Challenging Bloom’s Taxonomy – From Learning Spy

Have had a few thought provoking debates recently about the validity of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Yes, that’s right, a challenge to the orthodoxy! I’ve read through a selection of articles which all point to the fact that there is no real evidence base to support Bloom’s theories and worse, thinking in this rigid, hierarchical way can even be damaging! Can it be true?

One criticism is that it can lead to teachers not really thinking through the different categories of thinking skills each time they’re used which lead students to think superficially. Any classification of skills along the lines of Bloom’s can aid critical thinking but only if it is used critically. I guess my concern is that use of Bloom’s Taxonomy has become wholly uncritical in many cases.

Read for yourself:

http://www.onteachingonline.com/the-problem-with-blooms-taxonomy/

http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/2006/09/bloom-goes-boom.html

http://www.performancexpress.org/0212/mainframe0212.html#title3

http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/13602_Chapter_1_Marzano_Final_Pdf_2.pdf

Instead, have a look at the SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) taxonomy which suggests that instead of the well-known hierarchy of knowledge, understanding, application, analysis etc., learning actually goes through the following stages:

Pre-structural, Unistructural, Multistructural, Relational and Extended abstact

SOLO has several advantages over Bloom’s. One advantage is that SOLO is a theory about teaching and learning rather than a theory about knowledge. A second advantage lies in SOLO’s facility in enabling both student and teacher to understand and evaluate learning experiences and learning outcomes in terms of ascending cognitive complexity . Thus, if SOLO is used to design the learning experience and its assessment, then it is possible to design the follow up learning experience at an appropriate level of cognitive complexity in order to challenge yet not overwhelm.

For more detail have a look at:

http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/solo.htm

http://hooked-on-thinking.com/solo-taxonomy/

Interestingly, Prof Hattie says in Visible Learning,

It is intriguing to note that the major revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson, Krathwohl & Bloom, 2001) introduced four similar levels [to SOLO]: factual knowledge,  (how to be acquainted with a discipline or solve problems in it); conceptual understanding (interrelationships among elements within a large structure that enables them to function together); procedural knowledge (how to do something, methods of enquiry); and meta-cognitive knowledge (knowledge of cognition in general as well as awareness and knowledge of one’s own cognition). This is a major advance on the better-known Bloom’s Taxonomy, which confuses levels of knowing with forms of knowledge. 

I’ve added the italics in the last sentence to make the point that even Bloom himself was aware that his original work was flawed. I’ve no argument with anyone using this new revision, but that’s not what gets bandied around in schools. We’re still being asked to swallow something that even the author acknowledges is no longer (if it ever was) fit for purpose.

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How to Flip Your Classroom – and Get Your Students to Do the Work

Peter Pappas » 13 July 2011 » In Ed Tech, How To, Strategies, Students, Web 2.0 »

Recently I shared lunch with colleague and friend, Mike Gwaltney. He teaches in a variety of blending settings both in class and online. We got into an interesting discussion about ways to deliver instructional content and learning process both in and outside the classroom. The conversation quickly turned to the notion of “flipping the classroom.” This is the idea that teachers shoot videos of their lessons, then make them available online for students to view at home. Class time is then devoted to problem solving – with the teacher acting as a guide to teams of students. It’s a great approach that flips the delivery of the lesson to homework – it’s like a TiVo time shift that can reshape your classroom. More about flipping here.

Watch this video to see flipping in action – cool graphics courtesy of Camtasia Studio.

Both of us admired teachers (like these in the video) with the time, technology and talent to do video productions – but questioned how many teachers would be able to morph into video producers. Moreover, with the growing catalogue of free online content – we questioned why a teacher would even want to bother to produce their own online material. As Mike quipped – “why would someone video their own Lincoln lecture – when you can watch Gary Wills online?”

Flip the delivery of the lesson to homework – it’s like a TiVo time shift that can reshape your classroom.

Ultimately, we saw flipping the class as a great opportunity to engage our students in taking more responsibility for their learning. Why not let your students curate the video lessons from existing content on the web? As a follow up to our chat, here’s my seven-step how to:

1. Start slow! Pick a single upcoming lesson or unit that you already plan to teach.

2. Recruit a few of your savviest students to do the research to find existing online video material to support the lesson. They should include a text overview defining what the students should be looking for in the video.

3. Also work with the student team to develop an in-class activity that students will do after viewing the video.

4. Post the video lesson to your content manager. Don’t have one? Just use a free Google website – very easy to embed or link to videos there.

5. Then run the video as a pilot lesson for the whole class. Part of their assignment is to decide what they like (and don’t like) about the each component of the lesson. In other words, they assist in the design of rubrics for selection of videos and integration of the video lessons into a classroom activities.

6. Then repeat step 1-3 until you get a good basis for selection of future videos.

7. Repeat 1-6, as needed, until your students have curated a collection of online content to support your classroom. They would also be responsible for better defining what constitutes “high-quality” online content and how that can be best used to support a more student-centered classroom.

Extension: You might even consider adding some pre-assessment for upcoming units – using a formative pre-test or student self-assessment rubric to let students decide which elements of an upcoming unit need video support. Then based on the formative assessment – assign teams of students to curate online content while you work with them in class to design future follow up class activities. If this process works, think of all the class time you would free up. No concerns of running out of time to “cover” the required material. Instead of class time being filled with the pointless transfer of information from teacher to student, you and your students would have the time to apply and explore the content in a more engaging and project-based classroom. Who knows you might gain so much time that you’ll have the chance to discover your inner Scorsese – and go on to produce your own instructional videos?

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