How well do you do in different subjects at school? Most of us find that we’re much more comfortable in some than others. In some classes, you might be able to write pages and pages or have healthy debates with your classmates, and in others, you might struggle to remember basic facts.
In 1956, this idea captivated an educator called Benjamin Bloom. He realised that no matter the subject, all students tend to follow a similar learning journey as they progress from being able to recall basic facts to being able to talk at length about an idea. Alongside a few colleagues, he created a system which has come to be known as Bloom’s Taxonomy.
What in the world is that?
Well, it’s a classification system used to define and distinguish different levels of understanding – from the essential things like knowledge recall (remembering things) to evaluation and application (which are on the more complex end of the spectrum). So, basically, it helps you to pinpoint how well your brain can deal with complex problems in a particular subject.
It has helped teachers figure out where their students for decades, but it can give you an advantage if you can figure out how to make it work for you.
The Bloom’s Taxonomy Structure
Let’s walk through the structure of Bloom’s Taxonomy. We’ll explore how you come to gain mastery of a topic from Level 1 (the most simple) all the way through to Level 6 (the most complex).
Level 1: Knowledge
This one is pretty much what we all do daily: we remember information that we have previously heard and learnt. This might include things like your times tables, your teacher’s name, or facts and figures about history – the basic stuff. Of course, it can get more complicated if there is more to remember, but it all just comes down to practice.
Level 2: Comprehension
At this level, you can understand and effectively interpret the concepts you’ve learned in the knowledge phase. Essentially, you can explain things in your own words. For example, if you were explaining how a scientific experiment took place, you might be able to describe what happened without necessarily reading through a step-by-step guide first.
Level 3: Application
Now, you can use and apply the knowledge you’ve recalled. You might be able to use various problem-solving methods and experiment with them to determine which works best. Long story short, you should be able to apply facts and ideas to another concept. Let’s shine some light on this with an example: perhaps you’re able to use a formula you’ve learnt in Maths to calculate how much money you’ll earn if you put all your yearly allowance in the bank. You’re applying your knowledge in new contexts, not just the ones you’ve learnt about.
Level 4: Analysis
This includes identifying and analysing patterns, organising ideas, and recognising trends. For example, if you’ve conducted a survey on how all your classmates get to school, operating at Level 4 would mean you’re able to collate all this data, present it in different ways, and start to draw conclusions about what might cause different behaviours.
Level 5: Synthesis
Here, you can create new ideas using old concepts. This is possible through them imagining, manipulating, designing, and modifying the components of something you’ve learnt previously. For example, you might be capable of using concepts you’ve learnt from computer science classes to help you developing an app for the App Store. It can apply to any situation where you’re coming up with innovative ideas to target a specific problem or need.
Level 6: Evaluation
At this level, you can assess theories, compare ideas, and evaluate outcomes. For example, at this stage, you are capable of defending your proposed views about a Social Studies topic in a debate, you can assess the pros and cons of an economic policy, and you measure the effectiveness of a plan-to-action. That’s true mastery right there!
So… how can it help you?
Now that you have a fair understanding of Bloom’s Taxonomy, let’s think about how you can use it to your advantage.
At heart, it’s a toolbox that can help you classify and organise your learning objectives. So: take up any concept you are learning about in class. Ask yourself – can you perform each of those levels for that concept? If not, find the level where you sit and work up from there.
Using this method will push you to use higher levels of thinking and ensure that you can thoroughly understand and evaluate that concept inside and out. In other words, you’ll start to think in deeper ways, which will bring about more detailed questions for you to ask and answer. You’ll be capable of creating instructions for yourself that are aimed at improving critical thinking.
Even better – this method doesn’t just help you with the one concept you are focusing on! It also helps you to connect related topics in your head. By elevating yourself to the higher stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy, you start to build up a picture of an entire subject in your mind as lots of interconnected ideas. Instead of your Science class being ten separate concepts you learn over the course of a year, it’ll start to take shape as one body of knowledge where everything is related.
When you build this level of understanding, you’ll feel much more in control of your learning, making you more confident to tackle more complex tasks. And, best of all, once you build a higher level of understanding in a subject, you’ll naturally find the lower levels of knowledge and recall fall into place. Flash cards aren’t so important when you’re comfortable with a topic!
Is it really all that scary? We hope you don’t think so after this. Bloom’s Taxonomy is one of the most effective ways for you to judge how comfortable you are with a concept. Use it to guide your learning and always keep you anchored on the path to better understanding!
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