Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of the different objectives and skills that educators set for their students (learning objectives).
What is Bloom’s Taxonomy
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of the different objectives and skills that educators set for their students (learning objectives). The taxonomy was proposed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist at the University of Chicago. The terminology has been recently updated to include the following six levels of learning. These 6 levels can be used to structure the learning objectives, lessons and assessments of your course. :
- Remembering: Retrieving,recognizing, and recalling relevant knowledge from long‐term memory.
- Understanding: Constructing meaning from oral, written, and graphic messages through interpreting, exemplifying, classifying,summarizing, inferring, comparing, and explaining.
- Applying: Carrying out or using a procedure through executing, or implementing.
- Analyzing: Breaking material into constituent parts, determining how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose through differentiating, organizing, and attributing.
- Evaluating: Making judgments based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing.
- Creating: Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, or producing.
Like other taxonomies, Bloom’s is hierarchical, meaning that learning at the higher levels is dependent on having attained prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels. You will see Bloom’s Taxonomy often displayed as a pyramid graphic to help demonstrate this hierarchy. We have updated this pyramid into a “cake-style” hierarchy to emphasize that each level is built on a foundation of the previous levels.
You may use this graphic for educational or non-profit use, if you include a credit and citation back to this website.
How Bloom’s can aid in course design
Bloom’s taxonomy is a powerful tool to help develop learning objectives, because it explains the process of learning:
- Before you can understand a concept, you must remember it.
- To apply a concept you must first understand it.
- In order to evaluate a process, you must have analyzed it.
- To create an accurate conclusion, you must have completed a thorough evaluation.
However, we don’t always start at lower order skills and step all the way through the entire taxonomy for each concept you present in your course. That approach would become tedious–for both you and your students! Instead start by considering the level of learners in your course:
- Are lots of your students freshman? Is this an “Introduction to…” course? If so, many your learning objectives may target the lower order Bloom’s skills, because your students are building foundational knowledge. However, even in this situation we would strive to move a few of your objectives into the applying and analyzing level, but getting too far up in the taxonomy could create frustration and unachievable goals.
- Are most of your students juniors and seniors? Graduate students? Do your students have a solid foundation in much of the terminology and processes you will be working with in your course? If so, then you should not have many remembering and understanding level objectives. You may need a few, for any radically new concepts specific to your course. However, these advanced students should be able to master higher-order learning objectives. Too many lower level objectives might cause boredom or apathy.
How Bloom’s works with learning objectives
Fortunately, there are “verb tables” to help identify which action verbs align with each level in Bloom’s Taxonomy.
You may notice that some of these verbs on the table are associated with multiple Bloom’s Taxonomy levels. These “multilevel-verbs” are actions that could apply to different activities. For example, you could have an objective that states “At the end of this lesson, students will be able to explain the difference between H2O and OH-.” This would be an understanding level objective. However if you wanted the students to be able to “…explain the shift in chemical structure of water throughout its various phases.” This would be an analyzinglevel verb.
Adding to this confusion, you can locate Bloom’s verb charts that will list verbs at levels different from what we list below. Just keep in mind that it is the skill, action or activity you will teach using that verb that determines the Bloom’s Taxonomy level.
|Bloom’s Level||Key Verbs (keywords)||Example Learning Objective|
|Creating||design, formulate, build, invent, create, compose, generate, derive, modify, develop.||By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to determine whether using conservation of energy or conservation of momentum would be more appropriate for solving a dynamics problem.|
|Evaluating||choose, support, relate, determine, defend, judge, grade, compare, contrast, argue, justify, support, convince, select, evaluate.||By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to design an original homework problem dealing with the principle of conservation of energy.”|
|Analyzing||classify, break down, categorize, analyze, diagram, illustrate, criticize, simplify, associate.||By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to differentiate between potential and kinetic energy.|
|Applying||calculate, predict, apply, solve, illustrate, use, demonstrate, determine, model, perform, present.||By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to calculate the kinetic energy of a projectile.|
|Understanding||describe, explain, paraphrase, restate, give original examples of, summarize, contrast,interpret, discuss.||By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to describe Newton’s three laws of motion to in her/his own words|
|Remembering||list, recite, outline, define, name, match, quote, recall, identify, label, recognize.||By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to recite Newton’s three laws of motion.|
Learning objective examples adapted from: Writing Objectives Using Bloom’s Taxonomy
How Bloom’s works with Quality Matters
For a course to meet the Quality Matters standards it must have learning objectives that are measurable. Using a verb table like the one above will help you avoid verbs that cannot be quantified, like: understand, learn, appreciate, or enjoy. Quality Matters also requires that your course assessments (activities, projects and exams) align with your learning objectives. For example, if your learning objective has an application level verb, such as “present”, then you cannot demonstrate that your students have mastered that learning objective by simply having a multiple choice quiz.
