Wednesday, July 9, 2008

***Discussion #2: Bloom's Taxonomy

Please enter into this discussion no later than: 7/21 /08

Bloom's Taxonomy is an item that has loomed large over the educational landscape for more than half a century. It has shaped much of what educators believe and is still highly relevant.

Please read through the following at your own pace and then respond to the discussion prompt at the bottom of this post.

1) An overview of Bloom's Taxomony with a little history thrown in

2) A blurb for an Education Week article of importance (the full article requires a paid subscription, but the blurb is enough to get you thinking in a different direction). Interestingly, this piece contradicts the Wikipedia you see how?

3) A short general piece on how teachers can use Bloom's Taxonomy

4) A piece similar to the one above, but with the ESL teachers's specific focus

Focus Question:
How do the items you've seen tested on standardized tests align to Bloom's Taxonomy? AND
How do you think a learning project would align? In other words, what get's assessed? What doesn't get assessed? Does the taxonomy help put these questions into focus? Is this important? Why?


Ohkono said...

As a high school teacher in NYC, I have seen the wrath of standardized testing on my students, and staff. It becomes a big morale issue when students continually do poorly. Most of these tests are designed with Blooms Taxonomy in mind. The taxonomy covers a broad range of learning, so whereas most teachers would argue that the tests are not meaningful to student's learning and a waste of time, they do cover Bloom's taxonomy. When we think of test prepping we are doing with our students, its mostly to get them to use the Level II thinking skills (application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) but at times the poor souls can only muster Level I's (knowledge and comprehension) which are mostly the multiple choice. This is when the 'great divide' in standardized testing becomes apparent.

Many times we have heard that good education bornes students who can succeed on standardized tests. So the issue is as teachers, why are we playing frantic catch up and test prep. It seems the morale of teachers as well as students becomes dejected at this point. Project based learning can assist teachers with reaching the Level II of learning on Bloom's hierarchy. Teachers need to apply a level of 'extension' thinking to the comprehension and knowledge questions which students feel confident in. Teachers can find a theme an go with it. The should have students generate the 'how' and 'why' questions to start. Case studies are a great place for this because students are generally solving issues and extended thought towards the future. Only then can you have students, analyze, synthesize and apply information. Teachers must show students how to achieve this high level of thinking as well as have patience. It is frustrating for many teachers around test time, but for now they should remember they DONT GET PAID MORE if the kids scores are higher. So go ahead start teaching towards the top of the taxonomy pyramid.
-lauren giunta

Mireia said...

As a global studies teacher of English language learners in a high school, I realize that the Regents exam focus on factual knowledge tested through multiple choice questions, requiring a minimal understanding and analysis of this knowledge. Questions on the thematic essays and document based questions usually revolve around the tasks of describing, recalling, and explaining historical events. The exam does not explicitly test synthesis and evaluation skills, which according to Bloom's taxonomy, require higher order thinking skills. For some test questions students have to make connections between historical events to show their understanding of a broader historical trend, but this skill is not required to pass the test.
I agree that some tasks on the taxonomy are difficult for English language learners -aren't they for everyone?- due to new vocabulary in their second language and the lack of prior knowledge on cultural cues. However, and even if the tests do not demand to learn high order thinking skills, teachers should include in their lessons questions from all levels of the taxonomy that are age-appropriate to make the learning process effective and engaging. Even if then our lessons are perceived as difficult and challenging, I believe that ESL students can attain the highest levels of the pyramid level, as any other student in NYC. Project Based Learning, which allows the use a wide repertoire of instructional methods -as stated by many of us in the previous discussion-, allows the inclusion of students' tasks that align well with the taxonomy levels. ESL teachers can take advantage of the flexibility of a well planned and properly implemented project that includes the assessment of all the skills included in Bloom's taxonomy. It is a challenging task for a teacher to require high order thinking from the students, but as ohkono said, teachers are not going to get better paid for just teaching to the test.

Lindsey said...

