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To analyse the way students are learning, I have chosen to explore the Blooms Taxonomy theory completed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist.
This taxonomy classifies intellectual operations mobilized during learning, the easiest (bottom of the pyramid) to the complex (top of the pyramid). Here is below an example of that pyramid: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/media/misc/2008/blooms_old.png
The 6 levels of Bloom's pyramid allow the teacher to better organize the progression of his course, but also help to formulate specific learning objectives.
In 1991, Lorin Anderson a former student of Bloom, has significantly changed the levels of the pyramid master with the collaboration of David R. Krathwohl ,co-author of the original taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001).
A quick insight of the theory...
The interest of the work of Bloom is that it offers a series of verbs that describe the intellectual behavior of each level of the pyramid. These verbs refer to observable and allow such teachers to write to specific learning objectives.
Despite the abandonment of curricula based on specific objectives, Bloom's taxonomy is useful. On the one hand, Bloom recognized the complementarity of affective and psychomotor domains, although the descriptions he has made â€‹â€‹today seem so superficial. But more importantly, his classification of the cognitive domain into six levels of complexity is a simple way to represent the activities of thought for students. It combines very well the relationship between knowledge (memory, comprehension, application) and skills (application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation).
Higher levels of Bloom's classification correspond precisely to the creativity that education reform is to develop and salvation which is the best for the future of students. In this regard, there are a number of fascinating strategies and techniques to foster creativity.
Bloom's Taxonomy is for me an aid to formulate questions that can determine the level of student understanding. For example, a question may be used to determine a student is proficient in factual knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. In my view, teachers are better able to know the weaknesses and strengths of their students, which help promote learning progression to higher levels.
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Since its formulation in 1956, critics of Bloom's taxonomy have generally focused not on the existence of six categories, but the reality of a sequential hierarchical relationship between them.
Some consider the three lowest levels (knowledge, comprehension, and application) as hierarchically ordered, but the upper three levels (analysis, synthesis and evaluation) as equal. Others suggest it is sometimes more appropriate to start the application, before the introduction of new concepts.
How do I use Bloom's Taxonomy?
I would personally say that for the courses that I currently teach I consider mainly four levels of acquisition and mastery of knowledge, which correspond roughly to the first four levels of Bloom's taxonomy:
1. Information level (Knowledge): knowledge is relative to the apprehension of an overview of a subject: the realities are shown in some aspects in partial or total.
2. Expression level (Comprehension): knowledge is related to the acquisition of the means of expression and communication: define, use the terms component discipline. These control knowledge.
3. Mastering tools Level (Application): knowledge is related to the control of processes and tools for study or action: use, manipulate rules or sets of rules (algorithms) principles, in order to a result to be achieved. It is to master a skill.
4. Master methodological knowledge level (Analysis), which is relative to the control a methodology of installation and troubleshooting: assemble, organize items in a topic, identify relationships, reasoning from these relationships, and decide towards a goal. It is an approach to control induction, deduction, testing, documentation.
Each level includes the previous ones and with the experience that I am currently building as a teacher, synthesis and evaluation are not really expected from students mainly because of their existing level of knowledge and the course level. As well, there is no strict order to consider in using these different levels as students can be asked to start a topic at the mastering tools level, just to check their previous knowledge and build the lesson according to the findings. The good aspect of Bloom's Taxonomy is that there are sequences in the learning process that we can play with.
So, in terms of teaching strategies, depending on the subject, I can start or introduce the topic at any level of Bloom's pyramid. If I teach basic accounting principles to complete beginners, I would tend to start with Bloom's Comprehension level (expression level for me), where I try to show the learners that they already know some aspects of the theory: let's say that I intend to teach the double-entry bookkeeping principle. The first step will be to have the students set in pairs and decide themselves which type of transaction they want to complete. From there, they will have to figure out the journey of the money which will be different depending on the side where the transaction will have to be recorded. By drawing a simple map on an activity sheet or the board, they will understand easily how the completed transaction must be recorded. Only after that step, will I introduce the theoretical accounting aspect to set the rule (Bloom's Knowledge stage). Then the "use and manipulate" stage (Bloom's Application stage) where students will have tools in hand to solve practical exercises is introduced.
