also model skills before you ask students to do the same thing, and lectures are often good ways to model that skill.

What are some things we need to remember?

  • Work with the pace of your students.  They will not all be able to learn how to apply ideas right away.
  • Moving up the taxonomy requires students to frequently engage with material and for you to regularly assess their level on the taxonomy.  You can do this through in-class writing or through personal response systems, but be aware of what level you are actually assessing with these methods.  The latter is better for Knowledge/Remembering and the former is better for higher cognitive questions.
  • This teaches students how to think.  It does not teach students about emotions and developing their own value system (the affective domain) or about psychomotor skills.

What are other resources related to Bloom’s Taxonomy?



7 thoughts on “Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Learning

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