Communities Resolving Our Problems: the basic idea
[SUP: Problem Finding] [THINK: Problem Framing] [LEAP: Problem Solving]

An Overview of Bloom's Taxomony

Where do we begin in seeking to improve human thinking? One place to begin is in defining the nature of thinking. Before we can make it better, we need to know more of what it is. The cognitive domain of Bloom's three domain taxonomy (Clark, 2007) serves as the basis for what are now called higher order thinking skills. The cognitive domain taxonomy helped to create a standard around which further work could be done with the concepts of higher and lower order thinking. This model included six levels of thinking in a general scale of cognitive complexity from lowest to highest (O'hara, 1978): knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Each level not only asks more of our thinking skills but includes the previous levels as subsets of the new level. The collection provides educators with a structure which can be used to build curriculum materials that take learners more deeply into any area of study. The taxonomy takes on renewed importance in the information age (Forehand, 2005).

Through this cognitive lens one can more easily discern the mentally magnifying values of computer networks and a multitude of computer applications, the intellectual power tools within cyberspace. One can also recognize ways to use the taxonomy to improve computer use and recognize where computer technology cannot reach, and where the power of mind must be ready to use its full capability.

For example, without the ability to recall an inter-related range of basic information such as terms or words, it is impossible to effectively use a search system. That is, without skills at the knowledge level the user does not know what term to type in when needing information on the continent of Africa nor what synonyms might be helpful if nothing is retrieved from use of the first term. At the other end of this thinking continuum, effectively evaluating collected data in a spreadsheet to determine the best choice of among competing plans requires skills with each of the earlier levels.

One of the more unknown aspects of this taxonomy is its forgotten attribution to the rest of its authors. Bloom was the first name listed in alphabetical order of multiple editors, so many that they became the ubiquitous "and others" of a taxonomy that was developed by a very large committee of faculty from multilple campuses. This typical reference found in an online card catalog makes this point: "Taxonomy of educational objectives : the classification of educational goals ; / by a committee of college and university examiners ; Benjamin S. Bloom, editor [and others] IMPRINT New York : D. McKay Co., Inc., c1956-1964 (1971-72 printing) DESCRIPT. 2 v. in 1 : ill. ; 22 cm. NOTE Vol.2 by D.R. Krathwohl and others." As the group listed their names in alphabetical order, perhaps it should have been Krathwohl's Taxonomy.

Since the work on this taxonomy in 1956, it has been reinterpreted in different ways that both condense, expand and transform the original work. The Northwest Regional Lab model developed in the 1980's was one example of a condensation, a compression to five levels that was adopted by the state education system of North Carolina and elsewhere, a version no longer promoted by NWREL. Marzano's model (1988) expands the original taxonomy to eight. North Carolina educators recondensed that to seven. Both the Northwest and the Marzano alternatives are considered in some detail in other think branches of this site. A group that included one of the original lead authors & editors, David Krathwohl, created another version, a major revision of the model (Anderson et al, 2001; Krathwohl, 2002). Though creativity becomes more culturally important in the rapidly changing nature of the 21st century, the actual nature of which is more complex and therefore at the top of the pyramid has not been proven. More importantly, Huit (1992) reported that both synthesis and evaluation are significant as problem solving effectiveness drops if either is missing from the process.

The adjustments in the Revised Taxonomy model changed the key terms from nouns to verbs, added meta-cogition as a new dimension of learning, replaced the term synthesis with creativity, and placed creativity at the highest level of the taxonomy instead of evaluation. Overbaugh and Schultz have provided a convenient online comparison of the old and new version. This is an important distinction that was echoed with similar thinking by other groups of educators, most recently the National Educational Technology Standards group placed creativity and innovation at the top of both the teacher and student standards lists (2007/2008).

Building on the revised version, Oregon State University has provided clickable examples for application of the Taxonomy Table model created at at each of the four dimensions of learning (factual, conceptual, procedural, and meta-cognitive) (Fisher, 2007). Clicking different cells of the table provide examples of educational implementation. An extension of the revised model has created a map of its integration with digital literacy age (Churches, 2008).

The taxonomy is often used as a set of categories for criticism of educational practice. "Almost always, these analyses have shown a heavy emphasis on objectives requiring only recognition or recall of information, objectives that fall in the Knowledge category" (Krathwohl, 2002). In spite of general failure to achieve its goals, the taxonomy appears relatively well accepted, with the exception of O'hara (1978) noting that their research questioned the cognitive gradient between comprehension and synthesis (creativity). A remaining critique of Bloom's model is the absence of a larger model that applies it within the larger context of problem processing and problem solving. It is, after all, a taxonomy, not a process. The CROP model above explicitly addressed this problem by including higher order thinking in its problem framing stage as part of a three stage problem processing model: problem finding, problem framing and problem solving. Through such a larger design it is hoped that research evidence will emerge that Bloom's Taxonomy is playing an effective role in instructional practices.

Selected Bibliography

 As the following references indicate, there are many ways of expressing and applying "Bloom's taxonomy." The references represent a continuum from tight overviews to expanded explanations, actual curriculum uses of the taxonomy and non-online works of a more extensive and critical perspective. Very brief summaries:

Greater detail:  
[home THINK page | CROP | Page author Houghton | First edition Octoer 3, 2003; Updated August 25, 2008]