I would say that I have seen that the majority of the state tests focus on comprehension, application, and analysis. Sometimes the one essay question will seek to test students' synthesis and evaluation skills. However, that is not always true. Really I don't know if I have a problem with that. How can you design a standardized multiple choice test to assess students' synthesis abilities? I think the scarier thought is that perhaps that is a reflection of the curriculums we are using. Are the tests simply testing what is being taught and ignoring the same things that we are as teachers? Do I purposefully purpose deeper thinking skills or simply try to help my students learn the times table?
The authenticity of learning based projects automatically makes it seem to reach those higher skills of synthesis and evaluation. Projects allow students to experiment, propose, persuade, etc. Projects wonderfully assess each level of the taxonomy (or at least have the potential to do so). However they are not a standardized assessment and I am not sure that it is fair to compare the two.

Teaching Perfection said...

In comparing the two approaches to education, Bloom’s taxonomy advocates for a holistic form of education that supports the three "domains:" Affective, Psychomotor, and Cognitive that their educational objectives are divided into focusing on skills. While the article A Taxonomy Is Not a Sequence, promotes the learn by doing type of approach. As far as standardized testing and how Bloom’s taxonomy aligns to it, I do see some correlation. Reading comprehension questions based on a passage of literature can measure knowledge and comprehension. Depending upon how the questions are framed, student answers can determine if the student can recall accurately the events of a story, has understood the main ideas, and can decipher advanced vocabulary definitions. Other types of chart based questions that contain data or statistics can measure application and analysis in the hierarchy of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Finally the top two tiers of the verb chart, synthesis and evaluation can be measured through a writing assignment where the student is asked to rewrite or compose a piece of writing or evaluate, defend or criticize a position. These are all the types of tasks I have come across in standardized testing. So in my opinion it supports Bloom’s taxonomy. I find that it is important, and has much educational value. There is a measurable improvement in the performance of students when teacher employ these strategies as also stated in our Fellows guidebook, The Teaching for Student Achievement Guidebook, which we were all given from our Fellows department. Strategies such as comparing, contrasting, summarizing, organizing, assessing, etc. are all advocated by Bloom and also proven strategies that improve student achievement. Therefore it has much educational value.

Ms. P said...

Challenging students to higher order thinking is a difficult and at times a daunting task, especially when my student population is preparing for the ELA Regents and just entered this country two or less years ago. There is a level of sophistication that is required on the part of the student to be able to attempt such tasks associated with the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Without the language or academic foundation in the student's native tongue, teaching ELLs becomes a double edge sword where the teacher is trying to develop advanced levels of thinking that ELLs may not have the skills to do in their first language. I've seen teaching to the standardized tests manifest itself into tangible results for the multiple choice sections and simply address the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. But, these techniques seem to only reside from learned strategies that don't transfer to other sections of the test or subject areas. On the other hand, I have seen meaningful and organized PBL projects effectively address the higher levels of the Taxonomy pyramid and therefore translate into higher tests scores with noticeable results in other subject areas as well. Our students need to be able to apply their skills across the curriculum which PBL can align. With effective assessments including targeted Taxonomy questions during PBL projects, instructors can tap into the higher levels of thinking such as inferences and predictions that will ultimately be the most beneficial for our students who want to continue on the road to academic success.

Daniel Von Gieck said...

I taught 1st grade last year which was not a testing grade; however, I was called upon to help proctor several 3rd grade testing sessions throughout the school year. It is from this experience that I became familiar with the type of questions that are proposed on the 3rd grade standardized tests. A majority of questions fit into Blooms Taxonomy at the knowledge and comprehension level, with one or two questions dipping into the application level. This is interesting because in Mireia's post, she describes the same thing happening at the high school level. This is frightening because if standardized tests are only presenting lower level questions, then one would assume that when teachers execute test prep in class (which is now a year round event) they are most likely focusing a large part of their time on knowledge and comprehension questions. This is very disconcerting if standardized testing is the impetus for a drop in higher order questioning in our school system.
Lindsey makes a good point that teachers and administrators should evaluate the curriculum being used to make sure higher order questions are embedded in the instruction. If we find out that there is a true absences of higher order questioning in the classroom, then the onus falls especially on the teacher to make sure that questions of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are continually being asked throughout the year.
I take point with Ms P. She states that teaching Ells becomes a double edge sword because often the students do not have the skills to demonstrate the higher order thinking skills in their new language. I do not think this is true. I think there are many forms of alternative assessment now being created to help ELLs demonstrate the knowledge that they possess even if they are currently limited in English. A few example of these alternative assessment forms are the use of drawings, graphic organizers, and interviews.
As far as PBL is concerned, I concur with the rest of the class and think that PBL lends itself greatly to higher order questioning.

