K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification system developed in 1956 by education psychologist Benjamin Bloom to categorize intellectual skills and behavior important to learning. Bloom identified six cognitive levels: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, with sophistication growing from basic knowledge-recall skills to the highest level, evaluation.

History of Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy was created in 1948 by psychologist Benjamin Bloom and several colleagues. Originally developed as a method of classifying educational goals for student performance evaluation, Bloom’s Taxonomy has been revised over the years and is still utilized in education today. The original intent in creating the taxonomy was to focus on three major domains of learning: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. The cognitive domain covered “the recall or recognition of knowledge and the development of intellectual abilities and skills”; the affective domain covered “changes in interest, attitudes, and values, and the development of appreciations and adequate adjustment”; and the psychomotor domain encompassed “the manipulative or motor-skill area.”1 Despite the creators’ intent to address all three domains, Bloom’s Taxonomy applies only to acquiring knowledge in the cognitive domain, which involves intellectual skill development.

The original Bloom’s Taxonomy contained six developmental categories: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The first step in the taxonomy focused on knowledge acquisition and at this level, students recall, memorize, list, and repeat information. In the second tier, students classify, describe, discuss, identify, and explain information. Next, students demonstrate, interpret, and write about what they’ve learned and solve problems. In the subsequent step, students compare, contrast, distinguish, and examine what they’ve learned with other information, and they have the opportunity to question and test this knowledge. Then students argue, defend, support, and evaluate their opinion on this information. Finally, in the original model of Bloom’s Taxonomy, students create a new project, product, or point of view.2

Original version of Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid.

Original Bloom’s Taxonomy.

In the 1990s, one of Bloom’s students, Lorin Anderson, revised the original taxonomy. In the amended version of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the names of the major cognitive process categories were changed to indicate action because thinking implies active engagements. Instead of listing knowledge as a part of the taxonomy, the category is divided into different types of knowledge: factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognitive.3 This newer taxonomy also moves the evaluation stage down a level and the highest element becomes “creating.”

Revised version of Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid.

The revised taxonomy.

Bloom’s Taxonomy in the Classroom

Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used across grade levels and content areas. By using Bloom’s Taxonomy in the classroom, teachers can assess students on multiple learning outcomes that are aligned to local, state, and national standards and objectives. Within each level of the taxonomy, there are various tasks that move students through the thought process. This interactive activity demonstrates how all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy can be achieved with one image.

In order for teachers to develop lesson plans that integrate Bloom’s Taxonomy, they write their lessons in the language that focuses on each level. The United States Geological Survey provides a list of verbs for each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy for teachers to use when developing lesson plans. (Although the list is designed for environmental science teachers, the examples will work for any discipline.)