By Mike Gershon, author of How to use Bloom’s Taxonomy in the Classroom: The Complete Guide
I have a confession to make. I love Bloom’s Taxonomy. I think it is one of the most useful teaching tools out there – and one that is too often overlooked, forgotten or not used to its full potential.
Here are just some examples of how I’ve used it in my teaching over the years:
- To underpin extension questions
- To frame assessments
- As the basis of questions
- As the basis of tasks
- To personalise learning for different students
- To stretch and challenge the most-able
- To stretch and challenge all learners
I used to have a class who were really able and tended to finish the main body of work pretty quickly. I’d set an extension task based on one of the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Once a student completed that, I’d give them a super-extension building on the first one. Then it would be a hyper-extension and, sometimes, that would be followed up by an outer space extension. I think the furthest we ever got was an edge of the galaxy extension!
This turned into a great game, one the students loved to play
Each extension was more challenging than the last. Each used Bloom’s Taxonomy as a reference point to help achieve this. Three months into the year, students were disappointed if they weren’t at least getting onto the super-extension. Bloom’s Taxonomy had helped to make high challenge not only fun, but the norm of the classroom.
Let me remind you what the taxonomy does. It was put together in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Benjamin Bloom chaired the group of educators, administrators, academics and psychologists who came together in America with the aim of codifying the different objectives students pursued in school.
They came up with a hierarchy of mastery
And this is what we know as Bloom’s Taxonomy. Level 1 is the simplest objective students pursue: knowledge. This is remembering information. Level 2 is comprehension – understanding and explaining information. Then we move up to Level 3, application, Level 4, analysis, and levels 5 and 6, synthesis and evaluation.
Each level is more challenging than the last. Some subsequent research has suggested we should swap the top two levels, that synthesis is more challenging than evaluation. I don’t think this matters too much. What we can say instead is that synthesis and evaluation are, together, the most challenging objectives we ask students to pursue.
While the taxonomy isn’t a perfect fit for every area of the curriculum, it does marry up seamlessly with huge swathes of it. In fact, if you take a look at the mark schemes covering most assessments students will sit during their school career, you’ll see the influence of the taxonomy. Often that influence is unmissable.
So, what does all this mean for the classroom teacher?
Well, the great beauty of Bloom’s Taxonomy comes from the fact that it does some of the work for us. It shows how mastery develops. It provides a framework for the development of mastery. We can hang lessons, activities, questions and assessments on it, safe in the knowledge that as we move learners up the taxonomy, so the level of challenge increases.
I decided to write my book How to use Bloom’s Taxonomy in the Classroom: The Complete Guide to give teachers detailed, practical guidance on how they can use Bloom’s Taxonomy to raise achievement, support their learners and teach more effectively. I wanted to share my love of the taxonomy while also making it easy for teachers to use it in their daily work. The book contains dozens of strategies, techniques and activities you can build into your planning, questioning and assessment. Once you start seeing the enormous potential of the taxonomy, I’m sure you’ll come to love it as much as I do.