Understanding Bloom’s Taxonomy for Learning Faster
Have you ever wondered how we as humans learn and use our knowledge to progress through life?
What is the basis of our knowledge and which steps does our brain take to implement everything we learned not just from school but from life in general?
Well, it turns out that a famous American educational psychologist wanted to answer this question roughly sixty years ago and working with other psychologists he published a book called Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, which was meant to help not only teachers but also students to learn better and faster.
Imagine it like a guide for the teachers made for the purpose of knowing how to manage the process of learning in the students so they can not only remember what they’ve learned but also fully understand the subject they are taking and at the end even produce their own work.
This all sounds a bit hard to imagine, even for me as I entered into college because I didn’t know exactly how to process the huge amount of information poured down on me every lecture let alone to produce something of my own, but after learning about Bloom’s taxonomy I quickly started to get a grip of what to do with the information I’ve to remember and use it to my advantage.
WHAT IS LEARNING?
Before we start to explain Bloom’s taxonomy first we must discuss what is considered learning so that we can understand how to learn faster using the taxonomy.
Our whole experience is the result of learning – our ability to speak, to understand concepts, to use different knowledge, our skills and views, social roles and so on.
Learning by definition is a relatively permanent and specific change in our personality which can manifest through our behavior and is a result of the previous action.
It has an adaptive characteristic meaning it widens the repertoire of inherited activities which go beyond our inherited behavior, for example reflexes and instincts.
Now that we’ve briefly explained what learning is we can dwell deep into Bloom’s taxonomy and see how he viewed the process of learning, and also what we can change in our way of studying in order to acquire the proper knowledge of the world.
A SHORT BACKGROUND ON BENJAMIN BLOOM
Benjamin Bloom, born on February 21st in 1913, was as I said a psychologist who had a lot of influence on the theory of mastery learning and contributed to the classification of educational objectives.
He was a ground-breaking educational psychologist who really paved the way for understanding how we actually learn things and what goes on in our minds when we study and also what are the methods which can be used to by both the teacher and the student in order to get better results.
Working with other psychologists such as Max Englehart, Edward Furst, Walter Hill, and David Krathwohl, he published his ground-breaking book published in 1956, called Taxonomy of Educational Objectives famously called today Bloom’s Taxonomy.
And thus the Bloom’s Taxonomy was born, but the original version isn’t used as much as the adapted version mainly because the book is sixty years old and a lot of study on the topic of education has been done since then.
That’s why psychologists who studied this topic wanted to implement everything they’ve learned in Bloom’s taxonomy without changing the original concept, and we should be thankful to them and Bloom for giving us this finished product.
BLOOM’S ORIGINAL TAXONOMY
In the book, he presented six major categories and every category had a subcategory but it’s important to remember the main ones because they go from concrete to abstract.
The list below will be explaining the main categories:
- Knowledge – By knowledge Bloom meant the recall of specific and universal subjects, methods and processes and also the recall of patterns, structure, and settings.
- Comprehension – It refers to understanding and using the material or ideas we’ve learned so that know what we are talking about with other people without relating it to other subjects or material and using other implications.
- Application – This means to use abstractions in some particular and concrete situations.
- Analysis – By this, he meant to breakdown the communication into key elements so the ideas and concepts are clearer and easier to understand without leaving the original topic and also to make them more explicit.
- Synthesis – It means collecting the key elements and ideas and forming them into a whole.
- Evaluation – This refers to making judgments on the value of the material and methods used for a given purpose.
ADAPTED BLOOM’S TAXONOMY
The Bloom’s Taxonomy as we know it today was adopted in a newer version by a group of psychologists and was published in 2001, and in this version, the famous Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid was created.
Why do we use this adapted version you may ask? Mainly because the concepts portraying Bloom’s original idea are easier to understand and use with this newer version and it became such a classical representation that people tend to think it is Bloom’s original concept. Poor Bloom.
All jokes aside, the newer version really did shed light on Bloom’s idea on how to learn faster and easier and is now used by many teachers and professors across the globe.
Helping both the students and the teachers and really if you boil it down, this new version hasn’t really strayed far from Bloom’s original intentions.
This newer version kept the basic categories that Bloom has presented but it has also widened the theory and even portrayed the four types of knowledge which we will get back to later.
For now, let us focus on what the adapted taxonomy looks like.
This is the base of the pyramid and is referred to what Bloom meant when he talked about knowledge.
It depicts how we remember key ideas, shapes, material, structures and so and which are the processes that are carried out in our mind when we try to remember all of that.
