Recently I was invited to serve as a guest lecturer for a literacy course on the Common Core State Standards. (By the way, I don’t like lecturing. I prefer facilitating adult learning, so let’s say guest facilitator.) Anyhow, prior to diving in I planned to activate their prior knowledge. I didn’t want to assume anything and wanted to ensure common understandings about Bloom’s Taxonomy before going deeper into the session. After all, it is core knowledge for diving into any standard. It turned out that for most of the educators in the room the understandings were uncommon. The teachers were unclear about the demands of each level of Blooms.
The experience caused me to reflect. This was not the first time I encountered educators who said they used Blooms everyday, but were unclear. I’ve had leaders ask me what is the difference between analyze and evaluate. I’ve had teachers argue with me that evaluate has different meanings depending on the discipline. In this particular group of educators–teachers and instructional leaders–they were simply unclear. As we prepared to design a lesson for declarative knowledge on the analysis level, I asked them to draft their lesson objective statement. A group of teachers agreed on this opening for analysis:
Students will be able to tell…
According to the revised edition published in 2001, the following are the Bloom’s Taxonomy definitions:
- Level 1 Remember – retrieve relevant knowledge from long-term memory
- Level 2 Understand – construct meaning from instructional messages, including oral, written and graphic communication
- Level 3 Apply – carry out or use a procedure in a given situation
- Level 4 Analyze – break material into its constituents parts and determine how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose
- Level 5 Evaluate – make judgements based on criteria and standards
- Level 6 Create – put elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganize elements into a new pattern or structure
Since telling isn’t teaching, I had to help them recognize that to tell indicates that the students can remember, not analyze. I was empathetic, but I was also concerned. The new standards require higher order thinking, disciplinary thinking and critical thinking. Lack of clarity on the three can be a severe obstacle to progress with the Common Core.
If you are reading this and you are a teacher, I ask you to not shun the idea of fine-tuning or refreshing your understanding of Bloom’s Taxonomy, disciplinary thinking and critical thinking. Likewise, if you are a school leader I ask the same. Finally, check with your colleagues to ensure that they are clear as well. We are all in this boat together, so let’s get our paddles and row.