Bloom’s Taxonomy Remix

If you haven’t heard of Bloom’s Taxonomy, here’s your refresher: KCAASE. That’s how I’ve remembered it all these years. It’s like an order-of-operations for instructional objectives. To truly learn something, you need to go through them all. Teacher’s often take it literally (or rather, the standards handed down by the state take it literally) and it’s taught strictly in order.

  1. Knowledge: basic memorization. Vocabulary, dates, names, etc. I say an event, you tell me the year.
  2. Comprehension: basic understanding. The ability to describe something, paraphrase it in different words than you were taught.
  3. Application: the practical stuff. Let’s take this knowledge we just gained and see how we can use it in different scenarios.
  4. Analysis: expanding our understanding. Let’s take the concept further and see where else it works, what its drawbacks are.
  5. Synthesis: assimilation. I’ll take this concept and add what I know about this other concept for a grander concept.
  6. Evaluation: critical reflection. Defend or deconstruct the concept when faced with opposing concepts.

Think about the last time you started a new job, or the last time someone was trying to teach you a new concept. Chances are, they started by giving everything a term and then defining it for you. And chances are, you forgot it just moments later.

In my classes, a perfect example of this would be the vector vs. raster graphic discussion. In almost every course outline I saw, this discussion would happen early on. Makes sense, right? You want students to know the difference between vector and raster before you throw them into Illustrator and Photoshop. Right? Wrong.

In a traditional classroom, you might start with the vocabulary words. Vector. Raster. Scale. Color. Pixels. Resolution. Then they’d memorize the definitions of those words. Then you’d give them quizzes where they have to match definitions and point out which image is vector and which is raster. And a lot of these students would do just fine on the quizzes, but they still wouldn’t have a clue what they were talking about. These terms, vector, raster, pixels, they’d just be floating in their head somewhere as memorized words, not understood concepts. And after they passed the quiz, and started working in Illustrator, they still wouldn’t understand why they can’t edit a picture in Illustrator.

In order for learning to stick, it needs something to stick to. Let’s take a look at how we can remix the taxonomy to make it a little better.

  1. Application/Creation: I like to throw my kids right into the fire. And by fire, I usually mean software. Let them play around a bit, see what they can do, but mostly they see what they can’t do.
  2. Analysis/Creation: Here’s where I give them tutorials. I show them one or two tools at a time, with specific assignments that use that tool.
  3. Knowledge: In the tutorials I use specific industry terminology. We’re not making the rectangle bigger, we’re scaling it up. This is called the Selection Tool, not the pointer thing, and its shortcut is V.
  4. Synthesis: Once they have a few tools in their belt, let’s see how they perform on a project that requires the use of more tools.
  5. Comprehension: Now that they’ve been using the software for a bit, it’s time to help them understand what these words mean.

To simplify it more — to make it more universally applicable — I’ll say it like this: usually you start with the terms and definitions, then move into the practice. I say start with the practice, then sprinkle in the terms and definitions later.

Originally published at RCLX.

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