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Posts Tagged ‘bloom’s taxonomy

I agree with the tweeted sentiment above, but for a different reason.

The rationale in the linked article for not taking Bloom-ified technology seriously was:

Many of the free digital services illustrated have been abandoned, shutdown or curtailed (eg Delicious, Wikispaces, Flickr).

Someone could easily replace those examples with popular and functional ones.

I have shared my objections before [1] [2]. Short version: The taxonomy is misleading because it implies directionality, i.e., bottom to top.

It is possible to focus on one higher outcome, e.g., challenging students to create a two-minute video about a concept. This challenge requires students to run the entire gamut of outcomes from basic recall to higher level decision-making.

My objection to Bloom-ified edtech is reducing or locking affordances instead of exploring possibilities.

Consider how a quiz-based app might be used by a teacher to test recall and then provide formative feedback. This is a relatively low-level task.

Now imagine the same app in the hands of learners challenged to cooperatively design and test five questions on their peers. They would need to do what a teacher does and employ both critical and creative thinking. They would need to ensure that their recall is accurate and be able to evaluate their options.

Bloom-ified technology is taking one flaw (linear hierarchy) and combining it with another flaw (limiting technology). Just because you can combine one idea with another does not mean you should.

I could not have said it better — a taxonomy (like Bloom’s) is not a hierarchy. Unfortunately, the way it is often represented (in a pyramid) implies and reinforces the hierarchical message.

We do not always have to start at the bottom rung like “remember” before attempting something “higher up” like “evaluate”.

I like pointing out that Bloom’s Taxonomy is descriptive of cognitive outcomes, but it is not prescriptive on how to write them. That is why I recreated the verb wheel for Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive outcomes a few years ago [1] [2].

Verb wheel for Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive outcomes.

If there has been a theme for my last few reflections including this one, it has been this: Refuse to be confused.

Refuse to be confused.

Recently I read an article whose author claimed that edtech was trapped in the basement of Bloom’s Taxonomy (BT). I agree the author’s conclusion, but not how he got there.

To understand what the author means, you need a visual representation of BT. The taxonomy is traditionally represented as a triangle with the learner’s ability to recall as the base.

The author’s argument was that edtech companies were not adding much value to schooling and education because they were addressing only this lowest order of thinking.

For critics of edtech companies, the author’s statement makes sense:

The current wave of education technology has been fraught with pedagogically unsound replications of the worst aspects of teaching and learning. Rather than build new opportunities for students to move beyond the most basic building blocks of knowledge, much of Silicon Valley has been content to recreate education’s problematic status quo inside the four corners of a Chromebook, and then have the gall to call that innovation.

I would agree fully except that BT should not be viewed or used procedurally from base to tip. I have rationalised why before.

TLDR? Authentic learning does not happen this way. There is no textbook Q&A or fixed procedure in life and in problem-solving. Authentic learning happens organically and the learner is often confronted with ill-structured and complex problems.

If school is supposed to prepare students for work and the rest of their lives, they should be taught in a natural and compatible manner, not in an artificial and over-structured fashion.

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy in the form of a Verb Wheel.

This is why I helped to develop the Bloom’s Verb Wheel. There is no implied base or start point for learning outcomes. A learner can start by needing to create (e.g., a YouTube video) but concurrently need to learn specific skills and content to enable that creation.

So I disagree that there is a need for teachers or edtech companies to climb up a hierarchy of cognitive outcomes. If they do, they constrain themselves to an artificial structure that does not necessarily help natural processes of learning.

I do, however, agree with the author’s suggestion that edtech companies could create better tech or less tech solutions:

Better tech entails leveraging cutting edge research in areas like machine learning to provide students with targeted feedback that scaffolds their learning experiences as they move up the pyramid. Less tech entails building technology that knows how to get out of the way and allow for more meaningful interactions to take place in the classroom. Today’s education technologists are exploring both approaches.

