Benjamin Bloom: Critical Thinking and Critical Thinking Models

Portrait of Benjamin Bloom

Yeruhamdavid / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY_SA 4.0

Benjamin Bloom was a U.S. psychiatrist who made several significant contributions to education, mastery learning, and talent development. Born in 1913 in Lansford, Pennsylvania, he exhibited a passion for reading and research from an early age.

Bloom attended Pennsylvania State University and earned a bachelor’s degree and a master's degree, then he became a member of the University of Chicago’s Board of Examinations in 1940. He also served internationally as an educational adviser, working with Israel, India and several other nations. The Ford Foundation sent him to India in 1957 where he ran workshops on educational evaluation. 

Model of Critical Thinking

Bloom's taxonomy, in which he describes the major areas in the cognitive domain, is perhaps the most familiar of his work. This information is drawn from the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain (1956).

The taxonomy begins by defining knowledge as remembering previously learned material. According to Bloom, knowledge represents the lowest level of learning outcomes in the cognitive domain.

Knowledge is followed by comprehension, or the ability to grasp the meaning of material. This goes just beyond the knowledge level. Comprehension is the lowest level of understanding.

Application is the next area in the hierarchy. It refers to the ability to use learned material in new and concrete principles and theories. Application requires a higher level of understanding than comprehension.

Analysis is the next area of the taxonomy in which the learning outcomes require an understanding of both the content and the structural form of material.

Next is synthesis, which refers to the ability to put parts together to form a new whole. Learning outcomes at this level stress creative behaviors with a major emphasis on the formulation of new patterns or structures.

The last level of the taxonomy is evaluation, which concerns the ability to judge the value of material for a given purpose. The judgments are to be based on definite criteria. Learning outcomes in this area are the highest in the cognitive hierarchy because they incorporate or contain elements of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, and synthesis. In addition, they contain conscious value judgments based on clearly defined criteria.

Inventing encourages the four highest levels of learning—application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation—in addition to knowledge and comprehension.

Bloom's Publications

Bloom’s contributions to education have been memorialized in a series of books over the years. 

  • Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. Bloom, Benjamin S. 1956. 
  • Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. Longman. Bloom, Benjamin S. 1956. 
  • All Our Children Learning. New York: McGraw-Hill. Bloom, Benjamin S. 1980. 
  • Developing Talent in Young People. New York: Ballantine Books. Bloom, B. S., & Sosniak, L.A. 1985. 

One of Bloom’s last studies was conducted in 1985. It concluded that recognition in a respected field requires 10 years of dedication and learning at a minimum, regardless of IQ, innate abilities or talents. Bloom died in 1999 at the age of 86.

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Bellis, Mary. "Benjamin Bloom: Critical Thinking and Critical Thinking Models." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Bellis, Mary. (2020, August 28). Benjamin Bloom: Critical Thinking and Critical Thinking Models. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "Benjamin Bloom: Critical Thinking and Critical Thinking Models." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).