Anna Janssen said...

Having had a self-contained 5th grade classroom last year, I can answer Gieck that yes, as a teacher, I did largely focus on getting students up to Level II. And, moreover, I found that that's where the test prep materials that my school spends tens of thousands of dollars on were largely only working to push students up to Level II.

When I TEACH, I try to vary my lesson, offering low-level material to get everyone involved, and adding deeper ideas and concepts that will push up students that are ready for it. But when I do test prep, which I refer to as "training", there's little opportunity to help kids grow mentally.

So, I really don't think standardized tests are aligned to Bloom's Taxonomy. If they were, we would see a progression throughout each test, from the basic to the high-level, but we don't.

It's not only the tests themselves, but also the way they're graded. High-level thinking won't get you a higher score on the rubric - sometimes the most rudimentary answers can get a student full points. It's really depressing, because we're not rewarding students for developing skills on what we consider to be a backbone of modern education in America.

AS said...

I would have to agree with much of what is already written. The tests our students are taking, the ones that “determine” learning, don’t seem to work their way through Bloom’s Taxonomy. As was previously mentioned, the tests (even the essays), ask about recalling and summarizing facts, but rarely synthesizing, analyzing, or evaluating. The makers of the tests seem content with students being able to regurgitate what they remember from class and calling it learning. While higher order thinking is seldomly tested, I still use these questions in my classes and encourage my students to think beyond… I would like to think that this will aid them in the future (once the tests are done) - helping them become well-rounded, problem-solving thinkers.

As a pull-out teacher, I had a great deal of flexibility with my classes, so I chose to supplement what they were doing in class. I think Lindsey brings up a good point about what we should be teaching kids in the classroom. Should it be these higher order thinking skills, or how to pass a test? How can we bring these two things together? Perhaps project-based learning. What is the role of education? Is it to learn only the facts, or how to use those facts?

Mr. Gaulke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Gaulke said...

Focus Question:

Most State testing items seemed to have been created with Bloom's as a template at least in addressing issues related to the cognitive domain. Easier multiple choice questions are placed early in the exam, short answer knowledge-application questions in the middle, and higher-ordered essay and short answers questions in the end. The student then "climbs" the Taxonomy as they answer questions in sequence.

A group-based creative lesson is conceived as being able to provide the learner with experiences in all three of Bloom's domains. The goal of many projects, as stated explicitly in their accompanying rubrics, contain the idea that the student will have a working knowledge of the focus of study before conceiving the project—The students' mastery is expected to be seen in the project's design and execution.

In these ways, many projects explicitly follow the assumptions of Bloom's Taxonomy.

The Taxonomy certainly leads a student through a logically-scaled progression of learning challenges. This becomes quite important, particularly for ESL teachers who are often working with beginning L2 speakers clearly struggling with the first two categories of Bloom's ("remembering" & "understanding").

The ordering of thinking questions in levels of complexity are also helpful in guiding a teacher's lesson plan and ensures that the student will achieve easily assessable higher ordered skills.

In being a comprehensive mapping of areas of knowledge acquisition, Bloom's Taxonomy affords the instructor a "wraparound" guide to assessing learning. The challenge for the educator becomes designing assessments that are capable of capturing this wide spectrum of learning indicators within the context of a public school classroom.

CLYS said...

Blooms taxonomy should be in the back of a teacher's mind at all times. We are always told to challenge our students and to present them with higher level thinking questions.

While I have noted the use of Bloom's taxonomy within state tests, I do agree with what was posted earlier that how much of this can you apply especially when the students are presented with multiple choice questions?

The obvious problem with standardized tests is that teachers get caught up in the rote practice before the test. It's true that often times teaching is centered around strictly what will be on the test and everything else gets lost.