Course level and lesson level objectives
The biggest difference between course and lesson level objectives is that we don’t directly assess course level objectives. Course level objectives are just too broad. Instead, we use several lesson level objectives to demonstrate mastery of one course level objective. To create good course level objectives, we need to ask ourselves: “what do I want the students to have mastery of at the end of the course?” Then, after we finalize our course level objectives, we have to make sure that mastery of all of the lesson level objectives underneath confirm that a student has mastery of the course level objective—in other words if your students can prove (through assessment) that they can do each and every one of the lesson level objectives in that section, then you as an instructor agree they have mastery of the course level objective.
How Bloom’s works with course level and lesson level objectives:
- Course level objectives are broad. You may only have 3-5 course level objectives. They would be difficult to measure directly because they overarch the topics of your entire course.
- Lesson level objectives are what we use to demonstrate that a student has mastery of the course level objectives. We do this by building lesson level objectives that build toward the course level objective. For example, a student might need to demonstrate mastery of 8 lesson level objectives in order to demonstrate mastery of one course level objective.
- Because the lesson level objectives directly support the course level objectives, they need to build up the Bloom’s taxonomy to help your students reach mastery of the course level objectives. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to to make sure that the verbs you choose for your lesson level objectives build up to the level of the verb that is in the course level objective. The lesson level verbs can be below or equal to the course level verb, but they CANNOT be higher in level. For example, your course level verb might be an Applying level verb, “illustrate.” Your lesson level verbs can be from any Bloom’s level that is equal or below this level (applying, understanding, or remembering).
Steps towards writing effective learning objectives:
- Make sure there is one measurable verb in each objective.
- Each objective needs one verb. Either a student can master the objective, or they fail to master it. If an objective has two verbs (say, define and apply), what happens if a student can define, but not apply? Are they demonstrating mastery?
- Ensure that the verbs in the course level objective are at least at the highest Bloom’s Taxonomy as the highest lesson level objectives that support it. (Because we can’t verify they can evaluate, if our lessons only taught them (and assessed) to define.)
- Strive to keep all your learning objectives measurable, clear and concise.
When you are ready to write, it can be helpful to list the level of Bloom’s next to the verb you choose in parentheses. For example:
Course level objective 1. (apply) Demonstrate how transportation is a critical link in the supply chain.
1.1. (understand) Discuss the changing global landscape for businesses and other organizations that are driving change in the global environment.
1.2. (apply) Demonstrate the special nature of transportation demand and the influence of transportation on companies and their supply chains operating in a global economy.
This trick will help you quickly see what level verbs you have. It will also let you check that the course level objective is at least as high of a Bloom’s level as any of the lesson level objectives underneath.
Before you begin constructing your objectives:
Please read our Learning Objectives: Before and After Examples page.
Additional External Resources:
For a longer list of Bloom’s Verbs – TIPS tip: You can also use the “find” function (press: Ctrl-f or command-f on a mac) in your browser to locate specific verbs on this list.
