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Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

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The Bloom's Wheel, according to the Bloom's verbs and matching assessment types. The verbs are all feasible and measurable.
The Bloom's Wheel, according to the Bloom's verbs and matching assessment types. The verbs are all feasible and measurable.

Bloom views educational objectives as on a scale ranging from simple, concrete behaviour through complex, more abstract behaviour. The lowest-level cognitive objective would be the acquisition of knowledge. The words associated with each level are useful in STATING or FORMULATING and PRESENTING your objective at that cognitive level. Thus knowledge acquisition could be demonstrated if a student could engage in behaviours such as listing, naming, stating, defining, etc. A higher-level objective is to comprehend what is learned. Understanding or comprehension can be (stated by the professor or) demonstrated by the student who can engage in behaviours such as paraphrasing, extrapolating, explaining, distinguishing. (Refer below for the hierarchical set of cognitive objectives proposed by Bloom).

    • evaluate
    • justify
    • critique
    • appraise
    • design
    • order
    • develop
    • create
    • summarize
    • combine
    • propose
    • separate
    • recognize
    • test
    • differentiate
    • solve
    • choose
    • classify
    • use
    • interpret
    • calculate
    • relate
    • demonstrate
    • paraphrase
    • compute
    • extrapolate
    • describe
    • explain
    • distinguish
    • list
    • name
    • state
    • define
    • identify
    • match
    • recall

These objectives should not be selected haphazardly. Rather, Bloom postulates a hierarchy among them as illustrated. Thus it is necessary to know and understand before one can apply, analyze or synthesize, etc. It is important that students achieve success at the lower levels in order to attain the succeeding levels. Objectives can be written for any level of cognitive function. When establishing your objectives, it is good practice to keep in mind that an objective has three components: it should identify and name the behaviour sought; it should also define the circumstances under which the behaviour is to occur; and finally, it should define the level of acceptable performance. For instance, compare the two following statements of possible course objectives:

  • The student will be able to demonstrate a sound knowledge of basic research methods.
  • Given the method and results of an experiment, the student will be able to formulate valid conclusions and specify the assumptions needed to make these conclusions.

The first is vague and general. What is "sound knowledge"? How will the student "demonstrate"? Which research methods are referred to? What cognitive level is implied?

The second objective is written in concrete, observable terms and states the conditions under which the behaviour is to occur. It is clear that the objective requires the higher-order conceptual cognitive functions of application, analysis, and synthesis. Formulating clear objectives requires effort, but it will result in better teaching and learning. It is often helpful to discuss your course objectives with a colleague. Assistance in preparing and/or reviewing your course objectives is also available from the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Educational Technologies. Particular teaching methods are suited to achieving certain objectives better than others. For example, lectures are most effective for achieving learning at the lower end of the taxonomy-knowledge and comprehension, while discussion or other interactive teaching methods tend to be better for the achievement of higher-order objectives including application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Your choice of teaching method should reflect as much as possible the level of thinking and learning at which you want students to be engaged.

A common question is "How many objectives should I set for my course?" The experts do not agree on the ideal number, but a general guideline seems to be that the appropriate number of objectives depends on the subject matter and on the level of the course. Introductory courses, as well as advanced courses that have a very structured content, require detailed objectives and may need six to eight objectives per lecture hour. Courses that have open content, such as courses that require higher-order cognitive function, may need no more than six to eight objectives for the entire course. In the latter case, the stated objectives may not be an exhaustive list, but may be examples of the kinds of things students are expected to be able to do at the end of the course.

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