There is no need to use traditional BT as the reference point. It is better technology that enables natural learning or technology that emphasises social forms of learning. The triangle representation of BT holds us back; I say we roll with the BT Verb Wheel instead.

I finally got down to remaking a model of the revised form of Bloom’s Taxonomy (BT).

Revised Bloom's Taxonomy Wheel

This is a PNG that I share under this Creative Commons license: CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

My Google Drawing of the revised form of BT is at and can be downloaded there as a PDF, PNG, JPG, or SVG (File > Download as).

I based the model on a 2009 version that was created with the original BT in mind. That version retained the old static and passive terms like Knowledge instead of Remember, and Evaluation instead of Evaluate.

While the old wheel model did a good job of not using the traditional BT triangle, it did not swap the positions of Synthesis (Create) and Evaluation (Evaluate).

Given that the original BT model in 1956 was revised in 2001, I thought that revising this otherwise excellent wheel model was overdue.

I kept the wheel structure because:

  • The triangle implies prescription: Teachers tend to start with the base and work their way up, if at all.
  • Using the wheel is easy: Begin at the hub (red centre) and move outward (green periphery).
  • Red core: The wheel has no cognitive outcome start point. A facilitator can start by challenging students with a complex problem that requires them to generate projects (Creating).
  • Amber hub: The wheel offers verbs that are more observable and measurable. While this practice has behaviouristic foundations, it is better than having teachers design lessons where outcomes are “students will know…” or “they will understand…”. Teachers are not mind-readers!
  • Green rim: The wheel model also has examples of learner artefacts or evidence of learning. This not only reinforces the observable and measurable principle, it also provides examples of what to design for.
  • The examples are not mutually exclusive. For instance, a story might be evidence of Understanding or the process of Creating.

BT is a mainstay for the preparation of teachers and instructional designers. However, the triangle model is outdated and its levels imply causality or precedence (e.g., remember first, then understand, then…). It might be convenient to think this way, but it is irresponsible to teach this way because that is not how all people learn all the time.

I hope that my revised model provides a scaffold for newbies and a critical discussion piece for all.

The Electric Educator blogged about Google-Proof Questioning: A New Use for Bloom’s Taxonomy. Like me, you might have been drawn to the Google-proofing part of his blog topic.

After reading his entry, I concluded that he made one excellent point, but skimmed on another in the process.

He suggested how teachers could use a job aid based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (below) to create questions that promoted higher order thinking (HOT). While Google enabled learners to search for information and factoids, they still had to decide on their worth and create something new from them. In other words, technology like Google allows learners to focus on HOT.

BTW, the job aid that the Electric Educator highlighted was the same one I used earlier this semester in my ICT course to show my teacher trainees how to write good specific instructional objectives. You use it outwardly from the centre by selecting a cognitive learning outcome, a measurable verb and an example activity.

So what did he “miss”? I thought that his blog title, while catchy, might have implied a method for teachers to fight the Googling behaviour of students or for teachers to create questions where Google could not help at all.

He did not say that, of course. In fact, Google is integral to the learning process. Google helps with the lower order thinking and tasks. But it is the teacher’s lesson design, scaffolding and overall pedagogy combined with effort on the part of students that help students think creatively and critically.

In other words, educators should WANT students to use Google (and other Internet resources). But we should also model and teach skills of analysis, evaluation and synthesis so that students internalise these methods.

In fact, I’d like to see us go as far as the Danes who have trialed the open use of the Internet during exams! Here’s a quote from that BBC article:

The teachers also think the nature of the questions make it harder to cheat in exams. Students are no longer required to regurgitate facts and figures. Instead the emphasis is on their ability to sift through and analyse information.

Minister for education in Denmark, Bertel Haarder, says: “Our exams have to reflect daily life in the classroom and daily life in the classroom has to reflect life in society.

Different context, same themes: Teach them to think. Realign learning to mirror real life.


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