Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy is the most important education framework and every teacher needs to know how to use it in their class! Find out here!

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Who was Benjamin Bloom?

Benjamin Samuel Bloom (February 21, 1913 – September 13, 1999) was an American educational psychologist who examined and then restructured the way teaching should be approached, to maximise learners’ performance. His book, The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals (1956), set out a series of learning objectives that became known as Bloom’s taxonomy. It continues to impact the way educational curricula are structured to this day. Bloom’s taxonomy divided learning into three psychological domains – cognitive (processing information), affective (attitudes and feelings) and psychomotor (physical skills). 

Within those domains, his taxonomy progressed from Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) to Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS), through six levels: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and then evaluation. Essentially, Bloom’s model evolved education from being a case of learners just memorising information they had been taught to first remembering it; then understanding it; then applying it (in exercises); then analysing it and, finally, being able to evaluate it at a complex level. Bloom’s taxonomy was updated by former students of his in 2001, and the updated version is now widely used in all spheres of education. I go into a deep-dive on Bloom’s taxonomy on this page, for those who want some more information. In 2008, a variation of Bloom’s was created for use specifically in the modern, digitally-enabled classroom (see Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy: A reference guide for teachers). 

Bloom’s revised taxonomy: what is it, and how is it used?

Bloom’s taxonomy is a multi-layered model for encouraging learning by progressing through six levels of increasing complexity.

Video introduction to Bloom’s Taxonomy

Levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a learning framework that moves a student from lower-order thinking to higher-order thinking. The six levels are remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating and creating. Remembering is the act of recalling information from long-term memory, while understanding involves constructing meaning from interpreting and summarising data. The implementation of what was learnt in these first levels takes place at level 3, applying. Analysing is the next level where information is broken into its constituent parts to establish its relationships. Evaluation is the process of making judgements based on criteria and standards by checking and critiquing. The last level, creating, involves putting all elements together to form a new, coherent and functioning whole.

Bloom's Taxonomy Cognitive Levels Explained
Bloom’s Taxonomy Cognitive Levels Explained

Bloom’s taxonomy encourages learners to engage with knowledge at a deeper and more interactive level, working with what they are learning in the real-world sense, rather than just passively taking information on board. See Bloom’s Taxonomy Questions Stems for practical guidance on how to implement this in the classroom.

While Bloom’s taxonomy arranges learning into six cognitive levels in order of hierarchy and complexity, it also sees each level as being interdependent on the other levels, with all levels contributing to the final, holistic learning outcome. This is why, while Bloom’s taxonomy is traditionally rendered as a pyramid or even an inverted pyramid, it is also rendered in other forms that place more emphasis on the interdependence of the levels:

Bloom's Taxonomy
Bloom’s Taxonomy

The interdependence of Bloom’s different learning levels can be articulated through logic:

  • Before we can understand a concept, we must be able to remember it.
  • Before we can apply the concept, we must be able to understand it. 
  • Before we analyse it, we must be able to apply it.
  • Before we can evaluate its impact, we must have analysed it. 
  • Before we can create something based on the concept, we must have rememberedunderstood, applied, analysed and evaluated the concept.

The non-pyramid forms for expressing Bloom’s taxonomy indicate that learning may not always progress linearly up through the six levels. Rather, learners might move back and forth between different levels depending on the learning situation, or they might spend more time in some levels of the taxonomy than in others. The human brain, by nature, tends to behave in a lateral manner rather than a set linear manner. 

The six cognitive levels of Bloom’s taxonomy 

Now let’s examine the six cognitive levels of Bloom’s taxonomy in more detail, with examples of their application in the classroom. Certain verbs are ascribed to the different levels, to clarify further the kind of thinking involved at each level.

Level one – Remembering

Verbs: Describe, Identify, Label, List, Name, Recite, Repeat.

Remembering is the act of retrieving knowledge and can be used to produce things like definitions or lists. It is the lowest of the taxonomic levels but is essential for the learning process because learners need to have knowledge in place before they can engage with it at higher cognitive levels. Examples of Remembering include reciting the times’ table, naming different parts of the human anatomy, answering true or false questions, recalling critical events on a historical timeline or even naming the six cognitive levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Remembering requires no understanding of the knowledge, only to have it accurately and thoroughly in mind. 

Level two – Understanding

Verbs: Examine, Generalize, Group, Order, Paraphrase, Rephrase, Sort.

 The next level in the taxonomic structure is Understanding, which is defined as the construction of meaning and the building of relationships. Understanding can be demonstrated by, for example, grouping a list of different animals into the right categories (marine, avian, terrestrial, amphibian); explaining how one event on a historical timeline impacted on another, discussing the moral of a story or being able to explain why Bloom’s has different cognitive levels and the logic behind their hierarchy. 

Level three – Applying

Verbs: Compute, Demonstrate, Direct, Dramatise, Formulate, Make, Present.