Therefore, projects seem to encompass a more friendly atmosphere for Bloom's taxonomy. With projects and creativity, the students can be challenged at any level (specifically the level that each individual can meet) in the taxonomy and the assignment can be tailored to the needs of each student.

Julia said...

I agree that standardized testing does not lend itself to facilitating the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy; as Lindsey points out, how can we ask students to synthesize or "reshape material into a new form" through a multiple choice assessment? Despite this limitation, I do not think that the current state of testing affairs is completely antithetical to the upper level's of Bloom's. More specifically, I have observed teachers who have taught students test-taking strategies that incorporate a certain level of analysis, at the very least. For example, instead of just asking students to repeatedly read passages and answer comprehension questions out of a test prep booklet, one teacher I observed invited students to analyze the questions, underlining key words and looking for those key words in the text. In short, he asked students to break down the questions and analyze what exactly was being asked. To me, this seems like a more productive approach to test preparation that requires students to do more than merely practice taking sample test questions over and over. Surely, though, a project based approach to learning and assessment pushes students to go higher on Bloom's Taxonomy because it requires students to synthesize what they have learned and produce something original, which seems to be a more active and accurate form of assessment.
-Julia Hynes

omgeducation said...

I agree with the other students who said that standardized testing only really addresses the 1st two levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. In fact, in many cases, I think the tests we give students do not even approach these basic levels! For example, I taught 3rd grade ESL last year, and we had several beginner ESL students who had to take the state-mandated ELA exam. While the rest of the class did test prep activities out of a work book, it was my job to teach the beginner students "word matching," which meant showing them how to recognize a word in the question, the same word in the passage, and then choose an answer that contains words nearby. To me, this is an absolute *zero* on Bloom's Taxonomy; it is rote memorization to help students score higher on a test.

I see much more potential for students thinking on higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy with project based learning. Like Julia said, it has the potential for students to synthesize what they have learned and then produce their own creative take on that knowledge. And, unlike the wikipedia article, I don't think Bloom's Taxonomy needs to be viewed as a hierarchy, at least as far as teaching goes. We don't need to start by teaching students knowledge and comprehension level material; instead, we can start with evalutation or synthesis and help them build their knowledge through critical thinking and problem solving. In its best, this is how project based learning should work.

Anonymous said...

What I hear many of us saying is that while some of the questions on standardized tests require higher level thinking, most questions ask the student to perform only one of the learning objectives of Bloom's taxonomy. Since standardized tests often have questions that are unrelated to one another and without context, a student is asked to pick an answer that is supposed to indicate their knowledge or their understanding or their application, etc. This is why project based learning is so much more effective and comprehensive for assessing student learning, because it looks at the student's scope of understanding that includes all the elements of Bloom's taxonomy.

As an ESL teacher, I think it is so important that students learn about subjects in depth and Bloom's Taxonomy can be used as a tool for teaching and assessing. While standardized tests do not fulfill this requirement, as teachers we have to try and strike a balance between test prep and meaningful learning projects. As we talked about in class, the most effective test prep is good teaching.

Michelle Mangan said...

I believe that standardized tests have the potential to incorporate several levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. For example, state tests that require students to synthesize information from multiple documents or analyze an author's point of view may climb higher on Bloom's Taxonomy than, say, a question requiring students to regurgitate simple facts.

Whether or not testing questions themselves may reflect this hierarchy of inquiry, however, is somewhat besides the point. I think the major issue here is that testing is essentially a limited, one-dimensional way for students to engage with the learning environment. Testing has its place, and some assessment is necessary. But relying on paper and pencil questions to cover the breadth of Bloom's Taxonomy is limiting the potential for students to engage in multi-dimensional learning. As others have pointed out, project-based learning is one area that allows teachers to utilize higher-order questioning while at the same time engaging students in activities that allow them to interact with their environments and create original work. With this in mind, I believe that Bloom's Taxonomy should not simply be seen as a hierarchy of oral or written questions, but on a larger scale as a hierarchy of cognitive and creative stimulation. While testing can do this in a very limited way, project-based learning has the potential to fill the gaps by combining multiple levels of engagement and potential for creative thought.

