Bloom’s Taxonomy

The above graphic is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. You’re free to share, reproduce, or otherwise use it, as long as you attribute it to the original Author of the theory; Benjamin Bloom with collaborators Max Englehart, Edward Furst, Walter Hill, and David Krathwohl, as well as Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, the authors of this graphic.

Background Information

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom with collaborators Max Englehart, Edward Furst, Walter Hill, and David Krathwohl published a framework for categorizing educational goals: Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Familiarly known as Bloom’s Taxonomy, this framework has been applied by generations of K-12 teachers, college and university instructors in their teaching and assessment of learning.

The framework elaborated by Bloom and his collaborators consisted of six major categories: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. The categories after Knowledge were presented as “skills and abilities,” with the understanding that knowledge was the necessary precondition for putting these skills and abilities into practice.

While each category contained subcategories, all lying along a continuum from simple to complex and concrete to abstract, the taxonomy is popularly remembered according to the six main categories.

The Original Taxonomy (1956)

Here are the authors’ brief explanations of these main categories in from the appendix of Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Handbook One, pp. 201-207):

  • Knowledge “involves the recall of specifics and universals, the recall of methods and processes, or the recall of a pattern, structure, or setting.”
  • Comprehension “refers to a type of understanding or apprehension such that the individual knows what is being communicated and can make use of the material or idea being communicated without necessarily relating it to other material or seeing its fullest implications.”
  • Application refers to the “use of abstractions in particular and concrete situations.”
  • Analysis represents the “breakdown of a communication into its constituent elements or parts such that the relative hierarchy of ideas is made clear and/or the relations between ideas expressed are made explicit.”
  • Synthesis involves the “putting together of elements and parts so as to form a whole.”
  • Evaluation engenders “judgments about the value of material and methods for given purposes.”

The Revised Taxonomy (2001)

A group of cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists and instructional researchers, and testing and assessment specialists published in 2001 a revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy with the title A Taxonomy for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. This title draws attention away from the somewhat static notion of “educational objectives” (in Bloom’s original title) and points to a more dynamic conception of classification.

The authors of the revised taxonomy underscore this dynamism, using verbs and gerunds to label their categories and subcategories (rather than the nouns of the original taxonomy). These “action words” describe the cognitive processes by which thinkers encounter and work with knowledge:

Remember

  • Recognizing
  • Recalling

Understand

  • Interpreting
  • Exemplifying
  • Classifying
  • Summarizing
  • Inferring
  • Comparing
  • Explaining

Apply

  • Executing
  • Implementing

Analyze

  • Differentiating
  • Organizing
  • Attributing

Evaluate

  • Checking
  • Critiquing

Create

  • Generating
  • Planning
  • Producing

In the revised taxonomy, knowledge is at the basis of these six cognitive processes, but its authors created a separate taxonomy of the types of knowledge used in cognition:

  • Factual Knowledge
    • Knowledge of terminology
    • Knowledge of specific details and elements
  • Conceptual Knowledge
    • Knowledge of classifications and categories
    • Knowledge of principles and generalizations
    • Knowledge of theories, models, and structures
  • Procedural Knowledge
    • Knowledge of subject-specific skills and algorithms
    • Knowledge of subject-specific techniques and methods
    • Knowledge of criteria for determining when to use appropriate procedures
  • Metacognitive Knowledge
    • Strategic Knowledge
    • Knowledge about cognitive tasks, including appropriate contextual and conditional knowledge
    • Self-knowledge

Mary Forehand from the University of Georgia provides a guide to the revised version   giving a brief summary of the revised taxonomy and a helpful table of the six cognitive processes and four types of knowledge.

Why Use Bloom’s Taxonomy?

The authors of the revised taxonomy suggest a multi-layered answer to this question, to which the author of this teaching guide has added some clarifying points:

  1. Objectives (learning goals) are important to establish in a pedagogical interchange so that teachers and students alike understand the purpose of that interchange.
  2. Organizing objectives helps to clarify objectives for themselves and for students.
  3. Having an organized set of objectives helps teachers to:
    • “plan and deliver appropriate instruction”;
    • “design valid assessment tasks and strategies”;and
    • “ensure that instruction and assessment are aligned with the objectives.”

Citations are from A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.


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