Blog Post: [Part 1] Bloom’s Taxonomy and Critical Thinking Instruction: Recall Is Not Knowledge

Richard Paul Archives
Oct 24, 2023 • 270d ago
[Part 1] Bloom’s Taxonomy and Critical Thinking Instruction: Recall Is Not Knowledge

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Abstract"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nIn this brief article, Richard Paul analyses and critiques Bloom’s Taxonomy from the perspective of the critical thinking movement. He points out Bloom’s achievements in "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Cognitive Domains"},{"insert":" and "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Affective Domains"},{"insert":": the analysis of cognitive processes of thought and their interrelationships; the emphasis on the need for these processes (including critical thinking skills and abilities) to be explicitly and mindfully taught and used; the emphasis on critical thinking values, such as openmindedness and faith in reason.\n \nDr. Paul then argues that Bloom’s approach suffers from the following two flaws: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"1)"},{"insert":" the attempt to be “value neutral” is impossible and incompatible with the values presupposed in critical thinking education and "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"2)"},{"insert":" Bloom confuses recall with knowledge.\n \nAs a result of the way the taxonomy is explained, many teachers identify learning to think critically with merely learning how to ask and answer questions in all of Bloom’s categories: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Teachers typically take the categories to express objectives which they should teach to in strict order: first give the students “knowledge”, then show them how to comprehend it, then how to apply it, etc. Paul, while recognizing that Bloom’s distinctions themselves are important, argues that the common understanding of their link to critical thinking is largely misconceived. Teaching critical thinking is not a simple matter of asking questions from each of Bloom’s categories; moreover, the categories themselves are not independent but interdependent. Paul shows, for example, how knowledge is not something that can be given to a student before he or she comprehends it. He explains how the critical thinking movement has properly emphasized that getting knowledge is in fact a complex achievement involving "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"thought"},{"insert":", and so should be understood as the product of rational thought processes, rather than as recall. This insight needs to be brought into the heart of instruction.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Introduction"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nIt would be difficult to find a more influential work in education today than "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives"},{"insert":" (Bloom, et al. 1979). Developed by a committee of college and university examiners from 1949 to 1954 and published as two handbooks – "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Cognitive Domain"},{"insert":" and "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Affective Domain"},{"insert":" – its objectives were manifold. Handbook I, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Cognitive Domain"},{"insert":", for instance, lists four encompassing objectives.\n \n1. To “provide for classification of the goals of our educational system . . . to be of general help to all teachers, administrators, professional specialists, and research workers who deal with curricular and evaluation problems . . . to help them discuss these problems with greater precision . . . “."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2. To “be a source of constructive help . . . in building a curriculum . . . “."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"3. To “help one gain a perspective on the emphasis given to certain behaviors . . . “"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"4. To “specify objectives so that it becomes easier to plan learning experience and prepare evaluation devices . . . “. (pp. 1-2)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nThe authors also note that the categories of the Taxonomy below can be used “as a framework for viewing the educational process and analyzing its workings” and even for “analyzing teachers’ success in classroom teaching.” (p. 3)\n \n-------------------------------\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Bloom’s Taxonomy"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Cognitive Domain"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.00 "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Knowledge"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.10 Knowledge of Specifics"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.11 Knowledge of Terminology"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.12 Knowledge of Specific Facts"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.20 Knowledge of Ways and Means of Dealing with Specifics"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.21 Knowledge of Conventions"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.22 Knowledge of Trends and Sequences"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.23 Knowledge of Classifications and Categories"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.24 Knowledge of Criteria"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.25 Knowledge of Methodology"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.30 Knowledge of the Universals and Abstractions in a Field"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.31 Knowledge of Principles and Generalizations"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"1.32 Knowledge of Theories and Structures"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2.00 "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Comprehension"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2.10 Translation"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2.20 Interpretation"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2.30 Extrapolation"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"3.00 "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Application"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"The use of abstractions in particular and concrete situations. The abstractions may be in the form of general ideas, rules of procedures, or generalized methods. The abstractions may also be technological principles, ideas, and theories which must be remembered and applied."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"4.00 "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Analysis"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"4.10 Analysis of Elements"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"4.20 Analysis of Relationships"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"4.30 Analysis of Organizational Principles"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"5.00 "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Synthesis"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"5.10 Production of a Unique Communication"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"5.20 Production of a Plan, or Proposed Set of Operations"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"5.30 Derivation of a Set of Abstract Relations"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"6.00 "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Evaluation"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"6.10 Judgments in terms of Internal Evidence"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"6.20 Judgments in Terms of External Criteria"},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"align":"right"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"(From the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Taxonomy of Educational Objectives"},{"insert":", Bloom et al. 1974 p. 201)"},{"attributes":{"align":"right"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"-------------------------------\n \nA generation of teachers have now come of age not only familiar with and acceptant of the general categories of the Taxonomy, but also persuaded that the Taxonomy’s identified higher-order skills of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are essential to education at all levels. For these teachers, critical thinking is essential because higher-order skills are essential. To learn how to think critically, in this view, is to learn how to ask and answer questions of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. To help teachers incorporate critical thinking in the classroom is to help them ask questions that call for analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. In this view, then, learning to teach critical thinking is quite straightforward. The teacher’s thinking does not need to be significantly altered, and no fundamental shifts in educational philosophy are required. The Taxonomy and the ability to generate a full variety of question types are all that an intelligent teacher really needs to teach critical thinking skills.\n \nThis view is seriously misleading. According to most advocates of critical thinking, no neat set of recipes can foster critical thinking in students. The single most useful thing a teacher can do is to take at least one well-designed college course in critical thinking, in which the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"teacher’s own"},{"insert":" thinking skills are analyzed and nurtured in numerous ways. In other words, teachers need a solid foundation in critical thinking skills before they can teach them.\n \nWhat follows is a succinct analysis and critique of Bloom’s Taxonomy, from the perspective of the values and epistemological presuppositions of the critical thinking movement. I hope it will contribute to a deeper understanding of the nature and demands of critical thinking instruction.\n"}]}


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