Julia Kravchik said...

As a first grade teacher I am not exposed to many standardized tests besides the NYSESLAT, however, I do remember the nature of the tests from when I took them. I also have siblings that take them and I like to look at their test prep books as they prepare for the tests. I don't think that standardized tests test students on a higher level of thinking past levels 1 or 2 of Bloom's taxonomy. The majority of questions that students are tested on are multiple choice fact questions, that they either know or don't. These questions would be level 1 when aligned to Bloom's taxonomy. Most standardized tests now also have an essay component to them. These essay questions move into level 2 of Bloom's Taxonomy or higher depending on the test. The essays test comprehension over just fact recalling which the multiple choice questions do. Most teachers become overly concerned with stuffing their students with information so that they can pass these standardized tests, and don't have the time to go into the other levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.

I think that project based learning is definitely better aligned to Bloom's Taxonomy than standardized tests. Students start off with learning just knowledge and facts, but then through careful planning by the teacher, should move up to higher levels of thinking through scaffolds. The final product should demonstrate that the students went past just learning the information, but have begun to evaluate what they learned. Students should become experts on their subject areas after finishing their projects. Project based learning will also help a teacher teach the content necessary for students to pass their tests, but to also develop their thinking skills. PBL will help teachers find that balance between how do I get my students to pass their tests and how do I get them to really learn the material and acquire it. Bloom's Taxonomy can serve as a guide to how the project should progress from one stage to the next and what kinds of questions the students should be able to answer as they learn more information and become comfortable with it.

In regards to what gets assessed and what doesn't depends on the teacher and what kinds of rubrics he/she has set up. Obviously you want your students to have the basic knowledge necessary to pass the tests, but the rubrics should aim higher than that for the projects. State standards should be used to create the rubrics and the projects should reflect what the students learned. Students would have to use all levels of Bloom's taxonomy in order to get good marks on their projects because this shows that they truly learned the material versus just memorizing some facts in order to pass a test, and then forgetting them quickly after the test is over. The ultimate goal of a teacher is for his/her students to truly learn the material and retain it, and PBL when aligned to Bloom's Taxonomy can help students achieve this.

Mr. S. said...

As a high school teacher I have been a Regents and NYSESLAT teacher in essence. While I believe the standardized tests do a pretty good job of assessing various skills and higher thinking abilities as all requires students to not only answer multiple choice reading review questions, but as well analyze literature and constuct essays to show their thinking and communication skills. The problem with standardized assessments in my short experience is not that they do not address higher order thinking, as much as they have become a bonus check for administrators who therefore forces students to focus undue time on test prep when they could be developing the same skills methods such as PBLs that have a more intrinsically motivating format that turns students ON to school rather than OFF.

Ms. Kennelly said...

I agree with Michelle's comments about standardized testing and Bloom's Taxonomy. Our goal as teacher's is to guide students' thinking and questioning through the different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy and it is important that we incorporate higher level questioning and tasks into our lessons. However, it is a fact of teaching that we will be required to administer standardized tests and if this past year is any indication with all of the predictives and ITAs, we will be seeing more testing in the future. That said, as Michelle mentioned, we must continue to incorporate other methods of assessment into our class time so that we are asking students to show us what they know by other means than a multiple choice exam. The goal of these assessments would not be to test them for testing's sake as many of the state tests make us feel that we are doing, but to use the assessments to guide our instruction. We need to use the information from these classroom assessments to see where students are according to Bloom's Taxonomy, if they are learning the material, and what we as teacher's can do to help them learn it.

Hannah said...

From what I've seen from the standardized testing on the elementary level, I agree with many of the above posters that standardized testing is often limited to the lower levels of Bloom's taxonomy. (As a side note, however, I recall tests from my own high school days which tested a higher level of thinking according to Bloom's Taxonomy - particularly Advanced Placement exams in history and English.) However, I believe that these tests are a necessary evil in assessing whether our students are achieving a minimum. As was brought up in class discussion, it is our goal as teachers to ensure that our students reach higher levels of thinking, beyond what is taught on the standardized tests. Here, project based learning can be a useful tool for teachers in going beyond what is required by the state -- that is, assessing students in the more involved academic skills they need to succeed in college. In PBL, Bloom's Taxonomy can be a useful tool in framing the types of thinking expected of students and aiding them in metacognition. Until policy makers find a more effective and meaningful way to assess students' learning, teacher-created projects can hold its place.

