By Gina Reich Guzman. Reprinted with permission.
Bloom’s Taxonomy is not a part of Charlotte Mason but it is a very helpful tool for anyone who teaches; regardless of the setting. I would even go so far as to say that it is *the* most useful tool I learned when training to be a teacher. I try to keep a copy of it handy when I am lesson planning to remind myself to reach for those higher level thinking skills. It also goes well with the Socratic Method of teaching. All teachers I know are taught about Bloom’s Taxonomy but very few of them actually get to use that knowledge in their classrooms; particularly since No Child Left Behind. Due to state standards, lack of time, required tests and lack of flexibility most traditional classrooms emphasize the lower level thinking skills but rarely include the higher level skills.
What Is Bloom’s Taxonomy & How Do You Use It?
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a way of organizing how we think and learn, with an emphasis on reaching the highest level of thinking/processing learning possible. In far too many learning environments the learning never goes beyond the very beginning levels of learning; mostly because the lower levels are easy to quantify and evaluate (think standardized test questions). These lower levels are important but they are only the building blocks for true higher level learning. If we stop at the lower levels than we are doing our learners a terrible disservice! Why is higher level learning important, you may ask. It is at the higher levels of thinking/processing/learning that the learner begins to have a real relationship with learning and the world around them. It is the higher levels of thinking that create resourceful life-long learners! We must strive to reach for the top of the taxonomy with our learners.
There are two ways that I use the taxonomy. 1. One way is to take what you are already doing/using and compare it to the list below. Keep a record of what levels those materials seem to focus on. You can do this with games, workbooks, narrations and so on. After doing this one year we got rid of most of our workbooks since they focused on the lowest level questions. If you are hitting most of the levels over the course of your subjects than you are good to go. If there are gaps then look for better materials or materials that will help you fill the gaps. 2. If you are more of a hands-on/activity based family it is often easiest to look at the taxonomy as you are planning the activities and make yourself a list of the vocabulary or questions that can help you bring the activities to the highest thinking level possible.3. As an example: If I remember correctly many of the questions asked in Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study are higher level so that may be a handy book to bring in the field with you since many of us are not in the habit of asking *really* good questions of the top of our head. I often write myself reminders on index cards or sticky notes since I can slip them into the book we are using, mark the best questions only if the book provides them for you, or in my pocket if we are away from home.
Lower Level Thinking
1. Knowledge: recall facts, specific information, vocabulary and concepts mostly via rote answers
Words to use at this level: define, match, recall, spell, who, when, where, what, why, which, list, label, find, and so on.
Questions to ask at this level: What is, Where is, How would you show, How would you describe, Can you list three, How would you describe, This is about, This tells us, and so on.
Example activities: multiple choice questions, making lists, reading or creating tables, and graphs, demonstrations, giving speeches,
2. Comprehension: able to organize, compare, interpret and demonstrate information through understanding main ideas
Words to use at this level: classify, compare & contast, demonstrate, summarize, outline, illustrate, infer, rephrase, explain and so on.
Questions to ask at this level: How would you classify, How would you rephrase that, What is the main idea, Can you explain, What statements support, Restate in your own words, etc.
Example activities: verbal orwritten narrations, writing book reviews, make informational posters,
3. Application: apply problems/solutions to new scenarios through application of knowledge, facts, rules and techniques in new and unique ways
Words to use: build, experiment with, solve, model, organize, plan, interview, identify, apply, predict, etc.
Questions to ask: How would you use, Can you find examples to, How would you solve, How would you organize, show your understanding by, What approach will you use to solve, How does that apply to what you just learned, Is there another way you would do, etc.
Example activities: rewriting endings to stories, role playing, dress-up re-enactments, drawing your own maps, scavenger hunts at museums,
Higher Level Thinking
4. Analysis: break information down into it’s parts; able to identify motives, causes, inferences and evidence to support generalizations. Also, taking the abstract and applying it to concrete situations
Words to use: categorize, analyze, classify, compare & contrast, infer, relationships, simplify, test for, inspect, motive, discover, dissect, distinguish, conclude, identify fact from fiction/opinion.
