To prepare effective, logical, and natural learning experiences, teachers and Instructional Designers alike would seek help in learning taxonomies – frameworks that provide guidance for such. The below will be a dive into the three domains of learning according to Bloom, and some of the most important revisions/versions that happened along the way. Bloom’s Taxonomy is an important tool in planning and evaluating successful learning. There are other taxonomies as well (SOLO Taxonomy, Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning, and Six Facets of Understanding; all links to posts on this blog) but Bloom’s definitely the most known and used. OK, let’s just jump into it!

WHAT IS BLOOM’S TAXONOMY?

 

Bloom’s Taxonomy (named after the main contributor, psychologist Benjamin Bloom) is a framework that classifies educational learning objectives into (logical) levels of complexity and specificity. Following the order of how people acquire and use learning skills gives a way to think about how to teach, structure manuals or lesson plans, write instructions – and, subsequently, allows planning successful learning acquisition of other people.

This classification was based on the (quite rational) theory that not all goals and results of learning are the same. For example, remembering facts, even though important at times, is not as important as the ability to comprehend a topic or connect the dots between different topics. Sounds legit, as without the ability to analyze and understand we wouldn’t be able to really use the facts we memorized! (Yeah, well, looking at the today’s world, where the first link from Google is by many regarded as the main source of info, I’m thinking we might have to write Bloom’s book all over again, for the social media era!)

Bloom’s Taxonomy presents a separate level of classification for each domain of a learning process. In the original version, those domains were: cognitive, affective, and sensory.

The original version of the framework, as described in Bloom’s “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals,” was created in 1956, and therefore, to this day, has undergone a significant number of changes. As you would obviously assume, as we learn how we learn, and as the world changes, the original were revised to reflect current, 21st century pedagogical and psychological knowledge.

Currently, educators would (most commonly) refer to the abovementioned domains as:

+ knowledge (cognitive; our mental skills)
+ attitudes (affective; growth in feelings or emotional areas)
+ skills (sensory; manual or physical skills)

WHY USE BLOOM’S TAXONOMY?

 

Knowing how people learn, and how the knowledge progresses, is an essential element of creating learning experiences. It’s not enough to plan for the lower level thinking, where learners memorize or regurgitate facts, that’s not full learning and it doesn’t develop minds (or opinions). Higher thinking skills must be addressed as well, so people can think for themselves, assess situations, use the facts they memorized and – all in all – be good and educated humans. And thank heavens we actually arrived at this conclusion. We’re moving from the old-timey memorize-a-poem type of learning towards critical and lateral thinking, yay! It’s not only how we can shape minds, but how people currently function in the 21st century.
Bloom’s gives the structure on how to write/create materials that address the learning path correctly. This, in turn, allows the learning experience to be logical, natural, most beneficial for the learner.

COGNITIVE DOMAIN

 

The cognitive domain (ACHTUNG: commonly [but wrongly] Bloom’s Taxonomy is understood as this domain only) relates to knowledge and intellectual skills. This includes acquiring knowledge, recalling facts, situations, and patterns, developing abilities and skills. On the basis of Bloom’s et al. work, we know that behavioral objectives for the cognitive domain could be divided into subsets and arranged according to the intellectual difficulty – from simpler to more complex. That is: the first ones must normally be mastered before the next one can take place. The original taxonomy (really, a fancy word for classification) specified six categories and used nous to describe them. Interesting to know is that Bloom himself wasn’t totally a fan of his own work and looked at it very critically (honestly, something else we should learn from him). Bloom was aware that there was a difference between types and levels of knowledge, therefore he felt uneasy creating one taxonomy for all (he specified the levels of knowledge as factual, conceptual, procedural).

Following this, and of course other major developments in the area of pedagogy and psychology, the original taxonomy was seriously revised. Lorin Anderson, a former student of Bloom’s, and David Krathwohl, Bloom’s original partner-in-crime, introduced major changes,that are in effect to this day (see below, pictured on the right). Nouns, used in the original, were changed into verbs, to reflect the demonstrative features of these abilities; three categories were renamed: broadly defined knowledge -> remember, comprehension -> understand, synthesis -> create. The order of synthesis/create swapped places with evaluation (this makes sense, as creation puts the knowledge – both basic and feedback – into action).