To see how Bloom’s can be applied specifically to distance education: Digital Approaches to Bloom’s Taxonomy
It is often quite difficult to relate inputs to outcomes in the world of education. Traditionally, much work has been done to develop and provide inputs into the process of education. These inputs, such as a textbook, an assessment, a learning technology or platform, a course, a qualification, a high-stakes test or professional development for teachers are put into the hands of an educational leader, a skillful teacher, or an eager student. And, for all of the investment, expertise, and care that go into their creation, that has typically been where the involvement ends. Rarely has one been able to measure or predict the learning outcomes from using these inputs.
If we are going to really understand how we might be impacting student learning we must do two things. First we must define our student learning outcomes – these are the goals that describe how a student will be different because of a learning experience. The focus should be on what a student will be able to do with the information or experience. And second, we must measure if the program or service implemented to facilitate the learning was effective.
It may be difficult to know where to start in writing a student learning outcome. And you are not alone in facing the challenge of relating educational inputs to learning outcomes and understanding your impact on student learning. Learning taxonomies are a valuable tool for classifying learning objectives. A helpful and frequently used resource when writing student learning outcomes is Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Skills. Bloom’s Taxonomy refers to a classification of the different objectives that educators set for students (learning objectives). The taxonomy was first presented in 1956 through the publication “The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, The Classification of Educational Goals, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain” (Bloom 1956). It is considered to be a foundational and essential element within the education community as evidenced in the 1981 survey “Significant writings that have influenced the curriculum: 1906-1981” (Shane 1981).
The committee identified three domains of educational activities or learning (Bloom, 1956):
- Cognitive: mental skills (Knowledge)
- Affective: growth in feelings or emotional areas (Attitude or self)
- Psychomotor: manual or physical skills (Skills)
The domains are further subdivided, starting from the simplest behavior to the most complex. The first of these domains is the cognitive domain, which emphasizes intellectual outcomes. This domain is further divided into categories or levels. The divisions outlined are not absolutes and there are other systems or hierarchies that have been devised in the educational and training world. However, Bloom’s taxonomy is easily understood and is probably the most widely applied one in use today.
Various researchers have summarized how to use Bloom’s Taxonomy. Following is one interpretation that can be used as a guide in helping to write objectives using Bloom’s Taxonomy. The major idea of the taxonomy is that what educators want students to know (encompassed in statements of educational objectives) can be arranged in a hierarchy from less to more complex. The levels are successive, so that one level must be mastered before the next level can be reached.
The original levels (Bloom, 1956) were ordered as follows: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. The taxonomy is presented below with sample verbs and sample learning objectives for each level.
|Knowledge||Recognizes students’ ability to use rote memorization and recall certain facts||cite|
|The students will recall the four major food groups without error.The students will list at least three characteristics peculiar to the Cubist movement.|
|Comprehension||Involves students’ ability to read course content, understand and interpret important information and put other’s ideas into their own words||classify|
|The students will summarize the main events of a story in grammatically correct English.The students will describe in prose what is shown in graph form.|
|Application||Students take new concepts and apply them to another situation||apply|
|The students will apply previously learned information about socialism to reach an answer.The students will demonstrate the principle of reinforcement to classroom interactions.|
|Analysis||Students have the ability to take new information and break it down into parts to differentiate between them||analyze|
|The students will read a presidential debate and point out the passages that attack a political opponent personally rather than the opponent’s political programs.Students will discriminate among a list of possible steps to determine which one(s) would lead to increased reliability for a test.|
|Synthesis||Students are able to take various pieces of information and form a whole creating a pattern where one did not previously exist||combine|
|After studying the current economic policies of the United States, student groups will design their own goals for fiscal and monetary policies.The students will write a different but plausible ending to a short story.|
|Evaluation||Involves students’ ability to look at someone else’s ideas or principles and see the worth of the work and the value of the conclusions||appraise|
|Given any research study, evaluate the appropriateness of the conclusions reached based on the data presented.The students will compare two pieces of sculpture, giving reasons for their positive evaluation of one over the other.|
Bloom, B. S.; Engelhart, M. D.; Furst, E. J.; Hill, W. H.; Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.
Shane, Harold G. (1981). Significant writings that have influenced the curriculum: 1906-1981. Phi Delta Kappan 62 (5): 311–314.