Bloom's Taxonomy in the Classroom

Andrea Hernandez/ CC/ Flickr

Though a student's complaint that a question is too hard might be more a matter of effort than ability, it is true that some questions are just harder than others. The difficulty of a question or assignment comes down to the level of critical thinking it requires.

Simple skills such as identifying a state capital are quick and easy to assess, while complex skills such as the construction of a hypothesis are more difficult to quantify. Bloom's taxonomy can be used to make the process of categorizing questions by difficulty easier and more straightforward.

Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom's taxonomy is a long-standing cognitive framework that categorizes critical reasoning in order to help educators set more well-defined learning goals. Benjamin Bloom, an American educational psychologist, developed this pyramid to define levels of critical thinking required by a task. Since its inception in the 1950s and revision in 2001, Bloom's Taxonomy has given teachers a common vocabulary for naming specific skills required for proficiency.

There are six levels in the taxonomy that each represent distinct levels of abstraction. The bottom level includes the most basic cognition and the highest level includes the most intellectual and complicated thinking. The idea behind this theory is that students cannot be successful in applying higher-order thinking to a topic until they have first mastered a ladder of rudimentary tasks.

The goal of education is to create thinkers and doers. Bloom's taxonomy gives a path to follow from the beginning of a concept or skill to its end, or to the point where students can think creatively about a topic and solve problems for themselves. Learn to incorporate all levels of the framework into your teaching and lesson plans in order to scaffold the learning that your students are doing.

Remembering

In the remembering level of the taxonomy, which used to be known as the knowledge level, questions are used solely to assess whether a student remembers what they have learned. This is the bottom level of the taxonomy because the work that students are doing when remembering is the simplest.

Remembering commonly presents in the form of fill-in-the-blank, true or false, or multiple-choice style questions. These can be used to determine whether students have memorized important dates for a particular time period, can recall the main ideas of a lesson, or can define terms.

Understanding

The understanding level of Bloom's Taxonomy moves students slightly beyond fact recall into understanding the information presented. This used to be known as comprehension. Within understanding, students encounter questions and tasks where they interpret facts rather than state them.

Instead of naming cloud types, for example, students demonstrate understanding by explaining how each type of cloud is formed.

Applying

Application questions ask students to apply or use the knowledge or skills that they have acquired. They might be asked to use information that they have been given to create a viable solution to a problem.

For example, a student might be asked to solve a mock Supreme Court case using the Constitution and its amendments to determine what is constitutional.

Analyzing

In the analyzing level of this taxonomy, students demonstrate whether they can identify patterns to solve problems. They differentiate between subjective and objective information in order to analyze and come to conclusions using their best judgment.

An English teacher wanting to assess student analyzing skills might ask what the motives were behind a protagonist's actions in a novel. This requires students to analyze the traits of that character and come to a conclusion based on a combination of this analysis and their own reasoning.

Evaluating

When evaluating, a level previously known as synthesis, students use given facts to create new theories or make predictions. This requires them to apply skills and concepts from multiple subjects at once and synthesize this information before coming to a conclusion.

If, for example, a student is asked to use data sets of ocean level and climate trends to predict ocean levels in five years, this type of reasoning is considered evaluating.

Creating

The highest tier of Bloom's taxonomy is called creating, previously known as evaluation. Students demonstrating their ability to create must know how to make judgments, ask questions, and invent something new.

Questions and tasks within this category might require students to assess author bias or even the validity of a law by analyzing information presented and forming opinions, which they must always be able to justify with evidence. Often, creating tasks ask students to identify problems and invent solutions for them (a new process, an item, etc.).

Implementing Bloom's Taxonomy

There are many reasons for a teacher to Bloom's taxonomy close at hand, but of paramount importance is its application when designing instruction. This hierarchical framework makes clear the type of thinking and doing that students should be capable of in order to achieve a learning target.

To use Bloom's taxonomy, set learning goals for a lesson or unit by first fitting student work into each level. These levels can be used to decide what types of thinking and reasoning you want students to be doing at the introduction of a lesson and what types of thinking and reasoning students must be able to do upon a lesson's conclusion.

This system will help you include every level of critical thinking necessary for total comprehension without skipping any critical levels of development. Keep the intended objective of each level in mind as you plan questions and tasks.

How to Design Tasks and Questions

When designing questions and tasks, consider: Are students ready to think for themselves about this yet? If the answer is yes, they are ready to analyze, evaluate, and create. If not, have them do more remembering, understanding, and applying.

Always take advantage of opportunities to make student work more meaningful. Bring personal experiences and authentic purpose into the questions that students are answering and tasks that they are doing. For instance, have them remember the names of important figures from local history or create solutions to problems that the students in their school face. As always, ​rubrics are important tools for ensuring fair and accurate grading across the board.

Keywords to Use

Use these keywords and phrases to design effective questions for every level.

Bloom's Taxonomy Key Words
Level Keywords
Remembering who, what, why, when, where, which, choose, find, how, define, label, show, spell, list, match, name, relate, tell, recall, select
Understanding demonstrate, interpret, explain, extend, illustrate, infer, outline, relate, rephrase, translate, summarize, show, classify
Applying apply, build, choose, construct, develop, interview, make use of, organize, experiment with, plan, select, solve, utilize, model
Analyzing analyze, categorize, classify, compare/contrast, discover, dissect, examine, inspect, simplify, survey, distinguish, relationships, function, motive, inference, assumption, conclusion
Evaluating build, combine, compose, construct, create, design, develop, estimate, formulate, plan, predict, propose, solve/solution, modify, improve, adapt, minimize/maximize, theorize, elaborate, test
Creating choose, conclude, critique, decide, defend, determine, dispute, evaluate, judge, justify, measure, rate, recommend, select, agree, appraise, opinion, interpret, prove/disprove, assess, influence, deduct
 
Key words to include in questions for each level of thinking

Help your students become critical thinkers by using Bloom's taxonomy. Teaching students to remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Source

  • Armstrong, Patricia. “Bloom's Taxonomy.” Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University, 13 Aug. 2018.
  • Bloom, Benjamin Samuel. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: David McKay, 1956.