Challenging Bloom’s Taxonomy

Have had a few thought provoking debates recently about the validity of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Yes, that’s right, a challenge to the orthodoxy! I’ve read through a selection of articles which all point to the fact that there is no real evidence base to support Bloom’s theories and worse, thinking in this rigid, hierarchical way can even be damaging! Can it be true?

One criticism is that it can lead to teachers not really thinking through the different categories of thinking skills each time they’re used which lead students to think superficially. Any classification of skills along the lines of Bloom’s can aid critical thinking but only if it is used critically. I guess my concern is that use of Bloom’s Taxonomy has become wholly uncritical in many cases.

Read for yourself:

Instead, have a look at the SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) taxonomy which suggests that instead of the well-known hierarchy of knowledge, understanding, application, analysis etc., learning actually goes through the following stages:

Pre-structural, Unistructural, Multistructural, Relational and Extended abstact

SOLO has several advantages over Bloom’s. One advantage is that SOLO is a theory about teaching and learning rather than a theory about knowledge. A second advantage lies in SOLO’s facility in enabling both student and teacher to understand and evaluate learning experiences and learning outcomes in terms of ascending cognitive complexity . Thus, if SOLO is used to design the learning experience and its assessment, then it is possible to design the follow up learning experience at an appropriate level of cognitive complexity in order to challenge yet not overwhelm.

For more detail have a look at:

Interestingly, Prof Hattie says in Visible Learning,

It is intriguing to note that the major revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson, Krathwohl & Bloom, 2001) introduced four similar levels [to SOLO]: factual knowledge,  (how to be acquainted with a discipline or solve problems in it); conceptual understanding (interrelationships among elements within a large structure that enables them to function together); procedural knowledge (how to do something, methods of enquiry); and meta-cognitive knowledge (knowledge of cognition in general as well as awareness and knowledge of one’s own cognition). This is a major advance on the better-known Bloom’s Taxonomy, which confuses levels of knowing with forms of knowledge. 

I’ve added the italics in the last sentence to make the point that even Bloom himself was aware that his original work was flawed. I’ve no argument with anyone using this new revision, but that’s not what gets bandied around in schools. We’re still being asked to swallow something that even the author acknowledges is no longer (if it ever was) fit for purpose.


4 thoughts on “Challenging Bloom’s Taxonomy

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