There are literal verbs to describe what the word remembering means in terms of Bloom’s taxonomy and I will be doing this for every category.
Remembering means: copying; defining; finding; locating; quoting; listening; repeating; retrieving; outlining; highlighting; memorizing; networking; searching; identifying; selecting; tabulating; duplicating; matching; bookmarking and bullet-pointing.
Knowing this, your job as a teacher is to help the student learn all of these tactics so they can have a better way of remembering the subject you are presenting them and also it’s the student’s job to try to implement these methods in his studying in order to acquire the proper understanding of the subject.
The second level of the pyramid, understanding, is similar to Bloom’s concept of comprehension.
It explains how the student can grasp the knowledge he has learned and truly see what the subject is all about, of course first he has to remember what the subject is and what key elements compile it.
Understanding means: annotating; associating; tagging; summarizing; relating; categorizing; paraphrasing; predicting; comparing; contrasting; commenting; journaling; interpreting; grouping; inferring; estimating; extending; gathering; exemplifying and expressing.
The teacher’s job is to try to explain a new concept to the student by giving examples and digging deep into its actual meaning before going to practical use of the concept, because without the definition of the concept students tend to use the words they’ve learned without a clear understanding of what that concept truly means.
This is the third level of the taxonomy. It has the same meaning as in Bloom’s original concept and means that the student needs to apply his knowledge in real situations in order to truly portray his knowledge of the subject.
Applying means: acting out; articulate; reenact; choosing; determining; displaying; judging; executing; examining; implementing; sketching; experimenting; hacking; interviewing; painting; preparing; playing; integrating; presenting and charting.
Once again, same as Bloom’s concept but has a wider definition.
Basically, it means that the student needs to be able to analyze and figure out what the concepts related in the subject truly mean with or without the teacher’s help.
Picture it as taking off the training wheels and letting the student figure out things with his own brain without the teacher interfering with his work, but as always the teacher’s job is to guide the student in the right path.
Analyzing means: calculating; categorizing; breaking down; correlating; deconstructing; linking; mashing; mind-mapping; organizing; appraising; advertising; dividing; distinguishing; illustrating; structuring; questioning; integrating; attributing; estimating and explaining.
This really is the most crucial level of the taxonomy because it is the stepping stone of the whole process of learning and that is – thinking with your own head, because what good is the knowledge that you know if you just learn it from one source and don’t stop and think if it actually true.
Yes, I know that this was the last category of Bloom’s concept but in this adapted version it is the fifth level of knowledge and for a good reason.
This is mainly because Bloom’s original idea was to explain – which are the processes that are carried out in our mind when it comes across new information and how it uses it.
But this adapted version ads a new category, which we will explain later so, for now, let us see what evaluating means.
Evaluating means: arguing; validating; testing; assessing; criticizing; commenting; debating; defending; detecting; experimenting; grading; hypothesizing; measuring; moderating; posting; predicting; rating; reflecting; reviewing and editorializing.
In contrast to analyzing, evaluating is a mighty tool which can be used to differentiate which elements of the subject are more important to understand that the others and this gives the students a clearer understanding on how to deal with massive amounts of information and how to extract the information that they need.
The sixth and the final level of learning is not what Bloom had in mind but this adapted version made ground-breaking evidence that the knowledge learned is best portrayed by the creation of a self-made work, for example, a written paper, essay or even a doctorate.
Creating means: blogging; building; animating; adapting; collaborating; composting; directing; devising; podcasting; writing; filming; programming; simulating; role-playing; solving; mixing; facilitating; managing; negotiating and leading.
This may well be the answer to the student’s most often asked question – why do we need to take written tests?
Well, because when you don’t look at a test as a torture method and really a way for you as a student to write a creative answer to the questions in the test and in that way to create maybe even a never before seen approach to the subject, I’m sure you will be proud of how much you’ve progressed.
This taxonomy is used in order to represent the different types of knowledge a student can have and also will serve as a guide tool for the teacher so that they know what to expect when they come across with students who are learning some subjects slower than others but perfect in other subjects.
- Factual knowledge – This kind of knowledge is based on knowledge of terminology and also specific details and elements.
- Conceptual knowledge – It refers to the knowledge of classifications and categories, principles and generalizations and theories, models and structures.
- Procedural knowledge – It’s the knowledge of subject-specific skills and algorithms, techniques and methods and criteria for determining when to use appropriate procedures.
- Metacognitive knowledge – It consists of strategic knowledge, knowledge of cognitive tasks (appropriate contextual and conditional knowledge) and self-knowledge.
