Benjamin Bloom: The Man Behind the Theory
“We need to be much clearer about what we do and do not know so that we don’t continually confuse the two. If I could have one wish for education, it would be the systematic ordering of our basic knowledge in such a way that what is known and true can be acted on, while what is superstition, fad, and myth can be recognized as such and used only when there is nothing else to support us in our frustration and despair.
-- Benjamin S. Bloom, author Innocence in Education
Benjamin Bloom became one of the most influential theorists to promote mastery learning and higher level thinking. He discovered that the higher order thinking was dependent on the level that preceded it. In other words, students needed to be able to recall information to then comprehend, to analyze, then to apply it, and so on. Bloom discovered that the goal of teaching needed to be geared toward the designing of tasks so students were led to the realization of the objectives vs. given the objectives for recall.
Lower Order Thinking Skills
Projects that only require lower order thinking skills to answer are most often not even "driving" questions. These will only require rote knowledge and basic comprehension to answer.
Questions at this level require: information recall, rote knowledge of dates, events, places, and subject mastery. Students must: define, describe, identify, quote, name, draw, match, recall.
Questions at this level require: understanding of topic, and interpretation of ideas and information. Students must: compare, contrast, conclude, explain, restate, summarize, differentiate, predict.
Higher Order Thinking Skills
An "essential" question, by definition, will require higher order thinking skills of problem solving (Apply), organizing and identifying patterns (Analyze), defining relationships and creating new ideas based on current knowledge (Synthesize), and recognizing that there are various viewpoints and one perspective is most likely subjective (Evaluate).
Questions at this level require: problem solving, and application in new situations. Students must: apply, complete, compute, solve, examine, modify, relate, experiment, discover, dramatize, show.
Questions at this level require: seeing patterns, identification and organization of components. Students must: analyze, order, diagram, explain, connect, classify, arrange, infer, outline, research.
Questions at this level require: creating new ideas from known information, generalization, and relation. Students must: combine, integrate, create, design, invent, compose, organize, plan, propose, generalize.
Questions at this level require: discrimination between ideas, assessment of value, recognition of subjectivity. Students must: assess, rank, measure, argue, convince, judge, discriminate, critique, rank, prioritize, conclude.
Scott Johnston, did a wonderful presentation on assessment. He used a very simple analogy about a pen and how we can look at an object like that and develop our understanding of the different levels of questions.
Knowledge – This would be something simple as “What is a pen? What does it look like?”. Very simple information that just needs someone to have recall memory. This is the lowest level of questioning you can have, but it is often the one we use too much in our classrooms.
Comprehension - Although a step up from the knowledge level, a question for this could be, “What are some uses for a pen? It can be used to write but are there other things as well?”
Application – Now that you know what a pen is used for, how do you use it? With your source of knowledge about the pen, how could you apply this to whatever you need a pen to do?
Analysis – A pen is more than just one part. If you are able to take apart that pen, what is the function of each part? What is each part’s importance and role in making that pen being able to do the task it is used for?
Synthesis -This is where you take other knowledge and apply it to the knowledge that you have of the pen. For example, if you were to write an essay, is the pen the best way to do this or is there something more efficient to use? What are the reasons that something might be better and why would it be for any specific task?
Evaluation - Now looking at the pen and building upon all of the knowledge you have, is the pen the best way to be doing the things that it is currently used for? You have decided that a pen is not the best way to write, but what are the arguments and reasons that you have for coming to this conclusion? You are now sharing a viewpoint with critical points to back up your ideas. This is the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.