Bloom’s Taxonomy categorizes skills that students are expected to attain as learning progresses. Originally published in 1956, the tool is named after Benjamin Bloom, who was the Associate Director of the Board of Examinations at the University of Chicago. Now a classic arrangement of intellectual skills, the taxonomy and its revisions can be used to develop effective learning outcomes.
Bloom and his graduate students developed the taxonomy as a framework that would allow test banks of questions with specific objectives to be shared across universities for comprehensive examinations. The original taxonomy consisted of three domains (cognitive, psychomotor and affective); the cognitive domain is the most widely utilized, describing six levels that capture lower to higher-order thinking. Bloom’s Taxonomy was revised in 2001, and the updated version is described in the table below.
|Remembering (lowest-order)||Students can retrieve relevant information from their long-term memory|
|Understanding||Students can determine the meaning of instructional messages, including oral, written and graphic communication|
|Applying||Students can carry out or use a procedure in a given situation|
|Analyzing||Students can break material into its constituent parts and detect how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose|
|Evaluating||Students can make a judgment based on criteria and standards|
|Creating (highest-order)||Students can put elements together to form a novel, coherent whole or make an original product|
Below are sample intended course learning outcomes that utilize Bloom’s Taxonomy:
- At the end of the course, students will be able to:
- describe the colonization of the Americas by the British, French and Spanish
- analyze the outcomes of the Civil War
- identify specific stages of language acquisition
- describe major theories of language development (e.g. nativist, empiricist, interactionist, behaviorist, cognitive)
- articulate gaps within theories of human language acquisition
- design a controlled experiment
- collect and analyze research data
- disseminate research findings in written form
- verbally present research findings
The Krathwohl revision includes a table for assessing the effectiveness of a learning outcome against Bloom’s revised taxonomy. The tool requires identifying the operative nouns and verbs of a given outcome, and locating them with associated marks along an x axis for conceptual processes and a y axis for knowledge dimensions. Empty rows and columns can inform gaps in the development of learning outcomes:
|Knowledge / Conceptual
Krathwohl includes a list of terms to expand the table above (quoted from Krathwohl, 2002):
The Knowledge Dimension:
Factual Knowledge: terminology, specific details and elements;
Conceptual Knowledge: classifications and categories, principles and generalizations, theories, models, and structures;
Procedural Knowledge: subject-specific skills and algorithms, subject-specific techniques and methods, criteria for determining when to use appropriate procedures;
Metacognitive Knowledge: strategic knowledge, cognitive tasks, including appropriate contextual and conditional knowledge, self-knowledge.
The Conceptual Process Dimension:
Remember: recognizing, recalling;
Understand: interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing, explaining;
Apply: executing, implementing;
Analyze: differentiating, organizing, attributing;
Evaluate: checking, critiquing;
Create: generating, planning, producing.
- Write Intended Learning Outcomes - Bloom’s Taxonomy is a useful tool for writing learning outcomes to help students attain higher order thinking skills. Using the taxonomy in combination with Backward Design, instructors can design courses that support student learning at multiple levels of cognition.
- Design Activities and Assessments - Because alignment is key to attaining intended learning outcomes (see Backward Design), instructors should be mindful to develop classroom activities and formative and summative assessments that correspond to levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy as intended in course learning outcomes. Instructors can also apply Bloom’s Taxonomy to existing quizzes and examinations questions to assess what levels of cognition they cultivate.
- Consider Other Taxonomies - Instructors can also deploy other educational taxonomies besides Bloom’s and Krathwohl’s. Other tools include Marzano’s Taxonomy, referenced below. Marzano’s Taxonomy is made up of three systems (Self-System, Metacognitive System, and Cognitive System) and the Knowledge Domain. Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning, referenced below, expands Bloom’s taxonomy to include metacognition and wider human needs (Foundational Knowledge, Application, Integration, Human Dimension, Caring, and Learning How to Learn). Further taxonomies, including SOLO and other revisions to Bloom, are explored in the UCD citation below.
The downloads section (bottom) features a printable handout version of this web page.
Bloom B. et al. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. Handbook I: Cognitive Domain.
Fink, L. Dee. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. eBook: Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series.
Krathwohl DR. (2002). A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview. Theory Into Practice 41(4): 212-218.
Marzano RJ and Kendall JS. (2007). The New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Corwin Press: Thousand Oaks, CA.
O’Neill, G. and Murphy, F. (2010). “Guide to Taxonomies of Learning.” University College, Dublin: UCD Teaching and Learning / Resources.