To understand any theory, it’s best to understand the person behind its creation. Benjamin Bloom was born on February 21, 1912. He completed his bachelor’s degree at Penn State in 1935, and finished his PhD at the University of Chicago in 1942 (cft.vanderbilt.edu). This places Benjamin Bloom’s professional career in the WWII and postwar eras, which was filled with a record amount of innovation and prosperity. Bloom was renowned for being an educational psychologist who contributed to the classification of educational objectives as they pertain to assessments and evaluations. He became obsessed with the process of learning and used his expertise to classify the process of attaining knowledge. Knowledge was the foundation of all of the other subsequent categories within his taxonomy, and served as support for a particular learning outcome. Bloom dedicated his life to the pursuit of learning and mastery and the study of how those two particular elements affect student outcomes. It is this classification framework which we call “Bloom’s Taxonomy”.
In his original 1956 book entitled Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, the framework contained six categories which included:
- Knowledge “involves the recall of specifics that include methods, processes, patterns, structure or settings.”
- Comprehension “refers to a type of understanding where the individual knows what is being communicated and can make use of the material/idea being communicated without relating it to other material or seeing its fullest implications.”
- Application refers to the “use of abstractions in particular and concrete situations.”
- Analysis represents the “breakdown of a learning object into its constituent elements or parts such that the relative hierarchy of ideas is made clear and/or the relations between ideas expressed are made explicit.”
- Synthesis involves the “putting together of elements and parts so as to form a whole.”
- Evaluation engenders “judgments about the value of material and methods for given purposes.”
However, in 2001 cognitive psychologists Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl revised the taxonomy to more accurately describe the different forms of knowledge that exist. This updated Taxonomy is utilized along a multitude of learning organizations. The authors removed “knowledge” from the list of categories and, instead, displayed knowledge as the basis of every desired objective. The taxonomy now has six different categories:
The authors proposed an updated set of categories which build a framework for knowledge:
- Factual Knowledge: Much like you find in history class (remembering dates, events, formulas)
- Conceptual Knowledge: A type of knowledge often found in Biology with the classification of animals.
- Procedural Knowledge: This type of knowledge should teach the learner a particular set of skills, such as accounting or nursing.
- Metacognitive Knowledge: This knowledge should result in the learners creating and constructing their own contribution to a particular field of knowledge.
Why should online professors use Bloom’s Taxonomy? Consider that if a professor wants their students to achieve a particular learning outcome, the professor might benefit from mapping out the path students should take to get there. Just as a traveler must first map out their route before circumnavigating the globe, a student needs to see or envision their path to the desired learning outcome. The taxonomy that Bloom created makes the process of aligning learning objectives with specific assessments that much easier, utilizing backward design instructors can also use the taxonomy to create their learning objectives.
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a cornerstone of design thinking in education. Using verb charts, which are often associated with Bloom’s taxonomy, can often help faculty create quality learning objectives for their courses. This is why — 60 years later — Bloom’s Taxonomy still serves as the standard for measuring effective learning assessments. However, a discussion is happening among learning experts that questions whether using the taxonomy is necessary at all. In fact, FIU Online’s own Matthew Acevedo writes:
When instructor-experts approach the collaborative environment without learning objectives or with learning objectives that are not measureable or well written, a discussion of terminal and enabling objectives is an effective tool for beginning the process or revising existing objectives.This approach is clearer and more direct than other methods, such as providing framed statements using Bloom’s Taxonomy aligned verbs. (2014)
I’ll conclude by posing a question to Faculty-experts: what can instructional designers do to better expose and promote the importance of quality learning objectives?
Acevedo, Matthew M. 2014. “Collaborating with Faculty to Compose Exemplary Learning Objectives.” Internet Learning Journal 3 (1): 5-16.
Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.
Bloom Taxonomy of educational objectives. The classification of educational goals. Handbook one. Cognitive domain McKay, New York (1956).
(n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2016, from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/.