Foundation Skills/Developing an assessment/Bloom's taxonomy

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Bloom's taxonomy

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom developed a taxonomy of thinking skills (cognitive skills). His six categories, in order of increasing cognitive demand, were:

  • Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation

In 2001, Anderson and Krathwohl revised Bloom's Taxonomy - their six categories of cognitive skills, once again in order of increasing cognitive demand, are:

  • Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, Creating

The first three categories are sometimes called the lower order thinking skills (LOTS), whilst the latter three categories are often referred to as the higher order thinking skills (HOTS).

I've developed the following diagram to illustrate the hierarchy in the revised version of Bloom's Taxonomy, together with a sample of action verbs. Action verbs are the critical doing words used in questions. Quite often, the action verb indicates the complexity (level) of the question, e.g. when you ask a student to "justify a method of investing money", the cognitive demand is obviously greater than simply asking the student to "name one way of investing money".

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy

When planning assessment tasks, first revisit the learning outcomes for your course. The action verb used in an assessment question must match the level intended in the learning outcome, e.g. if a learning outcome requires students to "list the tools used to install a wall-mounted flat-screen TV", then appropriate action verbs can include words such as list and name. You wouldn't ask students to "justify the use of tools ...".

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Web Resources

Bloom's Taxonomy can be applied to assessment questions and also to classroom teaching, e.g. careful selection of appropriate questions to challenge students' thinking. A very useful resource, Bloom's Taxonomy “Revised”: Key Words, Model Questions, & Instructional Strategies, gives examples of action verbs, model questions and instructional strategies for each of the six categories or levels of the taxonomy.

Examples of action verbs or clue words can be found on the University of New South Wales Learning Centre's website - see Exam Skills: Clue Words.

Monash University provides two simple resources to support your understanding of Bloom's Taxonomy. The Identifying exam questions resource explains what examiners expect when using particular clue words, whilst the Identifying exam questions quiz allows you to classify a number of questions according to Bloom's Taxonomy using a drop-down menu. Try to quiz to see how well you understand Bloom's taxonomy.

For Bloom's Taxonomy junkies, the Bloom's Digital Taxonomy page offers an abundance of ideas and resources.