The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

This is a revised version of Benjamin Bloom’s work with the addition of the Psychomotor Domain as developed by Anita Harrow [1972]. Dr. Bloom’s intent was to develop a classification framework for writing educational objectives. The questions and examples were added by Tom Allen to make the Taxonomy more useful for beginning teachers as a tool to facilitate appropriate questioning.

Cognitive Domain:

  1. Knowledge: recognize or recall information. Q: What is the capital of Maine? Who wrote “Hamlet? “Words typically used: define, recall, recognize, remember, who, what, where, when.
  2. Comprehension: demonstrate that the student has sufficient understanding to organize and arrange material mentally. Q: What do you think Hamlet meant when he said, “to be or not to be, that is the question?” (Rosenshine, among others, would argue that one of the best ways to teach is to teach pupils how to ask their own questions about the topic under consideration.) Words typically used: describe, compare, contrast, rephrase, put in your own words, explain the main idea.
  3. Application: a question that asks a student to apply previously learned information to reach an answer. Solving math word problems is an example.Q: According to our definition of socialism, which of the following nations would be considered to be socialist? Words typically used: apply, classify, use, choose, employ,write and example, solve, how many, which, what is.
  4. Analysis: higher order questions that require students to think critically and in depth. [Unless students can be brought to the higher levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, it is unlikely that transfer will take place, i.e., this is stuff I can use rather than this is just more dumb school stuff that I can forget after I take the test. If teachers don't ask higher level questions, it is unlikely that most students will transfer school work to real life. They may not even be able to apply it to school situations other than the one in which it was "learned." E.g., we "know" that students know more than scores on the CAP Test or SAT would suggest.] In analysis questions, students are asked to engage in three kinds of cognitive processes:
    1. identify the motives, reasons, and/or causes for a specific occurrence (Q: Why was Israel selected as the site for the Jewish nation?),
    2. consider and analyze available information to reach a conclusion, inference, or generalization based on this information (Q: After studying the French, American, and Russian revolutions, what can you conclude about the causes of a revolution?), or
    3. Words typically used: identify motives/causes, draw conclusions, determine evidence, support, analyze, why.
  5. Synthesis: higher order question that asks the student to perform original and creative thinking. Synthesis questions ask students to:
    1. produce original communications. (Q: What’s a good name for this invention? Write a letter to the editor on a social issue of concern to you. Make a collage of pictures and words that represents your beliefs and feelings about the issue.)
    2. make predictions. (Q: How would the U.S.A. be different if the South had won the Civil War? What would happen if school attendance was made optional? What is the next likely development in popular music?)
    3. solve problems–although analysis questions may also ask students to solve problems, synthesis questions differ because they don’t require a single correct answer but, instead allow a variety of creative answers. (How could we determine the number of pennies in a jar without counting them? How can we raise money for our ecology project?Words typically used in synthesis questions: predict, produce, write, design, develop, synthesize, construct, how can we improve, what would happen if, can you devise, how can we solve.
  6. Evaluation: a higher level question that does not have a single correct answer. It requires the student to judge the merit of an idea, a solution to a problem, or an aesthetic work. The student may also be asked to offer an opinion on an issue. (Q: Do you think schools are too easy? Is busing an appropriate remedy for desegregating schools? Do you think it is true that “Americans never had it so good?” Which U.S. senator is the most effective? To answer evaluation questions objective criteria or personal values must be applied. Some standard must be used. differing standards are quite acceptable and they naturally result in different answers. This type of question frequently is used to surface values or to cause students to realize that not everyone sees things the same way. It can be used to start a class discussion. It can also precede a follow-up analysis or synthesis question like, “Why?”

Affective Domain of the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives:

The Affective Domain addresses interests, attitudes, opinions, appreciations, values, and emotional sets.
The original purpose of the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives was to provide a tool for classifying instructional objectives. The Taxonomy is hierarchical (levels increase in difficulty/sophistication) and cumulative (each level builds on and subsumes the ones below). The levels, in addition to clarifying instructional objectives, may be used to provide a basis for questioning that ensures that students progress to the highest level of understanding. If the teaching purpose is to change attitudes/behavior rather than to transmit/process information, then the instruction should be structured to progress through the levels of the Affective Domain:

  1. Receiving. The student passively attends to particular phenomena or stimuli [classroom activities, textbook,music, etc. The teacher's concern is that the student's attention is focused. Intended outcomes include the pupil's awareness that a thing exists. Sample objectives: listens attentively, shows sensitivity to social problems. Behavioral terms: asks, chooses, identifies, locates, points to, sits erect, etc.
  2. Responding. The student actively participates. The pupil not only attends to the stimulus but reacts in some way. Objectives: completes homework, obeys rules, participates in class discussion, shows interest in subject, enjoys helping others, etc. Terms: answers, assists, complies, discusses, helps, performs, practices, presents, reads, reports, writes,etc.
  3. Valuing. The worth a student attaches to a particular object, phenomenon, or behavior. Ranges from acceptance to commitment (e.g., assumes responsibility for the functioning of a group). Attitudes and appreciation. Objectives: demonstrates belief in democratic processes, appreciates the role of science in daily life, shows concern for others' welfare, demonstrates a problem-solving approach, etc. Terms: differentiates, explains, initiates, justifies, proposes, shares, etc.
  4. Organization. Bringing together different values, resolving conflicts among them, and starting to build an internally consistent value system--comparing, relating and synthesizing values and developing a philosophy of life. Objectives: recognizes the need for balance between freedom and responsibility in a democracy, understands the role of systematic planning in solving problems, accepts responsibility for own behavior, etc. Terms: Arranges, combines, compares, generalizes, integrates, modifies, organizes, synthesizes, etc.
  5. Characterization by a Value or Value Complex. At this level, the person has held a value system that has controlled his behavior for a sufficiently long time that a characteristic "life style" has been developed. Behavior is pervasive, consistent and predictable. Objectives are concerned with personal, social, and emotional adjustment: displays self reliance in working independently, cooperates in group activities, maintains good health habits, etc.

Psychomotor Domain of Educational Objectives:

Instructional objectives and derived questions/tasks typically have cognitive/affective elements, but the focus is on motorskill development. The suggested areas for use are speech development, reading readiness, handwriting, and physical education. Other areas include manipulative skills required in business training [e.g., keyboarding], industrial technology, and performance areas in science, art and music. American education has tended to emphasize cognitive development at the expense of affective and psychomotor development. The well©rounded and fully functioning person needs development in all three domains. In the psychomotor domain, performance may take the place of questioning strategies in many cases.

  1. Reflex movements. Segmental, intersegmental, and suprasegmental reflexes.
  2. Basic-fundamental movements. Locomotor movements, nonlocomotor movements, manipulative movements.
  3. Perceptual abilities. Kinesthetic, visual, auditory and tactile discrimination and coordinated abilities.
  4. Physical abilities. Endurance, strength, flexibility, and agility.
  5. Skilled movements. Simple, compound, and complex adaptive skills.
  6. Nondiscursive communication. Expressive and interpretive movement.Sample general objectives: writes smoothly and legibly; accurately reproduces a picture, map, etc.; operates a [machine] skillfully; plays the piano skillfully; demonstrates correct swimming form; drives an automobile skillfully; creates a new way of performing [creative dance]; etc.Behavioral terms: assembles, builds, composes, fastens, grips, hammers, makes, manipulates, paints, sharpens, sketches, uses, etc.

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