Lindsay Tuttle said...

Using higher level thinking skills opens and expands students minds into all academic fields. Challenging students opens their mind up and allows for critical thinking. In saying that perhaps it will help students to be able to answer all those multiple choice questions with ease because they have those critical thinking skills. I'm not really sure because teaching at the lower levels I get out of all those fun standardized tests.

I think that Bloom's Taxonomy comes into standardized testing at the high school level. Yes, there are standardized test at the lower levels but it is more of memorization than using high level thinking skills.

I am a firm believer in accountable talk and if we start this at a early age then perhaps it will breed student's who can succeed on standardized tests. Does this mean standardized test will be around for a long time?

Project based learning is so subjective that I am not quite sure how it fits into Blooms Taxonomy, it's up to the teacher discretion. I think in order to assess PBL there would have to be some sort of rubric that was developed and agreed upon by all the teacher involved. I would think however though that PBL would naturally create higher level thinking. This trial and error and developing that is all coming from the student. PL seems to hold more accountability for students and take ownership of their learning, that right there would lead me to believe that they would be reaching higher levels of thinking. Also, with these standardized tests the information is out of the students heads in no time at all, PBL stays with you. They say you learn the information the best when you have to teach it to someone else. Not to mention PBL could be used for portfolios etc.

ESL Rivera said...

Standardized tests do not have to be “a lost cause” and they can certainly assess for higher order thinking skills if they are thoughtfully created. Also, test-taking skills are very important to teach to our students since tests are a “necessary evil” in our society. They are more cost-effective and quicker to administer than PBL-like assessments. Just think about the bar exam, professional certifications, etc. They are everywhere as a measure of accountability and/or proficiency.

(Unfortunately, what we've seen in NYC's standardized tests ... especially for 2007-08 are a huge laugh, or insult... depending on who you are.)

But in comparison to project-based learning, tests fall short in their ability to demonstrate a student’s comprehensive understanding of a topic or learning objective. Many more conclusions can be pulled out of observing the process of creating a product, as opposed to tests, which merely measure the end results.

On that same note, it’s important to recognize that project-based learning has a different objective than tests. Again, tests exist to measure what a person knows at a given point. PBL attempts to recreate an authentic learning environment from which students can pull multiple lessons and ideas over a period of time. In this way, assessments can be performed within and throughout the entire length of the project because we all know that students do not learn only from direct instruction. Thus, by design, PBL lends itself to more opportunities for questioning on higher thresholds of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

(Another wonderful aspect about PBL is that it is teacher-created. When can create them with student needs, or tools like Bloom's Taxonomy in our mind. )

Jillsensei said...

This discussion is a valuable one, because most of us are required to use Bloom's Taxonomy in our classrooms, to ask our students to think at a higher level, to ask them to use accountable talk. However, as Lauren (ohkono) said first, some students struggle enough with basic comprehension. We must accordingly differentiate our questioning with our students' abilities in mind.

As for standardized testing, the questions are nominally related to Bloom's Taxonomy. I say nominally because in the context of a standardized exam, our students are given short passages, are not given enough information to truly analyze and assess. Bloom's Taxonomy is related to testing since without understanding what it means to evaluate/examine/ apply/analyze/synthesize/compare/contrast, students would not be able to answer the questions on a test. This past year, in prepping my ELLs for the ELA, I realized that it is a necessary evil to teach our students the vocab of the test.

But in addition to just prepping for the ELA, we truly do want our students to be able to synthesize information about Ancient Egypt, for example. We give them facts and after enough time, our students should be able to complete Level 1 understanding (recalling facts, etc). But more than recalling facts or regurgitating what happens in a book, our students should be able to analyze WHY the civilization fell, or how Stanley's life would have been different. Higher-level questions in Bloom's Taxonomy require students to make connections between pieces of information, and this is what we truly want our students to be able to do. So yes, Bloom's Taxonomy does have value.

