"...respected throughout the world for his research on human growth and learning, his conceptualization of master learning and famous taxonomy, Benjamin Bloom is one of America's most distinguished educators..." — Brandt, 1985
Benjamin Bloom (1913 — 1999), American educational psychologist and learning classification expert, was born in Lansford Pennsylvania and attended Pennsylvania State University. He received his bachelor of education and master of education degrees in 1935. After attending the University of Chicago, he graduated with a PhD in 1942. Bloom joined the University of Chicago in 1944, staying for more than thirty years. Bloom is known for his Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, one of most-frequently used instructional design tools used by curriculum specialists, administrators and researchers. Bloom made contributions to the theory of human learning and mastery learning, and motivated educators to focus on creating holistic types of learning environments. His research showed giftedness was not innate but a result of hard work. In fact, Bloom demonstrated that many of the most successful people put in years of dedicated effort before reaping the benefits. Bloom stressed that attainment was a product of learning, and influenced by opportunity and effort. In 1965-66, Bloom served as President of the American Educational Research Association.
His major contributions
In 1956, Bloom helped to map human learning and develop learning theories based on the cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains of human behaviour and interaction; the taxonomy was updated in 2000 (see Krathwohl, 2002)
Bloom's Taxonomy designates higher and lower order skills related to the mastery of learning material. Learners "master" material by starting at the bottom of the taxonomy and working up, interacting with material in new ways with each step up the ladder. The bottom of the ladder is "lower level thinking" and the top "upper level thinking".
The framework consists of six major categories: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The categories after knowledge were presented as “skills and abilities” with the understanding that knowledge was the necessary precondition for putting these skills and abilities into practice.
Bloom believed students were given a higher quality of instruction through formative assessment and systematic correction. Thus nearly everyone can learn and eventually master concepts. This reduces variation in achievement, eliminates gaps and yields equitable distribution
95% of students have a chance to master material; a learning curve is a BELL curve with 60% of students mastering ~70% of material; a mastery curve has 95% of students mastering 80% of material
What is the process? Teach unit material; administer formative assessment; students who master it, get enrichment or extension materials; students who did not master it, get corrective instruction; then they take another formative assessment
The difference between new and original content is based on an understanding that creating something new, especially using technology, is the highest level of mastery.
Bloom had a major impact on how to engage students and motivate them to work to the best of their abilities.
Bloom's six levels are used in classrooms to encourage critical thinking. The levels increase to the highest level: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. They begin with recall and increase to the top levels which require students to take their new knowledge and develop or create a product demonstrating the concept learned.
Quotes by Bloom
"What we found was that the band of people who are capable of achieving great talent is actually quite broad. The few who have achieved it had similar experiences."
"What we are classifying is the intended behavior of students—the ways in which individuals are to act, think, or feel as the result of participating in some unit of instruction."
"...the fundamental task of general education [is] that of ‘enabling the individual to understand the world in which he [or she] lived and to attack the significant problems he [or she] encountered both as a [person] and as a citizen."
"Education must be increasingly concerned about the fullest development of all children and youth, and it will be the responsibility of the schools to seek learning conditions which will enable each individual to reach the highest level of learning possible."
"After forty years of intensive research on school learning in the United States as well as abroad, my major conclusion is: What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn if provided with appropriate prior and current conditions of learning."
Bloom conceives learning as sequential but this is not always true in practice or reality. Learning is less sequential and more web-like of experiences, behaviours, knowledge and skills.
Bloom's Taxonomy is not properly constructed and lacks a systemic rationale of construction which was acknowledged in the critiques of the original taxonomy. It is generally considered that the taxonomy plays an important role in systematizing a field that was more important than any perceived lack of rigour in its construction.
Some critiques of Bloom's Taxonomy's (cognitive domain) admit the existence of these six categories, but question the existence of a sequential, hierarchical link.
The revised edition of Bloom's Taxonomy moved synthesis into a higher order than evaluation.
Some critics consider the three lowest levels as hierarchically ordered but the three higher levels as parallel.
Others say it may be better to move to application before introducing concepts. This thinking would seem to relate to the method of problem-based learning.
Bloom concentrated on learning but disregards the importance of motivation in learning.
Classifying learning into spheres and hierarchies is a very scientific view of learning but we do not yet understand the mind sufficiently to completely justify this approach. In addition, postmodernists would suggest that many of the terms are simply artificial constructs used as ideology to conceal the messy side of learning.
There is little empirical evidence to support Bloom's work. By calling his ideas models and taxonomies, or classifications, there is an implicit admission that they are not theories.
Bloom’s Taxonomy focuses on individual learning but seems to disregard the importance of social learning. An individual’s ability to reach evaluation can be obfuscated by groupthink.