Tip #241: Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues originally identified six progressive levels, or building blocks, of learning. These levels move from lowest complexity (1) to highest complexity (6).

1. Knowledge: Knowledge is the foundation for all higher thinking.

2. Comprehension: Information is not useful unless it is understood.

3. Application: Information and skills become useful when they can be applied to a new situation. Application is the launching pad for all higher level thinking.

4. Analysis: Creative thinking and problem solving begin with analytic thinking: mentally taking something apart to better understand the relationship of the parts to each other and to the whole. To analyze, one must be able to think categorically: that is to organize and reorganize information into categories.

5. Synthesis: Synthesis is invention: the creation of something which is new to its creator.

6. Evaluation: Making judgments, or evaluating, when there is no one answer which is right for everyone, is one of the most complex levels of learning because it is based on all the other levels. Evaluation, or judgment, is essential for all rational decision making.

In 2001, the Taxonomy was revised to reflect more recent understanding about learning. This revision retains the six levels but changes the labels to verb form, renames three levels, and interchanges the top two levels.

The following description of the revision is drawn from How the Brain Learns, by David A. Sousa: Knowledge became Remember because it more accurately describes the recall process that occurs at this level.

Comprehension became Understand, Application became Apply, Analysis became Analyze, and Evaluation became Evaluate.
Synthesis changed places with Evaluation and was renamed Create. This exchange was made because recent studies in cognitive neuroscience suggest that generating, planning, and producing an original product demands more complex thinking than making judgments based on accepted criteria.

The revised Taxonomy or building blocks of learning looks like this. These levels also move from lowest complexity (1) to highest complexity (6).

1. Remember [knowledge]. Remember refers to the mere rote recall and recognition of previously learned material, from specific facts to a definition or a complete theory. There is no presumption that the learner understands what is being recalled. [Verbs include: define, label, recall, and recognize].

2. Understand [comprehension]. This level describes the ability to make sense of the material. [Verbs include: summarize, discuss, explain, and outline].

3. Apply [application]. This level refers to the ability to use learned material in new situations with minimal direction. It includes the application of such things as rules, concepts, methods, and theories to solve problems. Practice is essential at this level. [Verbs include: practice, calculate, apply, and execute].

4. Analyze [analysis]. This is the ability to break material down into its component parts so that its structure may be understood. It includes identifying parts, examining the relationships of the parts to each other and to the whole, and recognizing the organizational principles involved. [Verbs include: analyze, contrast, distinguish, and deduce].

5. Evaluate [evaluation]. This level deals with the ability to judge the value of material based on specific criteria and standards. The learner may determine the criteria or be given them. Activities at this level almost always have multiple and equally acceptable solutions. [Verbs include: appraise, assess, judge, and critique].

6. Create [synthesis]. This refers to the ability to put parts together to form a plan that is new to the learner. This level stresses creativity, with a major emphasis on forming new patterns or structures. [Verbs include: imagine, compose, design, and infer].

What do you think about this revision?
Does it make sense to you that Create is more complex than Evaluate?

I personally question the choice of “Understand”as the new label for Comprehension, since understand is too vague to be specific, observable or measurable and actually used in a learning objective.

I also, by the way, continue to object to “define”as a verb appropriate for the Knowledge or Remember level. If someone can define something, then they are able to put it into their own words. That, by definition (!), indicates that they Understand what it means.

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