Bloom’s taxonomy has been updated and expanded since the original version was set out in the 1950s, and it continues to be a relevant and active tool that educators draw on when structuring curriculum goals and activities. This guide will cover what teachers need to know about Bloom’s taxonomy, from a basic overview of its concepts to how it can be applied to a classroom setting.

1. A definition of Bloom’s taxonomy

How do learners learn and how can teachers effectively teach them? These are the questions that Bloom’s taxonomy attempts to answer.

Bloom’s taxonomy is a framework that establishes educational goals. It is organized as a pyramid with six levels, similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and is based on the idea that learning occurs in a step-by-step progression, with mastery of each level being required before advancing to the next. According to this paradigm, lower levels of thinking must be grasped before a learner can access higher levels of thinking.

The six original levels of Bloom’s taxonomy are:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

2. A short history of Bloom’s taxonomy

Although the framework bears Bloom’s name, it was a collaborative effort that evolved from a series of conferences that took place from 1949 to 1953, which aimed to align educators on curriculum design and, particularly, to aid them in learning assessment.

The committee of educators who created and published the framework comprised Benjamin Bloom, Max Englehart, Edward Furst, Walter Hill, and David Krathwohl. The original version of the framework was first published in 1956 with the title Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

Since then, it has become known familiarly as Bloom’s taxonomy and has informed the philosophies and classroom practices of decades of teachers and educators spanning kindergarten through post-secondary educational institutions. The taxonomy has been used to clarify learning objectives, establish curricula, and generate classroom activities that provide a pathway to learning that allows learners to build their skills systematically.

The following quotes from Bloom express some of his core values and beliefs on education:

“Education must be increasingly concerned about the fullest development of all children and youth, and it will be the responsibility of the schools to seek learning conditions which will enable each individual to reach the highest level of learning possible.”

“Creativity follows mastery, so mastery of skills is the first priority for young talent.”

“What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn if provided with appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.”

Bloom’s taxonomy was revised in 2001 by a team that included testing assessment specialists, cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists, and educational researchers. This team was headed by Lorin Anderson, a former student of Bloom’s. The revisions aimed to revitalize and introduce flexibility to the original objectives, which were somewhat static and rigid.

3. The six stages of learning (original and revised)

Original version

Within each category exists subcategories that all fall on a spectrum that spans the simple and concrete to the complex and abstract. However, the taxonomy is generally remembered in terms of the six core pillars.

The six stages of learning
Original pillarExplanation (wording from the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives)

Knowledge

“involves the recall of specifics and universals, the recall of methods and processes, or the recall of a pattern, structure, or setting”

Comprehension

“refers to a type of understanding or apprehension such that the individual knows what is being communicated and can make use of the material or idea being communicated without necessarily relating it to other material or seeing its fullest implications”

Application

“use of abstractions in particular and concrete situations”

Analysis

“breakdown of a communication 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

“putting together of elements and parts so as to form a whole”

Evaluation

“judgments about the value of material and methods for given purposes”

Revised version

The 2001 revised version of the taxonomy is titled A Taxonomy for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. Among other changes and revisions around the classification of the different stages of learning, one fundamental shift in approach was to update the pillars from nouns to verbs, which clarifies the objectives for and expectations of learners at each stage of the framework. Another key update is the swapping of the final two positions on the hierarchy.

The revised six stages of learning
Original pillarRevised pillar

Knowledge

Remember

Comprehension

Understand

Application

Apply

Analysis

Analyze

Synthesis

Evaluate

Evaluation

Create

In essence, the revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy simplified how educators could approach establishing clear goals and objectives for learners and enabled learners to have a clearer grasp of how they could successfully move through the different stages of learning.

4. Why educators should use the taxonomy

Bloom’s taxonomy is a powerful tool that educators can use at every step of the learning process, from creating achievable and understandable learning plans to performing effective assessments. Put simply, an understanding of the taxonomy enables teachers to plan their teaching and to gauge the impact and outcome of their efforts.

For students, it is an empowering framework that can help them identify their current level of learning and chart a course that will allow them to reach a higher level of learning. Used effectively, the taxonomy supports students in learning new skills, achieving new levels of knowledge, and adopting new attitudes towards the subjects of their study.

There’s a reason Bloom’s taxonomy has been in continuous and robust use since it was introduced in the 1950s—it is of lasting value to the endeavors of teaching and learning.

5. Applications for the Classroom

The broad and dynamic nature of Bloom’s taxonomy lends it a wonderful adaptability and versatility, with a huge range of potential applications for the classroom. Below are just a few of the many ways the taxonomy can be used to support and enhance classroom learning.

Lesson planning and course design

Educators can use the framework to structure curricula throughout the school year that provides clear and steady progress through the six stages of learning.

Assignments and activities can be planned for each learning objective as appropriate, providing students with measurable goals to reach for.

Promoting active learning

Classrooms are not fixed entities and the fast pace of digital and technological change in particular has done much to transform the traditional model of teacher as lecturer and students as listeners into something much more dynamic, participatory, and self-directed.

It’s to its credit that Bloom’s taxonomy fits right in with this growing focus on active learning. For example, students working on the Remember pillar may be put into discussion groups and encouraged to challenge each other to recall the important facts they learned that day. Students at the Analyze stage could be asked to draw connections between what they’ve learned to relevant and related experiences from their own lives.

Creating assessments

Drawing on curriculum that has been designed with the taxonomy in mind, educators can create assessments throughout the school year that effectively track students’ progression through the stages of learning. One approach might be to devote the first half of the school year to the first three stages of Remember, Understand, and Apply, with mid-term evaluations covering material and learning from those levels of the taxonomy. The second half of the school year would broach the remaining stages of Analyze, Evaluate, and Create, with final exams assessing how well students can demonstrate those higher levels of thinking.

In closing

Bloom’s taxonomy has been a useful framework for educators and for students for close to 70 years and with good reason. It provides clear and relevant pathways for students to move through the orders of thinking, from basic remembering to more complex analysis and application, with the ultimate goal of effective learning.

Frequently Asked Questions about bloom's taxonomy

🐶 What are the six levels of Bloom's taxonomy?

According to the revised version of Bloom's taxonomy, the six stages of learning are:

  • Remember
  • Understand
  • Apply
  • Analyze
  • Evaluate
  • Create


🏅 Is Bloom's taxonomy still valid?

Bloom’s taxonomy has been updated and expanded since the original version was set out in the 1950s. It has been a useful framework for educators and students for close to 70 years and with good reason. It provides clear and relevant pathways for students to move through the orders of thinking, from basic remembering to more complex analysis and application, with the ultimate goal of effective learning.



🍔 What is the basic purpose of Bloom's taxonomy?

Bloom’s taxonomy is a framework that establishes educational goals. It is organized as a pyramid with six levels, and is based on the idea that learning occurs in a step-by-step progression, with mastery of each level being required before advancing to the next. Bloom's taxonomy aims at encouraging higher-order thought in students by building up from lower-level cognitive skills.



🏊‍♂️ How do I use Bloom's taxonomy in the classroom?

Bloom's taxonomy provides you with a huge range of potential applications for the classroom. You can use it in one of the ways below to support and enhance classroom learning:

  • Lesson planning and course design
  • Promote active learning
  • Create assessments


⌛ What is the difference between the old and new Bloom's taxonomy?

Among other changes and revisions around the classification of the different stages of learning, one fundamental shift in approach was to update the pillars from nouns to verbs, to clarify the objectives for and expectations of learners at each stage of the framework. The final two positions on the hierarchy were also swapped.



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