Why Bloom's taxonomy is in need of pruning

Tony Sherborne

Mike Gershon's article on Bloom's Taxonomy ("Still blooming after almost 60 years", Professional, 25 October) presents a somewhat rosy picture of the taxonomy's value and propagates some inaccuracies.

Mr Gershon dismisses the revised version of the taxonomy in 2000 as a tweak. In fact, the intervening decades of cognitive science allowed the authors to make significant improvements. For instance, they split knowledge into four kinds: factual, conceptual, procedural and metacognitive. They also put right a misconception in teachers' use of the taxonomy. Students don't need to start with recall and description, and progress to analysis and synthesis. Instead, these higher-order processes should be used from the beginning to facilitate understanding.

Mr Gershon similarly glossed over problems with the taxonomy. First, while objectives such as analysing and synthesising may be processes, understanding is not - it's a goal. Equally, a process is not an eitheror thing: analysis can be superficial or deep. So is superficial analysis a more difficult objective than deep description? If so, then Darwin's years of sophisticated description of specimens would rank only as a lower-order achievement, whereas a writer can apparently demonstrate the higher-order "create" objective in a few hours using Google.

My advice to teachers would be: while you're out there snipping off national curriculum levels, why not take some shears to Bloom's Taxonomy at the same time?

Tony Sherborne, Creative director, Centre for Science Education, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Tony Sherborne

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