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Bloom's Taxonomy


In 1956, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a taxonomy of intellectual behavior important in learning. This taxonomy has three overlapping domains:

  • cognitive
  • psychomotor
  • affective

The Cognitive Domain

The cognitive domain involves the acquisition and use of knowledge and is predominant in the majority of courses. Bloom identified six levels within the cognitive domain:

  • knowledge
  • comprehension
  • application
  • analysis
  • synthesis
  • evaluation

These levels, beginning with simple recall and recognition of facts, become increasingly complex and abstract. The appropriate number of course objectives for each level varies greatly from course to course. Generally speaking, introductory courses will have a greater number of objectives at the first three levels, while higher level courses will have a greater number of objectives at the higher levels.

Level 1: Knowledge

Objectives at this level can emphasize simple regurgitation of facts, the knowledge of processes of dealing with facts, or with a student's awareness of criteria, methods, and processes.

Sample verbs used in objectives at the knowledge level:

define label name
recognize reproduce identify

Questions or Tasks:

  • Who was the 16th President of the United States?
  • What were the events that led to the fall of the Alamo?
  • What are two signs of poor dental care in children?

Level 2: Comprehension

Objectives at this level focus on a student's ability to translate or paraphrase a communication from one form to another or to derive the essential meanings of a communication. Verbs:

interpret discuss explain
indicate rephrase translate

Questions or Tasks:

  • Translate this paragraph into Latin.
  • Looking at the map on page 232, list the ten highest elevations.
  • What does "singing the blues" imply?
  • Explain why Paul is a developing character in the story.

Level 3: Application

Objectives at this level focus on a student's ability to apply what they have learned. Students must use the information they know--they are not told how to apply the information. Verbs:

apply demonstrate employ
solve operate use

Questions or Tasks:

  • Looking at the map, state the possible locations for the cultivation of wheat.
  • Select a series of chords and play them in a chromatic sequence.
  • Look at the following paragraph and correctly identify those words that are serving the function of nouns.

Level 4: Analysis

Objectives at this level focus on a student's ability to diagnose material, situations, or environments. Students separate the material, situation, or environment into its component parts and focus on the relationships among these parts to each other and to the total structural organization. Verbs:

analyze compare contrast
differentiate categorize criticize

Questions or Tasks:

  • In George W. Bush's speech, which of his statements are based on fact and which are based on assumptions?
  • How do the customs of a society relate to the behaviors of members of the society?
  • How has the artist used color and value to emphasize love and understanding?
  • After hearing Mr. Yang speak, what would you say was his philosophical base?

Level 5: Synthesis

Objectives at this level focus on a student's ability to organize the information they have acquired at the lower levels of learning and produce results. Instead of taking apart information as in the Analysis category, Synthesis requires a student to put together information, often in a new way or form. Verbs:

construct create hypothesize
invent write formulate

Questions or Tasks:

  • Design a sand table so that you can study different kinds of erosion.
  • Why do you think people talk one way about driving, then drive in an opposite fashion?

Level 6: Evaluation

At this level, objectives focus on a student's ability to make a judgment about the value, for some purpose--ideas, work, solutions, methods, materials, communications, etc. These judgments involve the use of criteria and standards for appraising the extent to which particulars are accurate, effective, economical or satisfying. Verbs:

judge appraise evaluate
defend rate argue

Questions or Tasks:

  • How well did the composition follow the standard of harmony?
  • Appraise the speech's effectiveness based upon the class' criteria.

The Psychomotor Domain

This domain involves skills that require the use and coordination of skeletal muscles. The creative and performing arts, kinesiology and leisure studies, and science courses with a lab component often have objectives which fall in this domain.

Example: Students will be able to effectively execute an overhand serve. Students will be able to use facial expressions to evoke emotion.

The Affective Domain

This domain relates to emotions, attitudes, appreciations, and values. A goal in this domain might be "Students will appreciate the importance of lab safety." Objectives written for this domain relate to behaviors which are indications of a student's attitude, appreciation, or value.

Example: "Students will consistently wear gloves when handling certain chemicals.

Instructors frequently have at least one goal in the affective domain which s/he considers a high priority for a class, but find it difficult to write measurable or observable objectives.

1 McBeath, R.J., 1992, "Instructing in Higher Education," Educational Technology Publications

2 "An In-Depth Look at Bloom's Taxonomy," Center for Teaching Effectiveness, The University of Texas at Austin