Blog Post: [Part 3] Bloom’s Taxonomy and Critical Thinking Instruction: Recall Is Not Knowledge

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Dec 05, 2023 • 227d ago
[Part 3] Bloom’s Taxonomy and Critical Thinking Instruction: Recall Is Not Knowledge

{"ops":[{"insert":"[Missed Part 2?"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"Read It Here"},{"insert":"]\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Knowledge as Achievement"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nThe critical thinking movement has its roots in the practice and vision of Socrates, who discovered by a probing method of questioning that few people could rationally justify their confident claims to knowledge. Confused meanings, inadequate evidence, or self-contradictory beliefs often lurked beneath smooth but largely empty rhetoric. This led to a basic insight into the problem of human irrationality and to a view of knowledge and learning which holds that to believe or assent without reason, judgment, or understanding is to be prejudiced. This belief is central to the critical thinking movement. This view also holds the corollary principle that critical reflection by each learner is an essential precondition of knowledge. Put another way, those who advocate critical thinking instruction hold that knowledge is not something that can be "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"given "},{"insert":"by one person to another. It cannot simply be memorized out of a book or taken whole cloth from the mind of another. Knowledge, rightly understood, is a distinctive construction by the learner, something that issues out of a "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"rational"},{"insert":" use of mental processes.\n \nTo expect students to assent before they have developed the capacity to do so rationally is to indoctrinate rather than to educate them and to foster habits of thought antithetical to the educative process. Peter Kneedler (1985) observed “an unfortunate tendency to teach facts is isolation from the thinking skills” – to "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"give"},{"insert":" students knowledge and some time later expect them to "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"think"},{"insert":" about it. Knowledge, in any defensible sense, is an "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"achievement"},{"insert":" requiring a mind slow rather than quick to believe – which waits for, expects, and weighs evidence before agreeing. The sooner a mind begins to develop rational scruples, in this view, the better.\n \nAs Quine and Ullian (1970) put it:\n "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":". . . knowledge is in some ways like a good golf score: each is substantially the fruit of something else, and there are no magic shortcuts to either one. To improve your golf score you work at perfecting the various strokes; for knowledge you work at garnering and sifting evidence and sharpening your reasoning skills . . . knowledge is no more guaranteed than is a lowered golf score, but there is no better way. (p. 12)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nWe don’t actually know whether students have achieved some knowledge until we have determined whether their beliefs represent something they actually know (have rationally assented to) or merely something they have memorized to repeat on a test. Dewey, as the authors of the Taxonomy recognize, illustrated this point with the following story in which he asked a class:\n \n“What would you find if you dug a hole in the earth?” Getting no response, he repeated the question: again he obtained nothing but silence. The teacher chided Dr. Dewey, “You’re asking the wrong question.” Turning to the class, she asked, “What is the state of the center of the earth?” The class replied in unison, “Igneous fusion.”"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nThe writers of the Taxonomy attempt to side-step this problem by defining “knowledge” as “what is currently known or accepted by the experts or specialists in a field, whether or not such knowledge, in a philosophical sense, corresponds to ‘reality’”. ("},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Cognitive Domain"},{"insert":", p.32)\n \nThe writers of the Taxonomy erroneously assume that the only issue here is the relative "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"value"},{"insert":" of the knowledge, not whether statements merely memorized should be called knowledge at all:\n \nIn these latter conceptions [those which link knowledge to understanding and rational assent] it is implicitly assumed that knowledge is of little value if it cannot be utilized in new situations or in a form very different from that in which it was originally encountered. The denotations of these latter concepts would usually be close to what have been defined as “abilities and skills” in in the Taxonomy. ("},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Cognitive Domain"},{"insert":", p.29)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nThis inadvertently begs the question whether blindly memorized true belief can properly be called knowledge at all – and hence whether inculcation and indoctrination into true belief can properly be called education. If knowledge of any kind is to some extent a skilled, rational achievement, then we should not confuse knowledge and education with belief inculcation and indoctrination, just as we should not confuse learning more with acquiring knowledge (we "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"learn"},{"insert":", are not born with bias, prejudices, and misconceptions, for example). This point, crucial for the critical thinking movement, was well formulated by John Henry Newman (1852):\n \n . . . Knowledge is not a mere extrinsic or accidental advantage . . . which may be got up from a book, and easily forgotten again, . . . . which we can borrow for the occasion, and carry about in our hand . . . [it is] something intellectual . . . which reasons upon what it sees . . . the action of a formative power . . . making the objects of our knowledge subjectively our own."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nThe reductio ad absurdum of the view that knowledge can be distinguished from comprehension and rational assent is suggested by William Graham Sumner (1906), one of the founding fathers of anthropology, commenting on the failure of the schools of his day:\n \nThe examination papers show the pet ideas of the examiners . . . An orthodoxy is produced in regard to all the great doctrines. It consists in the most worn and commonplace opinions . . . It is intensely provincial and philistine . . . [containing] broad fallacies, half-truths, and glib generalizations . . . children [are] taught just that one thing which is “right” in the view and interest of those in control and nothing else."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nClearly, Sumner maintained that provincial, fallacious, or misleading beliefs should not be viewed as knowledge at all, however widely they are treated as such, and that inculcating them is not education, however widely described as such.\n"}]}

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