Bloom's Taxonomy

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom and some professional colleagues published a framework for categorizing educational goals and called it “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives”. Now familiarly known as Bloom’s Taxonomy, this framework has been applied by generations of K-12 teachers and college instructors in their teaching.

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.

Bloom's Original Taxonomy pyramid

While each of the six categories contains subcategories--placed along an upward continuum from simple to complex and concrete to abstract--the taxonomy is popularly remembered according to the six main categories. Below are Bloom’s definitions of each:

  • Knowledge - involves the recall of specifics and universals, of methods and processes and/or the recall of a pattern, structure, or setting.
  • Comprehension - refers to a type of understanding 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.

Interestingly, a group of cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists, instructional researchers and testing and assessment specialists published in 2001 a revision of Bloom’s 1956 Taxonomy. They gave it the title “A Taxonomy for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment”. The authors of the revised taxonomy use verbs and gerunds to label their categories and subcategories (rather than the nouns of the original taxonomy).

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy pyramid

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

Bloom's taxonomy is considered to be a foundational and essential element within the education community. A mythology has grown around it, possibly due to many people learning about the taxonomy through second hand information. Bloom himself considered the Handbook "one of the most widely cited yet least read books in American education".

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For information about this or any other instructional pedagogies, contact the IT Office by either stopping in to Whitman 114, calling 315-443-2342 or by emailing wsmhelp@syr.edu.