A Blossoming Bloom’s Taxonomy

Picture courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbt/ (CC License)

Picture courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbt/ (CC License)

Today we’re delighted to share a guest post by Dale McIntosh. You can reach Dale at wdmcin02@louisville.edu.

For the uninitiated, Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom & Krathwohl, 1956) “is a hierarchical structure representing six levels of thinking and learning skills that range from basic learning objectives such as knowledge of content through higher-order learning such as synthesis, evaluation, and creativity. Bloom’s taxonomy formed the basis for early work on the development of instructional objectives for classes and curricula” (University of West Florida, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, 2012).

If we think back to our initial introduction to Bloom’s Taxonomy, we probably thought to ourselves “Sure, that would work in a Utopian society.”  In reading a recent guest blog post “Learning by Creating: Turning Bloom’s on Its Head” on Techsmith’s For Educators blog site, I could not help but ponder the consequences of “flipping” Bloom’s Taxonomy similar to the latest craze of “flipping the classroom.”  However, after considering the original model Bloom proposed, I think many of us can nod our heads in agreement that seeing an undergraduate student achieve the original pyramid’s pinnacle is simply a rarity, if not an oddity.

In his guest blog post, Phillips makes a good point that humans “learn by experimenting, trying out new things, wondering how something works, creating constructs that are concrete representations of abstract ideas, making mistakes and trying another way, and finally reaching the goal they have in mind.”  One sees this easily in the science disciplines but not as easily in the arts and humanities.  In Phillips’ post, he refers to Shelley Wright’s blog, “Flip This: Bloom’s Taxonomy Should Start with Creating” where she suggests we “start with a productive goal in mind.”

In the academy, we often feel students need as historical lens from which to operate.  While this may be true in some cases, might we nurture their creative side, which may give their inquisitive engines a jump-start to consider the “why are things the way they are?” or “how did we get here?” questions, just as they did as they did during childhood development. Could it be that easy to let them be creative first, rather than understand?

I know that I can translate this “upside-down” taxonomy model in the CIS courses I teach, but it will take some major brain surgery on my part to not fall into the traditional way of facilitating the students’ learning.

I am interested what others think about the notion of starting with “Creating” and ending up at “Remembering?”

4 thoughts on “A Blossoming Bloom’s Taxonomy

  1. So, how have you incorporated this approach in CIS 100? I’m intrigued by how you put this into practice. In the programming courses I teach, we move quickly towards creating with the tools the students are introduced to each week. I’m not sure it’s where we start each time but students are certainly given plenty of labs and assignments that require them to create solutions that move further and further away from just “plug and chug” or “cookbook” applications.

  2. Andrew, you’re point is very valid about moving away from the “cookbook” applications courses, even in CIS100. My comment was more directed at some things I’ve tried this semester in CIS300 whereby they have smaller case studies that allow them to hone their skills in Microsoft Excel and Access independently, and then one integrated case study at the end that brings it all together. As an example for the Microsoft Excel case study they have to “create” the scaffolding for the Decisions Support System model, then manipulate the data to address the overarching business problem. Once they accomplish that, they go through an “evaluation” / “analysis” phase where they need to take the abstract concept of just the numbers and then “apply” it to the business problem and propose a solution. The obvious goal through this exercise (of futility for some) is that they will be able to make connections with the MIS concepts that we talk about which I hope leads to a better “understanding” of the material. Will they “remember” it?? My goal is that by the time they work on the third case (integrated), they will “remember” the outcome of the first two and recycle through the flipped taxonomy.

  3. All of these topics work really well if you have to explain the value of a liberal arts degree/education to students (learning how – rather than what to think).

  4. I just re-read this post as I’m preparing for a new workshop in early August with the folks from First-Year Initiatives and I’m really intrigued with the idea of flipping Bloom. I’m reading an essay titled, “Improving comprehension through discourse processing” (full citiation below) and I wondered what is discourse processing. Well, from this brief essay I’ve learned its all about the way that our words and contexts are comprehended – there are different levels (some of which include: syntax( eg. exact wording), situational (eg prior knowledge that informs the new) and so on. In these different levels, we comprehend information/input in diverse cognitive ways. When there is “coherence” within these different levels and among the levels, deep comprehension is successful.

    However, when we teach we largely teach on the shallow side. Flipping Bloom, helps foster the deeper connection within and among the levels.

    For example, take an from the book,”This, I Believe,” which, by the way, is the 2013 UofL Book-in-Common. Robert Heinlan wrote in 1952, “I am not going to talk about religious beliefs, but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them. I believe in my neighbors…. Heinlan a noted science fiction author goes on to discuss what he believes. To read this essay, the reader can readily grasp a level of meaning and context in which he writes. But to engage questions of explanation, clarification, and precision, the reader can begin to grasp a deeper level of comprehension about the power of this essay. You can check out this essay at http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/thisibelieve.html

    Also to read about discourse processing, check out New Directions for Teaching and Learning
    Special Issue: Grasser, A., et al (2002). Applying the Science of Learning to University Teaching and Beyond. Volume 2002, Issue 89, pages 33–44, Spring 2002. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tl.45/abstract

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