Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bloom's Taxonomy: Many Test Questions and Activities in Education are no Longer Useful

Benjamin Bloom and associates (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, Hill, & Krathwohl, 1956; Krathwohl, 2002) have developed a way to tell where learning activities would sit on a scale between simple (lower-order) and complex (higher-order). The result of this work has been coined Bloom’s Taxonomy. This post is an excerpt from my book, Educational Technology for Teachers

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a hierarchical listing of the different kinds of learning outcomes that are possible in a given learning situation. In a revised version, the categories in Bloom’s Taxonomy from lower-order to higher-order are remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating (Krathwohl, 2002). The categories in Bloom’s Taxonomy build upon one another. Students who understand something also must remember it. Students who evaluate something must be able to apply and analyze it. Learning experiences can be classified using the categories in Bloom's Taxonomy, and usually learning in the more complex categories (applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating) better meets learning needs for the Information Age. Take a look at the link below for a review of the categories in Bloom's Taxonomy.

Remembering Remembering is the simplest category in Bloom's Taxonomy. Remembering means that students retrieve simple answers from their own memory (Krathwohl, 2002). An example of a remembering activity might be this question on a test; “how many Spartan soldiers defended ancient Greece in the battle of Thermopylae?” In this example, the students are only required to recall from memory the information they have learned.

Understanding Understanding is the next lowest-order category in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Understanding means that students make sense of the items that they learn (Krathwohl, 2002). An activity on this level of Bloom’s Taxonomy might require students to write an essay that summarizes a chapter in the novel Hatchet. In this example, the students simply make sense of the subject matter, but they add little new knowledge to what was already in the novel. Other activities that would fit within this category include classifying items into groups, comparing different items and explaining phenomena.

Applying The next category in Bloom’s Taxonomy is Applying. Applying goes beyond understanding because the student must carry out a procedure or activity according to a set of standards or steps they have learned (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Krathwohl, 2002). An activity in this category requires students to take some action related to the subject matter. For instance, after having learned about the elements of the sentence, students could be asked to form a proper sentence from the elements that they have learned. This would require students to apply their knowledge of sentence structure.

Analyzing Analyzing is more complex than applying. Analyzing means breaking something down into its parts, comparing these parts or determining how these parts add up to a whole (Krathwohl, 2002). Students are analyzing when they understand concepts and how the concepts are structured together. Analyzing means combining information and presenting it in a new format, or combining ideas into a new process or product. A good example of an analyzing activity is a research project in which students must make sense of different sources and combine and organize these together in a paper that presents a new idea based on the different sources.

Evaluating Evaluating is the second highest category in Bloom's Taxonomy. Evaluating goes beyond analyzing because students must make judgments about the value of material using relevant criteria (Krathwohl, 2002). An evaluation activity might include checking or critiquing a work to determine its overall value. Preparing for and participating in a debate about a specific policy or issue would be considered evaluating. Another example of evaluating might include having students provide a recommendation for a technology purchase based on a given budget and priority list. These activities require students to make value judgments about policies or products.

Creating The highest-order category in Bloom's Taxonomy is creating. Activities within the creating category require students to put elements together to make a product or project (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Krathwohl, 2002). When creating, students draw upon their knowledge in many different areas to make a new product or project. Some examples of projects within the creating category might include students composing a song according to certain requirements, developing a website with specified elements or designing a brochure that meets the needs of a client.

So what does Bloom's Taxonomy mean for education in the Information Age? An honest look at the state of affairs in our current society reminds us that many test questions and activities in the lower-order categories (remembering and understanding) are no longer useful. Consider the high amount of information currently available and the low amount of time that it takes to access this information. Providing students with opportunities to memorize information is not helpful to their future in the Information Age because almost anyone is already able to access this information within seconds. Teachers must create more learning experiences for students that are higher-order learning (applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating) to give students the skills they need to succeed. Learning methods that we have discussed so far, including student-centered learning, constructionism and project-based learning, tend to require learners to apply, analyze, evaluate and create — activities that would be considered higher-order learning.

1 comment:

  1. Where are the journal references?