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Bloom's Taxonomy

The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, known as Bloom's Taxonomy (Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, & Krathwohl, 1956) is one of the most recognized learning theories in the field of education. Educators often use Bloom's Taxonomy to create learning outcomes that target not only subject matter but also the depth of learning they want students to achieve, and to then create assessments that accurately report on students’ progress towards these outcomes (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). 

An introduction to Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom's Taxonomy comprises three learning domains: the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor, and assigns to each of these domains a hierarchy that corresponds to different levels of learning. 

It's important to note that the different levels of thinking defined within each domain of the Taxonomy are hierarchical. In other words, each level subsumes the levels that come before it. So, if we look at the cognitive domain for example (which is represented in Figure 1), we can infer that before a student can conduct an analysis, they first might need to know the methods of analysis, understand the different elements to review, and consider which method to apply. It is only then that they will be ready to conduct the analysis itself.

 knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation

Figure 1: The hierarchy of the cognitive domain of Bloom's Taxonomy (1956).

Bloom's Taxonomy revised

In 2001, David Krathwohl (one of Bloom’s original collaborators) and co-editor Lorin Anderson published a revision to the 1956 hierarchy with contributions from cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists, instructional researchers, and testing and assessment specialists. This new revised version introduced a key change to the cognitive domain of Bloom's Taxonomy: it shifted the language used from nouns to verbs (see Figure 2) and thereby focused the attention away from acquisition and toward active performance of the types of learning involved in each stage of the hierarchy. "Synthesis" was also dropped and "create" was moved to the highest level of the domain. remember, understand, aply, analyze, evaluate, create

Figure 2. Anderson and Krathwol's (2001) revision to Bloom's cognitive hierarchy.

Bloom's Taxonomy in practice

To provide a deeper look at how Bloom's Taxonomy works in practice, we break down each domain — the cognitive, affective, and pyschomotor — in the following sections of this Teaching Tip. Here, we present example learning outcomes and assessments mapped to each level of the domain hierarchies to help you make use of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Cognitive domain

The cognitive domain is focused on intellectual skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and creating a knowledge base. It was the first domain created by the original group of Bloom’s researchers. The cognitive hierarchy spans from simple memorization designed to build the knowledge of learners, to creating something new based on previously-learned information. In this domain, learners are expected to progress linearly through the hierarchy, beginning at "remember" and ending at "create." 

When writing your own learning outcomes, we encourage you to choose verbs that best describe what is expected (e.g., for remember, you might consider define, identify, list, recall, recognize, match, etc.). A search for “Bloom’s Verbs” will provide lists of synonyms to use.

Cognitive hierarchy

  • Remember
    • Sample learning outcome: Remember the names and relationships of a cast of characters in a play.
    • Sample assessment/activity: A multiple-choice test designed to test the memory of learners.
    • Rationale: A multiple-choice test will allow educators to see whether students have effectively memorized the given material.
  • Understand
    • Sample learning outcome: Understand and explain the main ideas of a play or piece of literature.
    • Sample assessment/activity: Write a short (1 page) paper summarizing the plot and most important events in the play.
    • Rationale: Writing a summary encourages learners to think about what the most important parts of a piece of literature are, and to decide which aspects of the plot to discard in favor of a concise summary. It allows educators to evaluate whether or not they have understood the main idea of the play. 
  • Apply
    • Sample learning outcome: Apply the main ideas/themes in the play to another context.
    • Sample assessment/activity: Write an advice column responding to one of the characters.
    • Rationale:  In doing this assignment, learners will consider the implications of a character’s actions outside of the consequences shown in the play.
  • Analyze
    • Sample learning outcome: Be able to analyze the relative roles of each character in the play and their relationships to each other.
    • Sample assessment/activity: Write an analytical paper comparing the antagonists and protagonists of the play.
    • Rationale: Through this assignment, as learners consider what makes each character an antagonist or a protagonist, they need to use both their knowledge of the play and critical thinking skills.
  • Evaluate
    • Sample learning outcome: Evaluate the decisions of characters in the play, and support your evaluation with textual evidence.
    • Sample assessment/activity: Write a response to one of the events in the play, either supporting or rejecting their actions on the basis of evidence from the play as well as personal opinion and projected/actual consequences of action.
    • Rationale: Through this assignment, learners will consider the rationale and consequences for actions in the play, leading them to understand and make judgements about the validity of a character’s decision making.
  • Create
    • Sample learning outcome: Create a new and unique piece of writing using similar plot devices.
    • Sample assessment/activity: Create a short story using similar plot devices in a new time or setting.
    • Rationale: Through this activity, learners must integrate the plot devices and writing techniques into a new setting, allowing them to practice their creative writing skills and showing their full understanding of the writer's techniques.