Another big change was defining and adding the structure of the knowledge dimension that spanned across all cognitive processes outlined above:
+ Factual
+ Conceptual
+ Procedural
+ Metacognitive

This is an absolute minimum to know/understand the cognitive domain, but if you’re interested in more, read the following:
+ A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview, by David R. Krathwohl (pdf)
+ Article about Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised, explanation, by Leslie Owen Wilson

AFFECTIVE DOMAIN

 

The affective domain relates to feelings, attitudes, emotions; it relates to the manner in which we deal with things emotionally, such as feelings, values, appreciation, enthusiasms, motivations, and attitudes. The learner realizes that what they learn plays a role in how they behave, that influences their action. And again, the taxonomy is arranged from simpler feelings to those that are more complex. But here the structure is also based on the internalization principle that the process whereby your affect toward something goes from a general awareness level to a point where the affect is internalized and consistently guides or controls your behavior (i.e. moving through complexity makes you invested and committed, motivates you).

This is an absolute minimum to know/understand the affective domain, but if you’re interested in more, read the following:

+ Article about the affective domain, with detailed descriptions, by don clark
+ Article about the three domains of learning, by Leslie Owen Wilson

PSYCHOMOTOR DOMAIN

 

The psychomotor domain refers to motor skills and physical functions, coordination, reflex, and interpretive movements. Generally, these types of objectives mean the physically encoding of information, with movement and/or with activities where the gross and fine muscles are used for expressing or interpreting information or concepts. This also refers to natural, autonomic responses or reflexes. And in this case, as well, the complexity moves from simple to difficult (i.e. copying someone’s tick to dancing their choreography to creating signature moves).

There is an interesting addition to the psychomotor/sensory dispute: “if the activity is simply something that is physical which supports another area — affective or cognitive — term the objective physical rather than psychomotor. (…) If you are using physical activity to support a cognitive or affective function, simply label it as something physical (labeling the objective as kinesthetic, haptic, or tactile is also acceptable) and avoid the term psychomotor” (full quote/explanation credited to Leslie Owen Wilson). I find this interesting that such discrepancy occurs, and how it bleeds into the learning world. For example, listening to an audio file to identify musical notes – here, the instructional intent is not to acquire skills of using the audio equipment/listening, but to identify and recognize different musical notes. The physical activity supports cognitive skills recognition. Fascinating!

In the psychomotor domain, there were three major “revisions,” or rather versions: Anita Harrow’s in 1972, Elizabeth J. Simpson’s in 1972, and Ravindra Dave’s in 1975:

Anita Harrow’s psychomotor taxonomy is ordered according to the degree of coordination and focuses on the development of physical fitness, dexterity, agility, body control.

Elizabeth J. Simpson’s psychomotor taxonomy utilizes motor skills and coordination. It’s more orientated towards the progression from observation to mastery.

Ravindra Dave’s psychomotor taxonomy focuses on five levels of motor skills and the degree of competency in performing them. Starting from initial exposure, to final mastery, it also includes imitation, so copying and not invention, of movements.

This is an absolute minimum to know/understand the cognitive domain, but if you’re interested in more, read the following:

+ Article about the psychomotor domain
+ Article about the three domains of learning, by Leslie Owen Wilson

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

This is it, in a nutshell! There is so much more to know – but, obviously, there is generally so much more we can learn about how we learn! In short: never stop learning (but always be closing!). If you’re interested in extending your knowledge beyond the basics, check out these:

+ Krathwohl, D. R. “A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy in Theory into Practice.” V 41. #4. Ohio State University. http://www.depauw.edu/files/resources/krathwohl.pdf. Accessed 28 Mar, 2019 (pdf).
+ Anderson, L. (2013) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Abridged Edition. Pearson Higher Education.
+ Gershon, M. (2015) How to use Bloom’s Taxonomy in the Classroom: The Complete Guide: Volume 8 (The ‘How To…’ Great Classroom Teaching Series). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.