Questions to ask: How is __ related to__, What is the theme, What conclusions do you infer, How would you categorize, Can you identify the parts, What evidence is there for, What ideas justify, Can you distinguish between, What does__ believe, What is ___ point of view, What relationships do you see, and so on
5. Synthesis: combine/organize information into new patterns, forms or solutions
Words to use: build, change, sequence, combine, adapt, compose, construct, improve, delete, design, predict, solve, theorize, invent, modify, discuss, propose, create, choose, develop, problem solve, etc.
Questions to use: What changes would you make, What would happen if, Can you elaborate on your reason for, What way would you design, Formulate a theory for, predict the outcome of, Construct a model of, How could you modify, What can you combine to improve or change, How else would you, etc.
Example activities: rewriting a story as a play or vice versa, retelling what came before or after a particular event (within a narration), make a diorama,
6. Evaluation: ability to present and defend your opinions/personal reflections by making judgements about information, ideas, and quality using set criteria
Words to use: appraise, interpret, evaluate, conclude, assess, defend, determine, justify, select, perceive, prove/disprove, dispute, defend, judge, etc.
Questions to ask: What influenced, What criteria did you use for, Do you agree/disagree with, How can you prove/disprove that, Would it be better if, How would you prioritize, How did you determine, What data did you use, Why did they choose, What can you cite to prove your point, What would you recommend, How would you evaluate, and so on
How Does the Taxonomy Relate to a CM Education?
Remember that one of Ms. Mason’s definitions of learning is for the learner to be able to determine their own relationships within the information and how the information/educational task relates to them personally. Looking at Bloom’s Taxonomy we begin to realize that this truly is a higher level of thinking than is often seen; esp. for younger learners. Personally, I feel that the concept of narrations can fall into many of these levels based upon how you do the narrations. The basic verbal or written narration as most commonly done (or as done via WTM) falls into the lowest levels of learning. If your style of doing narrations includes rewriting story endings, role playing or actually analyzing the material than you are moving your way up the levels and into the highest levels of thinking. I often check the taxonomy to determine whether my kids are getting to those higher levels of thinking or if they are stagnating with the regurgitation of information so common at the lower levels of thinking.
Personally, I believe that many of the techniques espoused by Ms. Mason can be used to help us get past just the most basic levels of thinking. If we tie our handicrafts to what the children are learning than we bring them from just comprehension (low level) of the information to actual application (highest of the low levels) of the material. If your child then goes on to adapt the techniques to their own purposes than that child has moved up to synthesis (high level). Even something as simple as the Book of the Centuries could be adapted to get us to those higher levels of thinking. It is fine if your Book of the Centuries or timeline is just a listing of historical information but know that keeps you at the knowledge or comprehension levels. If Book of the Centuries is one of the tools you want to use for higher level thinking than I would suggest adding components such as listing the historical information but then have your learner add how that information relates to/influences our modern world, influenced other areas of knowledge and so on. If you use science lab books to supplement your science program you will begin to notice that much of the Scientific Method also takes learners to the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Sometimes this is the easiest place to begin understanding and incorporating the taxonomy into your homeschooling.
It is purely up to you how you would want to use Ms. Mason’s methods in combination with the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy to bring your homeschool to the highest levels of learning and thinking possible. But know that it is possible even if CM came long before Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Links for further reading on Bloom’s Taxonomy
Today’s Teacher This page is mostly a list of the levels and how they correspond with Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences; with no explanations.
Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains: 3 Types of Learning Note that this is a newer way of thinking about Bloom’s Taxonomy. Be sure to check it out since my use of Bloom’s is based more on the original version. You may prefer this version.
Applying Bloom’s Taxonomy This page is simply organized and good for quickly checking that the questions and vocabulary you use with your learners is reaching all levels and not just the first level of learning.