Affective domain

The affective domain focuses on the attitudes, values, interests, and appreciation of learners. The hierarchy associated with it begins with receiving and listening to information, and extends to characterization, or internalizing values and consistently acting upon them. It focuses on allowing learners to understand what their own values are and how they have developed.

Affective hierarchy

  • Receiving
    • Sample learning outcome: Listen to other students with respect.
    • Sample assessment/activity: Be an audience member to another student’s presentation, and then write a summary.
    • Rationale: Through this assignment, learners will learn how to listen effectively to others as well as remember key details about their presentation (used in writing the summary).
  • Responding
    • Sample learning outcome: Speak effectively in front of an audience and actively respond to others.
    • Sample assessment/activity: Present on a subject in front of the class, and answer questions from peers about their presentation.
    • Rationale: Through this, learners will become more comfortable with public speaking as well as more comfortable with contributing to a discussion in the form of answering questions.
  • Valuing
    • Sample learning outcome: Demonstrate and explain own values regarding various topics.
    • Sample assessment/activity: Write an opinion piece on any issue, explaining one’s own stance and reasons supporting that stance.
    • Rationale: Through this, learners will explore not only their own values but why they support their values, giving them a chance to understand more fully their own value system.
  • Organization
    • Sample learning outcome: Compare value systems and understand evidence behind values.
    • Sample assessment/activity: Organize and compare different cultural value systems, evaluating the differences between them and why these differences may have arisen.
    • Rationale: In doing this activity, learners will consider how value systems are put into place and organized, as well as the evidence that supports different value systems across the world.
  • Characterization
    • Sample learning outcome: Work well in a team of peers.
    • Sample assessment/activity: A group project, including group work on any assignment.
    • Rationale: By working in a group, learners must balance their own values with the values of the team, as well as prioritize tasks and practice teamwork.

Psychomotor domain

The psychomotor domain encompasses the ability of learners to physically accomplish tasks and perform movement and skills. There are several different versions including different hierarchies – the examples here fall into Harrow’s (1972) theory of the psychomotor domain. This hierarchy ranges from reflexes and basic movement to non-discursive communication and meaningfully expressive activity.

Psychomotor Hierarchy

  • Reflex
    • Sample learning outcome: Instinctively respond to a physical stimulus.
    • Sample assessment/activity: A game of dodgeball.
    • Rationale: Learners must react (dodge) the balls that are being thrown at them, allowing them to develop their reflexive skills.
  • Basic fundamental movements
    • Sample learning outcome: Perform a simple action (including running and throwing).
    • Sample assessment/activity: A game of dodgeball.
    • Rationale: Learners must run and throw to actively engage the opposing team, allowing them to develop these skills.
  • Perceptual abilities
    • Sample learning outcome: Use more than one ability to integrate different sensory perceptions.
    • Sample assessment/activity: A game of catch or soccer (or other game involving movement and passing).
    • Rationale: Learners must integrate running, visual information about the position of the ball, and predictive information about the future position of the ball.
  • Physical abilities
    • Sample learning outcome: Sustain an activity for a set period of time.
    • Sample assessment/activity: Run for 25 minutes steadily.
    • Rationale: This activity is a measure of the learner’s stamina and physical fitness.
  • Skilled movements
    • Sample learning outcome: Adapt one’s behaviour and movement to better achieve goals.
    • Sample assessment/activity: A soccer or other strategic game (football, hockey).
    • Rationale: This activity allows teams to change their strategy and individuals to change their physical behaviour depending on the response of the other team.
  • Non-discursive communication
    • Sample learning outcome: Express oneself through purposeful movement and activity.
    • Sample assessment/activity: A soccer or other strategic game (football, hockey)
    • Rationale: These games all involve teamwork, strategy, and integrative and purposeful movement. Successful teams must integrate all of their senses, communicate through movement, and use a variety of adaptive strategies.

References

Anderson, L., & Krathwohl, D. A. (2001). Taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman. 

Armstrong, P. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University. 

Bloom, B. S.; Engelhart, M. D.; Furst, E. J.; Hill, W. H.; Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.

Harrow, A.J. (1972). A taxonomy of the psychomotor domain. New York: David McKay Co.

Resources

CTE teaching tips

Other resources

teaching tipsThis Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: Bloom's Taxonomy. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.