Classifying educational goals using Bloom’s taxonomy

How can you classify different levels of skills you want your students to gain from your classes?

Learning objectives are traditionally categorized after Bloom’s (1956) taxonomy. Bloom separates learning objectives in three classes: cognitive, affective and psychomotor. Cognitive learning objectives are about what people know, understand and about their thinking processes dealing with and synthesizing that knowledge. Affective learning objectives are about feelings and emotions. Lastly psychomotor learning objectives are about what people do with their hands. Even though Bloom was trying to combine all three classes, in the context of today’s university education, the focus is clearly on cognitive learning objectives.

Cognitive learning objectives can be divided into sub-categories. From low-level to high-level processes those categories are as follows:

Knowledge Learning gains on this level can for example be tested by asking students to repeat, define or list facts, definitions, or vocabulary.

Comprehension In order to test comprehension, students can for example be asked to describe, determine, demonstrate, explain, translate or discuss.

Application Ability to apply concepts is shown for example by carrying out a procedure, calculating, solving, illustrating, transferring.

Analysis Competency on this level can be tested by asking students to contrast and compare, to analyze, to test, to categorize, to distinguish.

Synthesis Ability to synthesize can be shown by assembling, developing, constructing, designing, organizing or conceiving a product or method.

Evaluation The highest level, evaluation, can be tested by asking students to justify, assess, value, evaluate, appraise or select.

In the next post I’ll talk about how you can use this classification to help with developing good multiple-choice questions, so stay tuned!

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