Carol Pincus said...

Since I haven’t yet taught and I’m not familiar with the current crop of standardized tests, it’s hard for me to comment on this. However, during one of my observations in a 5th grade pull-out ESL class, the teacher was working with the students on DBQs in preparation for the Social Studies test (if I remember correctly). It was a dynamic lesson, with the teacher pushing the students to analyze the documents and compare one to the other and make inferences. While I don’t know what the DBQ section of the standardized test looked like, this teacher was using her test prep as an opportunity to work toward higher-order thinking.

As a pre-service teacher, Bloom’s Taxonomy is enormously useful to me as a tool that quantifies and ranks higher-order thinking objectives. The concept of “thinking” is such a broad, hard-to-pin-down one, that it certainly helps a neophyte teacher like myself to see how the taxonomy breaks down thinking tasks so I can better plan my questioning and plan my assessments.

Yes, I think it goes without saying that project-based learning has far greater potential to involve students at higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. But, as many of you have mentioned, there must be a great deal of differentiating and scaffolding for different students.

Deirdre said...

Since I teach a self- contained second-grade ESL class, most of the standardidized tests I administer are aimed at determining the students' reading levels, using a palm pilot rather than a multiple chice test. In my opinion, the tests are excessively frequent and also inaccurate to a degree. Bloom's taxonomy was not a consideration in creating these tests. For example, the fluency test is timed so that kids who try to enunciate slowly and carefully can be labeled "at risk" which is discouraging to them and their parents. Shy kids who need confidence the most are often the ones who are the most discouraged. Scores are often misinterpreted by administrators as well. This is bad enough-I'm happy I dont have to deal with some of the state tests I keep hearing about. My colleages and I feel like the time these leveling assessments take would be better spent enjoying reading and working on projects related to reading.
However, I am thankful that my school offers after school NYCESLAT test prep for anyone who want to join. I definately do not think the NYCESLAT is any real practice in higher order thinking at all, but if the test prep takes place after school, then it's not wasting instructional time.
After seeing other teachers' responses, it seems to me that most of the multiple choice style standardized tests the students will be subjected to in the future contain limited use of higher order thinking skills. I liked Alison's comment about the decontexualized nature of these tests. Even if some of the questions were created with Bloom's taxonomy in mind to resemble meaningful higher order thinking, how meaningful and memorable can test questions be?
I think project based learning can be made to align with every level of Bloom's taxonomy in a meaningful way which can also allow for the students' to have some choices so that the project aligns with their personal interests as well. A rubric can be given to the students so they know beforehand how they will be assessed and this assessment can easily be made to cover the higher levels on the taxonomy. As "ohkono" (Lauren) said, scaffolding must occur and student abilities must always be considered, but I also feel that project based learning lends itself very well to students working at their own levels.
One thing I thought about as I did the readings was the question in one of the articles,"Did you ever plunge into a new software program at the application level without going through the knowledge, skills and comprehension levels first?" and I couldn't help but think how this is just like what we are all doing as teachers, so I would definately say the order of the skills is unimportant.

M. Hoffman said...

The items on most of the standardized tests that I’ve seen rank fairly low on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Most, in fact, barely pass Blooms classification of “Knowledge.” This would be especially true of the NYSELAT, where most questions involve strictly recall or literal interpretation. I believe my observations here are very similar to my classmates.

I would like to expand on a comment made by Bob, where he mentions how many tests “climb” the ladder of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I believe this is partially true for the Global History Regents Exam. The multiple choice section tests primarily knowledge and comprehension, the basis for the study of history. The documents require that the students analyze the material and with the stated goal of using them in an argument later. Finally, the essays ask that the student incorporate these documents as well as prior knowledge into a cohesive argument. This would certainly qualify as “synthesis.” Perhaps the test stops short of requiring the student to evaluate, but it certainly doesn’t prohibit it. The test has many flaws, but its general format allows for improvement.

