Using Blooms Taxonomy for Learning and Assessment

Bloom’s Taxonomy was developed by the educational psychologist Dr. Benjamin Bloom in in 1956. The purpose of the taxonomy was to promote higher forms of thinking, such as analysis and evaluation, instead of tasks that involve less creativity, such as memorization. Dr. Bloom identified three types of learning. Dr. Bloom used the word “domain” to refer to the different areas into which he divided learning.

The three domains are cognitive, affective, and psychomotor skills. The cognitive domain involves the acquisition of knowledge. The affective domain encompasses education directed at feelings and attitudes. The domain of psychomotor skills deals with manual work. The domains are meant to guide the goals an educator sets. Any goal set by an educator should lead to some improvement in at least one of the domains.

Unfortunately, Bloom gave more attention to the cognitive and affective domain than the domain of psychomotor skills. After all, he was an academic. However, Bloom’s Taxonomy is widely used in educational and training settings.

Bloom divided the three domains of the taxonomy into subdivisions. For instance, the cognitive domain has six subdivisions. The subdivisions in the cognitive domain are ranked according to the degree of difficulty. The simpler levels must be mastered before a student can move on to the more complex levels.

The simplest subdivision in the cognitive domain is remembering. All that is involved here is the communication of what has been previously stored in one’s memory. An example of remembering is when a cashier tells a customer about a store policy on returns.  The cashier has already memorized this policy, and needs to recall it and communicate when the customer asks about it.

The next level in the cognitive domain, as one moves from simplest to complex, is understanding. This subdivision refers to the ability to understand instructions, and restate them in a different form. A concrete example of understanding is when someone is asked at work to conduct a training session, and they are able to use their own words to communicate the information that they learned when they were being trained.

Application, another subdivision in Bloom’s cognitive domain, involves taking a concept learned in one context and applying to another. For instance, one might use the lessons one learned in a statistics class to determine the reliability of a test used to measure some intellectual ability. The next highest level in the cognitive domain is analysis, which encompasses the skill of breaking something down into its component parts so that its structure can be clearly understood. Analysis is used when trying to find out what is wrong with a piece of equipment. Someone might think about the various parts of a machine, and how they are interconnected, in order to account for some form of malfunction.

The last two levels in the cognitive domain are evaluating and creating. Evaluating is the second most difficult skill, and creating is the most difficult skill. Evaluation takes place when someone makes judgments between different ideas. Evaluation is crucial in decision-making, such as when an employer is considering whom to hire. Creating involves taking diverse elements and putting them together to form a new structure. When someone invents a new machine to achieve a particular goal, creating has occurred.

There are just five subdivisions in the affective domain. These are, in the order of simplest to the most complex, receiving phenomena, responding to phenomena, valuing, organization, and internalizing values. These skills could be useful for a psychologist or a spiritual leader as they try to improve the lives of the people with whom they work.

Receiving phenomena is the ability to be aware and attentive. It is hard to maintain relationships if someone cannot concentrate on what another person is saying. Responding to phenomena encompasses the ability to not only listen, but also to express one’s view about what another person is saying. Responding to phenomena therefore involves active participation in a conversation.

The next rung on the ladder in the subdivisions of the affective domain is valuing. This involves making a commitment to certain ideals, and acting on these ideals. Someone might value, for instance, cultural diversity, and may make sure that his or her workplace has a diverse group of employees. Organization, the second most complex subdivision in the affective domain, refers to being able to prioritize one’s commitment to different values. Prioritization of values may be necessary when, for instance, freedom needs to be curtailed so that other people are not harmed. Internalization, the most complex affective skill, occurs when someone has a deep-seated value system that governs their behavior on a daily basis. People who are able to internalize might make a commitment to ethical behavior when on the job and follow through on this commitment every day. They can also be self-reliant because they do not need other people to shape their values.

The psychomotor domain can be useful for people who are trying to organize training sessions for people who want to work with their hands in a factory, for instance, or a farm. Though Dr. Bloom did not research this area deeply, other psychologists have. The psychomotor domain can involve skills such as imitation and precision. Imitation is a very simple psychomotor skill and occurs whenever someone observes and copies someone else’s behavior. Precision refers to becoming more exact in the performance of a task.

These domains and subdivisions are helpful for educators because they can help provide a clear structure for the pedagogical process. For instance, an educator may begin a semester with the goal of teaching the skill of remembering, and end the semester by insisting that students write a paper in which they have to use the skill of creating. Having clear goals based on Bloom’s taxonomy can help educator to make sure that all of their instruction is unified by a common purpose. Irrelevant and superfluous lessons can in this way be eliminated.