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eLearning Guild Research: Reconsidering Bloom's Taxonomy (Old AND New)

by Patti Shank

February 14, 2013

Research

by Patti Shank

February 14, 2013

“Bloom’s work continues to inspire attention, revisions, applications, research, and discussion. It shapes instructional practice and is a widely accepted metric. Bloom’s influence has certainly stood the test of time.”

Bloom’s Taxonomy. Is there anything so familiar to people throughout the learning field as this pyramid with knowledge at the bottom and evaluation at the top? Most people engaged in the design of instruction, whether instructional designers, trainers, educators, instructors, faculty, or subject matter experts, have probably been drilled in using Bloom’s familiar pyramid and verbs to write learning objectives.

Yet, our notions about the design of instruction have changed since Bloom’s Taxonomy came out in the 1950s. Can something from that era still be relevant with our new understandings about learning and in the age of mobile learning and augmented reality?

The Guild examines original and revised Bloom’s taxonomies

The eLearning Guild’s new research report, Bloom’s Taxonomy: What’s Old Is New Again discusses the history and revisions of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and examines its use in all facets of education and instruction and why it has endured despite numerous criticisms. It also includes numerous job aids, such as Figure 1, to help practitioners better use Bloom’s in their own settings.

Figure 1:  Bloom’s taxonomy staircase (Source: ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/NEDC/isd/taxonomy.pdf)

In Figure 1, the stairs represent the cognitive levels in Bloom’s original taxonomy, arranged in ascending order. Above each step is a list of suggested activities for that level. Below each step is a list of the verbs that we commonly used to create learning objectives.

What many people don’t know is that Benjamin Bloom never intended to generate instructional dogma. He actually intended his work for a narrow audience: assessment experts developing new ways to measure what college students learned. But he was glad that it helped make an important shift in educators’ focus from teaching to learning.

In 2001, Lorin Anderson and collaborators published a revised version: A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Anderson was a student of Bloom’s. One of Anderson’s collaborators, David Krathwohl, worked with Bloom on the original taxonomy.  Among the reasons for the update was inclusion of new understanding of learning and new methods of instruction.

How the new taxonomy is different

Figure 2 shows the most obvious difference between the original and revised versions. In the revised taxonomy, evaluation is no longer the highest level of the pyramid. A new category, creating, is at the top. Another significant change is that category names are no longer nouns, but verbs, so objectives are meant to describe learners’ thinking processes rather than behaviors.

Bloom’s Original Taxonomy

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

Figure 2: Bloom’s original and revised taxonomies

The revised taxonomy arranges skills from most basic to most complex. The new version has two dimensions—knowledge and cognitive processes—and the subcategories within each dimension are more extensive and specific (Figure 3). The report explains how the two-dimensional taxonomy is used to build performance-based objectives. You’ll want to read this part because it will help you build much more targeted objectives.

Figure 3: Taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: a revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
(Source: Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching; http://
www.celt.iastate.edu/pdfs-docs/teaching/RevisedBloomsHandout.pdf

In 2007, Andrew Churches updated Bloom’s work again by introducing Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. His intent was to marry Bloom’s cognitive levels to 21st-century digital skills.

For example, for the top of the revised taxonomy, creating, learners might:

  • Develop a script for a video
  • Construct an eBook
  • Develop a podcast

Details support digital literacy

Digital literacy is critical in today’s world, so we don’t use technology just to use it but to develop the skills to live and work successfully. Although we may map a tool to a specific level of the hierarchy, we can certainly use tools at more than one cognitive level. The author, Cecelia Munzenmaier, explains this in more detail in the report.

Bloom’s work continues to inspire attention, revisions, applications, research, and discussion. It shapes instructional practice and is a widely accepted metric. Bloom’s influence has certainly stood the test of time.

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