Bloom’s taxonomy – cognitive domain

Bloom’s Taxonomy – cognitive domain (Intellect – Knowledge – “think”)

Bloom’s Taxonomy 1956 Cognitive Domain is as follows. An adjusted model was produced by Anderson and Krathwhol in 2001 in which the levels five and six (synthesis and evaluation) were inverted (reference: Anderson & Krathwohl, A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, 2001). This is why you will see different versions of this Cognitive Domain model. Debate continues as to the order of levels five and six, which is interesting given that Bloom’s Taxonomy states that the levels must be mastered in order.

In my humble opinion it’s possible to argue either case (Synthesis then Evaluation, or vice-versa) depending on the circumstances and the precise criteria stated or represented in the levels concerned, plus the extent of ‘creative thinking’ and ’strategic authority’ attributed to or expected at the ‘Synthesis’ level. In short – pick the order which suits your situation.

cognitive domain
level category or ‘level’ behaviour descriptions examples of activity to be trained, or demonstration and evidence to be measured ‘key words’ (verbs which describe the activity to be trained or measured at each level)
1 Knowledge recall or recognise information multiple-choice test, recount facts or statistics, recall a process, rules, definitions; quote law or procedure arrange, define, describe, label, list, memorise, recognise, relate, reproduce, select, state
2 Comprehension understand meaning, re-state data in one’s own words, interpret, extrapolate, translate explain or interpret meaning from a given scenario or statement, suggest treatment, reaction or solution to given problem, create examples or metaphors explain, reiterate, reword, critique, classify, summarise, illustrate, translate, review, report, discuss, re-write, estimate, interpret, theorise, paraphrase, reference, example
3 Application use or apply knowledge, put theory into practice, use knowledge in response to real circumstances put a theory into practical effect, demonstrate, solve a problem, manage an activity use, apply, discover, manage, execute, solve, produce, implement, construct, change, prepare, conduct, perform, react, respond, role-play
4 Analysis interpret elements, organizational principles, structure, construction, internal relationships; quality, reliability of individual components identify constituent parts and functions of a process or concept, or de-construct a methodology or process, making qualitative assessment of elements, relationships, values and effects; measure requirements or needs analyse, break down, catalogue, compare, quantify, measure, test, examine, experiment, relate, graph, diagram, plot, extrapolate, value, divide
5 Synthesis (create/build) develop new unique structures, systems, models, approaches, ideas; creative thinking, operations develop plans or procedures, design solutions, integrate methods, resources, ideas, parts; create teams or new approaches, write protocols or contingencies develop, plan, build, create, design, organise, revise, formulate, propose, establish, assemble, integrate, re-arrange, modify
6 Evaluation assess effectiveness of whole concepts, in relation to values, outputs, efficacy, viability; critical thinking, strategic comparison and review; judgement relating to external criteria review strategic options or plans in terms of efficacy, return on investment or cost-effectiveness, practicability; assess sustainability; perform a SWOT analysis in relation to alternatives; produce a financial justification for a proposition or venture, calculate the effects of a plan or strategy; perform a detailed and costed risk analysis with recommendations and justifications review, justify, assess, present a case for, defend, report on, investigate, direct, appraise, argue, project-manage

Based on the ‘Taxonomy Of Educational Objectives: Handbook 1, The Cognitive Domain’ (Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, Hill, Krathwohl) 1956. This table is adapted and reproduced with permission from Allyn & Bacon, Boston USA, being the publishers and copyright owners of ‘Taxonomy Of Educational Objectives’ (Bloom et al 1956).

Note that levels 5 and 6, Synthesis and Evaluation, were subsequently inverted by Anderson and Krathwhol in 2001.

In my view, the question of the order of Synthesis and Evaluation is dependent upon the extent of strategic expectation and authority that is built into each, which depends on your situation. Hence it is possible to make a case for Bloom’s original order shown above, or Anderson and Krathwhol’s version of 2001 (which simply inverts levels 5 and 6).

The above version is the original, and according to the examples and assumptions presented in the above matrix, is perfectly appropriate and logical. I also personally believe the above order to be appropriate for corporate and industrial training and development if ‘Evaluation’ is taken to represent executive or strategic assessment and decision-making, which is effectively at the pinnacle of the corporate intellect-set.

I believe inversion of Synthesis and Evaluation carries a risk unless it is properly qualified. This is because the highest skill level absolutely must involve strategic evaluation; effective management – especially of large activities or organisations – relies on strategic evaluation. And clearly, strategic evaluation, is by implication included in the ‘Evaluation’ category.

I would also argue that in order to evaluate properly and strategically, we need first to have learned and experienced the execution of the strategies (ie, to have completed the synthesis step) that we intend to evaluate.

However, you should feel free to invert levels 5 and 6 if warranted by your own particular circumstances, particularly if your interpretation of ‘Evaluation’ is non-strategic, and not linked to decision-making. Changing the order of the levels is warranted if local circumstances alter the degree of difficulty. Remember, the taxonomy is based in the premise that the degree of difficulty increases through the levels – people need to learn to walk before they can run – it’s that simple. So, if your situation causes ‘Synthesis’ to be more challenging than ‘Evaluation’, then change the order of the levels accordingly (ie., invert 5 and 6 like Anderson and Krathwhol did), so that you train people in the correct order.

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