What’s really great about this knowledge taxonomy is that by combining the types of knowledge with the levels of knowledge from Bloom’s taxonomy you can get a real representation of how the two are connected and also they explain not only the process but also the activity which is associated with a certain objective.
For example, if you combine remembering with procedural knowledge you will recall how to do CPR, or if you combine understanding with factual knowledge you will summarize features of a new product.
This is quite helpful when teachers want to make curriculum plans or even if they plan on having a project done among groups of students so if you are a teacher reading this keep that in mind.
WHAT DO WE USE BLOOM’S TAXONOMY FOR?
Now that we have covered the basics of Bloom’s Taxonomy it is time to see how it can be implemented into your study as a student and lessons program as a teacher in order to get better results.
It’s not all about getting good grades, what is more, important is to make the student learn faster and also much easier than just cramming information in his brain.
It is important for the teacher to come up with objectives for the student to complete when they have a new lesson or every two weeks at least so the student is constantly involved in the subject and to stop him from forgetting the crucial concepts.
Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used for:
- Creating assessments – meaning it can be used to document the student’s knowledge to see how far did he went in understanding and learning a certain subject.
- Lesson planning – it can also be used by the teacher to plan the lessons he/her is going to teach step by step in order to introduce the student with the basic concepts and later present him with abstract examples.
- Evaluating assignments – this refers to knowing how to present the assignments that the student must fulfill and also to give him complex tasks to do considering his current knowledge level.
- Curriculum design – it can also be used to design a sort of a map of the curriculum for both students and teachers to know how the lessons should be organized along with which concepts should be introduced first and which later.
- Project-based learning – this is also a good way to assign projects to students and using all those verbs that we described they can serve as guidance when completing the project. For example, you as a teacher can assign one or a group of students to make a survey about a certain topic and they will have to finish the project by using the methods from Bloom’s taxonomy.
- Self-assessment – this can also come in handy for students in order to see where they stand in a certain subject and it is crucial for them to understand what they can do in order to have better results.
LEARNING SHOULD BE FUN AND EASY
Now I need to shed some light on learning itself because I hate to break it to you but not all students like to study and find joy in doing so.
There are some students that actually hate anything that has to do with school or college or any type of hard thinking.
However, this is where Bloom’s taxonomy can fall into place because it dissects the process of learning into the categories we discussed earlier and will surely give those kinds of students some motivation to try hard and do their best.
Besides, learning is fun once you figure out what a certain subject is composed of, and when you implement all the levels of knowledge from Bloom’s pyramid any student will at least find the subject easier that he/she did before.
The good thing is that Bloom’s taxonomy can be used for any subject out there, from learning a new language, history to even understanding rocket science.
It can be implemented in such a way that the student can actually have fun learning.
And having fun while learning is really important because we associate knowledge with emotions meaning if a subject can spark joy we will understand its concepts better and will actually enjoy learning it.
For example, I hated learning German and quite frankly I still do but once I heard about Bloom’s taxonomy I noticed what I needed to do in order to learn German better and I can’t deny that it really helped me.
THE PROBLEM OF TODAY’S LEARNING AND HOW BLOOM’S TAXONOMY FIXES IT
You see, we need to understand that conventional education forces the students to learn the subjects their teachers present them without any hard thinking about why do they even learn those subjects let alone allowing them to think outside the box.
What Bloom’s taxonomy changed was the overall connection between the teacher and his students because using the taxonomy they both can track the progress which the student is making and also provides them with essential tools to understand at what level does the student stand when it comes to know that subject.
It is an often sighting that even a student with a college degree doesn’t seem to have grasped the knowledge he learned in college and for that reason, Bloom’s taxonomy should be used by every school and college.
I know that everyone has their own study method, but it’s not about that, the taxonomy should be used to understand what you know and what you don’t know about a certain subject and of course in what way to retain most of your knowledge so that you can understand fully all the concepts of the subject.
Not only will you learn faster with using the taxonomy but you will also learn how that knowledge is being processed in the brain making you be able to understand concepts more quickly and save time by remembering what you already know.
I hope that this article was useful for both teachers and students wanting to be more productive and learn faster by not making school harder than it needs to be and also progressing to that stage of development where students can, with quite ease, understand even the most complex concepts.
It is time for the teachers to take notes and implement this taxonomy when they plan their curriculum which will benefit not only them because they will save time having to plan it every year but also the students because they will see their grades getting higher right before their eyes.
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