Learning projects are good if they are designed well, and just as poor as any standardized test if they are not designed well. The instructor has the freedom to adapt the project to his students’ strengths and weaknesses. Bloom’s taxonomy is useful in that it may serve as a checklist for project design to ensure that a full range of skills and processes are incorporated. Assessment of these projects is generally more valuable because they ask students to perform realistic tasks. The major difficulty of group projects regarding assessment, from my experience, is how to assess the individual apart from the group.

-matthew hoffman

Mr. Joel said...

It seems to me that it doesn't have to be one way or the other in regards to developing higher-order thinking skills. In other words, I think both PBL and testing offer teachers and students the opportunity to develop those skills.

I think we need to be careful when we quickly dismiss standardized testing. As new teachers, how can we say that our projects are better or more meaningful than a task developed by experienced educators. Granted, test prep may be annoying, but if there isn't the "hammer" of a looming test, would students take any of our projects or lessons seriously?

It is our job as teachers to include the range of skills included in Bloom's Taxonomy in every lesson. Of course, this is easier said than done. I see technology as a great aid to do this because it allows us to easily differentiate and assign tasks based on student level. So whether we are doing test prep or creating a project for our students, I think there are opportunities to use BT to make student learning meaningful.

Ms. Jones said...

Reaching the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy should be the goal of every teacher. As stated previously, the obsession with test prep does challenge us as teachers to meet our adminstrations' mandatory requests and reach students at their level. As Julia H points out, the essay questions do require a synthesis-level response from students. The skills needed to meet this test requirement are not taught in a vacuum of test prep essay responses. Students must be given problem-solving techniques that prepare them to analyze, evaluate and synthesize information.

Born 2B Bloggers said...

Standardized Tests and Project Based learning both include Bloom’s Taxonomy, however that being said standardized test really limits our students with Blooms but Project Based learning uses Blooms effectively.
The reasons I believe this are; the ELA test and other standardized test do incorporate Bloom’s Taxonomy but our ESL students have a lot of trouble with answering these types of questions on these tests. I think that they can answer the knowledge, comprehension type questions but due to the vocabulary that’s too difficult for them, they struggle with the higher levels of Blooms. Incorporating Bloom’s Taxonomy on these standardized tests limits the knowledge that they have.
I believe Project based learning is a better assessment tool which can also include Bloom’s this allows us teachers to see our students learning processes better and at the same time students are more engaged and motivated in these projects, activities. With Project based learning, teachers can assess their students better than a standardized test. This is so important to be able to see what our ESL students are capable of. Project Based Learning is much more effective for our ELLs.

Mike Chrzanowski said...

After reading the articles and reviewing the comments posted by my colleagues, I'm going to take a realist's stance and align myself with Mr. Joel. Standardized tests are here. They may not be here forever and we may see changes and/or improvements to them down the road, but they're not going away any time soon. High stakes testing and performance based school evaluation are part of our profession. I don't necessarily agree with the philosophy behind these trends, but I do think these policies can get results.

If we were to critically evaluate all standardized tests and all PBL experiences through a Bloom's Taxonomy lens, I think that we would find lots of variation amongst both sets of the tasks. There are examples of each that focus on specific levels in Bloom's hierarchy. There are examples of each which cover the whole chain. This doesn't necessarily mean that those tests/pbl's that work higher up the ladder are better, they're just different. I think that kids need to know their times tables, important dates, vocabulary definitions and other "facts". I disagree with the edweek article that you can easily jump to higher levels of the taxonomy. If the student is ready for it, then by all means do it, but most people need a progression.

That being said, do we really expect elementary students to evaluate and synthesize. I know that I personally didn't develop my higher order thinking skills until later in high school and during college. Not that these concepts and ideas shouldn't be introduced to get kids thinking, but might we be expecting a bit too much. Yes, yes, I know that we're told time and again to "set the bar high" and whatnot, but I feel that it's just as important to keep children entertained and engaged so that they'll stay in school long enough to develop these skills.

Now that I've looked over what I just wrote, I think I may have moved from realist territory to cynic territory. Let me take a step back and tie this whole rant together. There are ways that we can challenge our students while still creating engaging and interesting lessons. PBL provides a good framework to accomplish all of these goals.