Bloom's Taxonomy

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When faculty members talk about goals for students, we often say things like “I want students to know the material,” or “I want students to understand what I have covered in class lectures and discussion.”  When we are able to specify what we mean by “know” or “understand,” we clarify for ourselves and for our students our goals for them.  Bloom’s taxonomy is useful for this effort.  He describes six levels of performance:


Our Goals for Students:


·        Knowledge:  Know specific facts, terms, concepts, principles, or theories.

·        Comprehend:  Understand, interpret, compare and contrast, explain.

·        Application:  Apply knowledge to new situations and to problems.

·        Analysis:  Identify the organizational structure of something; identify parts, relationships, and organizing principles.

·        Synthesis:  Create something, integrate ideas into a solution, propose a plan of action, and formulate a new classification scheme.

·        Evaluation:  Judge the quality of something based on its adequacy, value, logic, or use.


Clarifying Our Goals:

 Bloom’s categories can help faculty members bring greater clarity and precision to our efforts to state outcomes for student learning.


Sample Outcome:  Students will understand the major theoretical approaches within the discipline.


By “understand” we may mean:


·        Students can list the major theoretical approaches of the discipline (knowledge).

·        Students can describe key theories, concepts, and issues for each of the major theoretical approaches (comprehension).

·        Students can apply theoretical principles to solve real-world problems (application).

·        Students can analyze strengths and limitations of each of the major theoretical approaches for understanding specific phenomena (analysis).

·        Students can combine theoretical approaches to explain complex phenomena (synthesis).

·        Students can select the theoretical approach that is most applicable to a phenomenon and explain why they have selected that perspective (evaluation).



Mary J. Allen, Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education (Bolton, MA:  Anker Publishing, 2004, pp. 34-35.