In terms of resources and planning, I use what Rogers (2002) explained regarding a model of progression in learning relating to different outcomes of learning: it implies motor skills which require practice, verbal information (facts, principles and generalisation); for example in business subjects, lesson plans are built in a "learner-centred way": learners are given the opportunity to recognise real and existing business entities and have to dig deep down in their existing knowledge to show what they already know about the business environment and principles. They are provided gradually throughout the course with the necessary resources: never all of them at once.
Then intellectual skills come in when learners have to use knowledge to discriminate, understand theories, concepts and rules. Straight after that, cognitive strategies help learners to "remember", "think" and "manage" their newly acquired skills to define and solve problems, which are most of the time in business or management courses case studies to be analysed (Application and analysis stages in Bloom's Taxonomy).
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In terms of assessment and from experiences carried out in class, I can say that each stage of Bloom's pyramid gives opportunity for assessment. I have the clear impression that course packages provided by most awarding bodies, when looking at learning outcomes and assessment criteria, are using Bloom's principles especially when using specific verbs ( describe, assess, discuss, explain â€¦) to indicate what learners need to "be able to" do in order to show that they have achieved or understood the subject. Indeed, in the Double-entry bookkeeping subject, I assess existing knowledge first, and then I follow Bloom's next levels of learning to make sure students are mastering specific practical knowledge like calculations or cash flow forecasts to give an example.
To come back strictly to Bloom (1956), a learning objective describes a general skill or set of skills that the student must acquire at the end of a learning sequence. However, the general educational objectives cannot give rise to a rigorous evaluation unless they are made concrete. This requires that they be translated into operational objectives. This is central for the progress and achievement of learners. A goal can be considered operational if the following are specified:
- Performance to be achieved (outcome) identifiable by observable behavior (described by action verbs) and quantifiable or liable to qualify, the learner can do and he can be evaluated.
- The conditions (context) in which the behavior must occur (restrictions, authorisations, what equipment to use, how long, etc.).
- Performance criterion (pass mark) on whether the goal is reached (Level of demand which learning is required to locate and criteria used in the evaluation of learning).
Inspired by behaviorist, this way of seeing things has provoked reactions, objections, criticism sometimes very strong, especially among proponents of constructivist epistemology towards Bloom's Taxonomy. Nevertheless, the notion of goal is central in any methodological approach to the teaching and assessment.
The process of evaluation is therefore to set goals (referring to a taxonomy) to operationalize and define appropriate means (instruments) which will determine whether objectives are achieved by the students or not. It will then proceed to an analysis of the results (formative evaluation), which will lead to a decision which shall be communicated to different stakeholders (the time of the communication).
However it is not always pedagogically clear: how to set goals easily? What formulations to use? Should I necessarily incorporate action verbs? How to verify that the objectives are effectively operational? From my point of view, the good news is that there are two great and simple tools that, when combined, can help me achieve this: the association of Bloom's taxonomy and the SMART method.Top of Form Once the needs and expectations of a curriculum are analysed, defining the educational goals is a fundamental step in developing a training plan. This step not only allows me to mark my route (scheme of work & lesson plans), and also to facilitate the assessment.
When formulating educational goals, I ask myself the following question: "At the end of the training/module/course, I would like my students to be able toâ€¦?". And, depending on the type of skill I want to develop in my students, I keep my formulation using a verb of action. At this point, I choose to brainstorm without asking myself too many questions and I try to give free rein to my spontaneity!
The principle of this taxonomy is that learners must reach a specific level and must be capable of performing the operations corresponding to (x) level (s). These levels are thus hierarchically ordered in cognitive processes and to provide a framework for setting goals for themselves. The emphasis is not on the curriculum content but on how learners can address and overcome barriers to achievement (Knowles, 1984).
This taxonomy also allows the identification of the nature of the abilities sought by the objective of training and degree of complexity. Identifying the type of learning objective covered by a resource can consider its practical integration in a pedagogical sequence.
An important point is distinguishing task and goal: the essential in the educational activity is never the" product ", the result directly observable (the document prepared alone or in groups, homework, grades and test scores), even if that is the only way to judge students' abilities. The important thing is the progress made towards each learning outcome, if it is appropriate and can be reinvested, how it is put into play and how it allowed learners to grow. The relationship between the task and the goal differentiates training situation and location of production: in training, the goal is first in production, it is the task.