I recently had a comment on an old post asking why I have an issue with Bloom’s Taxonomy, and it’s something I’ve been asked about before. The common criticisms that are made of Bloom’s relate to (a) the poorly defined nature of the levels of hierarchy and (b) the ordering of those poorly-defined things within the hierarchy.
I largely agree with both of these points. Terms like ‘analysis’ and ‘evaluation’ are so broad that they could mean just about anything. Similarly, I just do not see how the lower levels of the taxonomy are necessarily logically prior to the higher levels. Could one really claim to have understood wave-particle duality and yet be unable to evaluate the outcome of a double-slit experiment? Can one comprehend the causes of the English Reformation without having analysed the way in which those causes relate to one another?
These issues alone would make me want to question whether I should be thinking in terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy for setting objectives, structuring questions or marking work (leaving aside for the moment that these are quite different things!).
Someone who wants to defend Bloom’s Taxonomy might object here and say something like ‘but the terms do kind of mean something, and we could remove them from a hierarchy and treat them as different kinds of objectives.’
I would disagree with this attenuated form of Bloom’s as well.
As I have written about before, the best objectives and mark schemes I can use are those which are specific to my subject. If a student hands me a piece of work on the consequences of the Norman Conquest, then I might comment on how they hadn’t addressed the cultural consequences of the battle, or perhaps they had spent too long considering the short-term consequences and not enough the long-term consequences. This is useful feedback, and I want my pupils to spend as much time thinking about this feedback as possible.
But what if I am forced to use Bloom’s Taxonomy? I then have to dress up what I know to be the real weaknesses of the work (the lack of emphasis on cultural consequences, or the imbalance between short-term and long-term consequences in the work) in the language of ‘analysis’, ‘synthesis’ and so on. The feedback ‘you need to be more analytical’ is far less useful than ‘you need to spend more time addressing long-term consequences’, and I reckon the majority of pupils I have taught would be more confused by the former than the latter.
So for me it’s an Ockham’s Razor kind of situation. Rather than unnecessarily overcomplicate my objectives and my feedback, I would much rather focus on what the real issues are. Using a generic model like Bloom’s Taxonomy obfuscates the problems I want pupils to address, whereas I can state those problems far more clearly, explicitly and succinctly in the language of my own discipline.