Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom's Taxonomy
Original Bloom's Taxonomy. Carol Bainbridge

What is Bloom's Taxonomy?

Bloom's taxonomy is a classification system for the cognitive skills used in learning. Teachers use this taxonomy to plan lessons.

A taxonomy is a system that groups and orders concepts or things, such as the classifications in biology that include family, genus and species. In 1956, Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist, created a taxonomy of the cognitive skills required for learning.

The Six Levels of Intellectual Skills

Bloom's Taxonomy has six levels of intellectual skills, each one building on the previous level: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

This taxonomy is often represented by a pyramid divided into six sections. The bottom section is knowledge. At this level, children memorize facts and details. This is the foundation for all other cognitive skills and so most time is devoted to it in schools. The second level is understanding. It is not enough to simply memorize facts and details, a child needs to understand the concepts. Once children understand concepts, they must be able to apply them in different situations.

As we move up the pyramid, the cognitive skills required become more and more demanding. Analyzing requires students to consider the parts of something and think about what they mean. They may need to compare and contrast  two things, for example.

Synthesis requires that students go beyond the what they see or read. For example, they might be asked to consider what it would be like to grow up in colonial America.

The last, top level, of the pyramid is evaluation. At this level, students work on forming an opinion and explaining the reasoning behind their opinion.

Such opinions require that students have managed to move upwards through the levels from gaining knowledge all the way up to being able to make judgments.

Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy

In the 1990's, the taxonomy was revised, replacing the nouns with verbs.  Instead of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, the revised version lists remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.  Evaluating is no longer the top level. It replaces synthesis, and then creating goes at the top.

Technically, though synthesizing an evaluating have just switched places. The idea behind the switch is that before someone can create something new - synthesize - he has to be able to evaluate the information he already has. Creating, or synthesizing is considered the most difficult mental skill.

To get an idea of the specific skills required at each level and the questions that are generally asked at each level, check out the interactive Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid.

Using Bloom's Taxonomy with Gifted Children

The skills at the bottom of the pyramid illustrating Bloom's Taxonomy are  considered lower-level thinking skills. They are the easiest skills to master. The skills become more complex as they move up the pyramid, with the top skills being considered higher-level thinking skills.

Most children need to spend much of their time on the lower level skills before they can get to the higher level ones. For instance, children need to first spend time memorizing facts. They must then spend a considerable amount of time understand the concepts they have learned. Once they have learned and understand the concepts, they can apply them to new situations. Those are all the lower level skills. It's not until those first skills are mastered that children can move to the higher level skills.

The pyramid should be inverted for gifted kids. Gifted children need to spend less time with the lower-level skills. They are able to memorize facts and details more quickly than their non-gifted peers and have less trouble understanding concepts. They are ready sooner to move to the higher-level skills, where they get most of their challenges. It is at these higher levels that gifted children get most of their academic challenge.

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