The third level in Bloom’s taxonomy, Applying, marks a fundamental shift from the pre-Bloom’s learning era because it involves remembering what has been learnt, having a good understanding of the knowledge, and then being able to apply it to real-world exercises, challenges or situations. Examples of Applying in action could include making repairs to a computer’s components; role-playing mediation and conflict resolution between two warring countries; demonstrating the steps that take place in HIV counselling and testing, or presenting a talk on solutions to climate change.

Level four – Analysing 

Verbs: Simplify, Criticise, Distinguish, Explain, Illustrate, Inspect, Question.

Analysing is the cognitive level where a learner can take the knowledge they have remembered, understood and applied, then explore that knowledge to make associations, discernments or comparisons. Analysing would mean a learner can take complex information, and simplify it or summarise it. As other examples, a learner would be able to give reasons why one historic military campaign failed and why another succeeded, or critically examine aspects of Bloom’s original taxonomy and explain why his students later updated them. 

Level five – Evaluating

 Verbs: Decide, Forecast, Judge, Prioritise, Revise, Value, Weigh.

The fifth level in Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is evaluation. This level requires the learner to make criteria-based judgements through the processes of critiquing and checking. Evaluating could involve reading a book and writing a review on its merits; looking at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and deciding which rights are more or less relevant to a given country; suggesting ways to introduce digital technology into the classroom environment, or making an informed judgement in a role play of court case proceedings. 

Level six – Creating

 Verbs: Construct, Write, Develop, Design, Invent, Originate, Set up.

The final taxonomic level is concerned with taking various elements and creating a new, coherent product. This level draws on all of the other levels, with the learner remembering, understanding and applying knowledge; analysing and evaluating outcomes and processes, and then constructing the end product, which may be either physical or conceptual. For example, designing and building a house out of wooden segments, and designing a 3D model of a house on a computer would both be examples of Creating. Another example would be a Learner taking the knowledge of Bloom’s taxonomy which they have remembered, understood, applied, analysed and evaluated, and creating a brand new model for the tiers of cognitive thinking and learning.  

Bloom’s taxonomy in different learning situations

Example 1: Primary English-language classroom 

  • Remembering – Teaching learners the letters of the alphabet through rote learning. 
  • Understanding – Learners realise how words, for example, their names, are constructed by combining letters. 
  • Applying – Learners use the letters of the alphabet to write words they are shown. 
  • Analysing – Learners appraise a list of words and can point out correctly and incorrectly spelt words.
  • Evaluating – Learners determine that the alphabet can be used to form written communication. 
  • Creating – Learners construct simple pieces of communication from the words and phrases learnt. 

Example 2: Secondary school biology class 

  • Remembering – Teaching learners the scientific parts of a flowering plant using a diagram. 
  • Understanding – Learners realise how different parts of the plant relate and work together. 
  • Applying – Learners are divided into groups and given plants to cultivate for a set period. Each group is instructed to give their plant different amounts of water and sunlight and to use different soils.
  • Analysing – The groups examine their own and each other’s plants under microscopes, to see the effects of variable cultivation on the plants’ different parts. 
  • Evaluating – Learners propose optimal cultivating guidelines and their likely outcome.  
  • Creating – Learners plant a vegetable garden at the school and create a cultivation roster.

Example 3: University-level politics class

  • Remembering – Teaching learners history’s most prominent political movements. 
  • Understanding – Students gain an understanding of their different values, priorities and manifestos.
  • Applying – Students divide into groups where each group represents a different political movement and conduct a class debate on a topical issue, taking the standpoint of the different movements.
  • Analysing – Students appraise how the different political parties addressed the same issue and identify which parties shared the most common ground with each other.
  • Evaluating – Students give reasons for the merits and relevance of the different political movements for today’s society.
  • Creating – In groups, the students create new fictional political parties with their own names, values, priorities and manifestos.

Example 4: English as a second language training course 

  • Remembering – Teaching learners to recite commonly used English phrases. 
  • Understanding – There is a realisation of when and how these phrases are used in everyday life.
  • Applying – In pairs, the students role-play using the phrases in everyday situations. 
  • Analysing – The students are able to group English phrases into different categories – greeting, question, request, order, praise, criticism, warning, complaint, etc. 
  • Evaluating – The students are able to assess different messages written in English and put forward better or clearer ways to express what is being said.  
  • Creating -The students can create a written conversation between two people in English.

Example 5: Training in the workplace  

  • Remembering – Employees remember and recite the steps of a trust-building training session.
  • Understanding – Employees grasp why each step is important and how they build on each other.
  • Applying – The employees put the steps of the training session into action.
  • Analysing – Afterwards, they discuss the impact and benefits they experienced from each of the steps and rank the steps from most impactful to least. 
  • Evaluating – The employees suggest changes to the training, and put forward related training topics that would be relevant for their workplace.
  • Creating – In their different departments, the employees map out tailored trust-building sessions that they can take their different teams through.

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