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Applying Bloom’s Taxonomy in the Classroom

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Pencil writing on paper - why?In our next installment of articles about English for Academic Purposes, Ann Snow, a series consultant for Q Skills for Success, explores the levels of critical thinking in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive objectives has been around for a long time. Since 1956, it has served as a guide for teachers to think about how they can design lessons that will help their students to think critically. Basically, the taxonomy designed by Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues provides a way to describe levels of thinking. The taxonomy is essentially a hierarchy, with knowledge as the first level and evaluation as the sixth level. I’ve listed the six levels below and included an example of each in parentheses.

  • Knowledge – recalling information (e.g. answering comprehension questions from a reading)
  • Comprehension – interpreting information (e.g. discussing why a character behaved in a particular way)
  • Application – using knowledge gained to solve problems (e.g. applying information from one situation to a different situation in a debate activity)
  • Analysis – breaking down concepts or ideas to understand the relationship of the parts to the whole (e.g. analyzing prefixes to see how word meanings change)
  • Synthesis – putting together something original from learned information (e.g. writing an essay; making an oral presentation)
  • Evaluation – judging something against specific criteria (e.g. peer editing using a checklist or rubric)

Bloom’s Taxonomy has had tremendous influence in assisting teachers of any subject matter to design instructional activities that cover the six levels of the hierarchy. It has also inspired others to offer their own ‘take’ on critical thinking. Unrau (1977), for example, believes teachers need to help their students develop a disposition – or inclination – to think critically. What does it mean to have a disposition to think critically? Some examples are

  • Imagine alternative solutions and perspectives
  • Make an effort to persevere in acquiring and integrating knowledge
  • Play with ideas
  • Evaluate the consequences of beliefs, decision, and actions
  • Reflect on one’s own thinking and that of others in order to gain knowledge or oneself and others.

While there is ongoing discussion as to whether critical thinking should be represented as a taxonomy or as a set of dispositions, teachers need to be aware that critical thinking is important. Students will be required to apply critical thinking skills in their language classes, their academic classes and in their future careers.

Do you apply critical thinking skills in your courses? What tools and strategies work for you?

Ann Snow is a series consultant for the new Academic English course, Q Skills for Success (OUP).

References:
Bloom, B. S. et al. (1956) ‘Taxonomy of educational objectives’, Handbook I: Cognitive domain, New York, Longman.
Unrau, N. J. (1997) Thoughtful teachers, thoughtful learners, Scarborough, Ontario, Pippin Publishing.
[Image by e-magic via Flickr/Creative Commons]

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