As an educational researcher with several years of teaching experience, I’ve often found myself reflecting on my classroom days. What truly makes a lesson engaging? How can we guide our students towards higher levels of thinking and deep understanding?
The answer that has proved time and again its relevance in various eras and contexts, is our teaching approach. The way we design learning objectives and activities plays a colossal part in the success of our teaching. Bloom’s Taxonomy (no it’s not dead) is one of the main educational frameworks that can help you in this regard.
Bloom’s Taxonomy, a classification system of educational objectives, can serve as your compass in the creation of activities that are not only varied, but also cognitively stimulating. Central to this system are Bloom’s Verbs – powerful, action-oriented words that define the kind of cognitive process we want our students to engage in.
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As you know, Bloom’s Taxonomy is divided into six thinking levels. Each level is associated with a set of verbs:
Remembering is the starting point of learning, the initial step in our cognitive journey. It involves the recall of previously learned information – facts, terms, basic concepts, and answers. Without a solid foundation in remembering, all other levels of cognitive processing become challenging. That’s why, as educators, it’s crucial we facilitate the development of this fundamental cognitive skill.
Remembering is associated with a number of Bloom’s verbs each signifying a specific type of recall or recognition process. Some of these verbs include
Identify: Students should be able to distinguish and recognize the relevant information or knowledge. This could involve identifying different parts of a plant in biology or identifying the key components of a story in literature.
Name: This verb requires students to provide the correct name or term for specific information. For example, they might be asked to name the capital cities of certain countries in a geography lesson.
List: Listing involves generating a series of related items or ideas. Students might be asked to list the steps involved in a scientific process or list the characters in a novel.
Describe: It involves providing a detailed account or picture of a situation, event, pattern, or process. Students could be asked to describe the water cycle in a science lesson or describe the plot of a story in English.
Recall: One of the most direct verbs in this category, recall requires students to retrieve relevant knowledge from long-term memory. They could be asked to recall the formulas used in mathematics or recall historical events in social studies.
Memorize: Memorization involves committing specific information to memory, so it can be recalled verbatim later. Students might be asked to memorize multiplication tables in mathematics or memorize a poem in literature.
Other verbs in this category include recognize, retrieve, state, define, repeat, label, outline, match, and select. These action verbs help us, as educators, to design learning objectives and tasks that cultivate our students’ ability to remember.
Once students have established a foundational knowledge through the stage of remembering, the next step in cognitive development is understanding. This level involves comprehension, or making sense of the information. It’s where students begin to process the knowledge they’ve recalled and start to grasp its meaning and significance.
Key to this level are the Bloom’s verbs that represent various comprehension tasks. These verbs help educators to design learning objectives that encourage students to delve deeper into the subject matter:
Interpret: At this stage, students should be able to translate, paraphrase, or interpret information. This might involve interpreting data in a graph, translating a passage in a foreign language, or interpreting symbols in a piece of literature.
Summarize: This verb requires students to condense the information, highlighting the key points. For instance, summarizing a historical event in their own words, or summarizing the plot of a story.
Explain: It involves elucidating ideas or concepts in detail. This could entail explaining the causes of a historical event, or explaining the processes involved in photosynthesis.
Classify: Classification requires students to group items or ideas into categories based on shared characteristics. This might involve classifying animals into different taxonomic ranks, or classifying literary works into genres.
Compare: This verb involves identifying the similarities and differences between two or more items. For instance, comparing two characters in a story, comparing different ecosystems, or comparing historical events from different periods.
Other verbs associated with the understanding stage include paraphrase, illustrate, infer, describe, discuss, predict, and distinguish. Each of these verbs denotes a specific type of comprehension task. By incorporating these into your lesson plans, you can promote a deeper level of understanding among your students.
Once students have remembered and understood information, it’s time for them to put that knowledge into action. This is the stage of applying, where students use information in new situations, solve problems, or carry out some task that requires the application of what they have learned.
Bloom’s verbs associated with the applying stage guide educators in crafting learning objectives that challenge students to transfer knowledge to new contexts. Here are some key verbs and how they can be used:
Apply: As the name of the stage suggests, students should be able to apply the knowledge in a different but relevant context. For example, they might apply the laws of physics to explain the operation of a simple machine or apply a grammar rule to construct sentences in a foreign language.
Demonstrate: This verb requires students to show their ability to use the knowledge. They might demonstrate how to carry out a scientific experiment, demonstrate a mathematical calculation, or demonstrate a skill in physical education.
Use: Using knowledge implies employing it in practical situations. Students could be asked to use a historical concept to analyze a current event, use a theorem to solve a problem, or use a software program to create a digital project.
Calculate: In subjects like mathematics or science, calculation is a key application task. Students might be asked to calculate the area of a shape, calculate the speed of a moving object, or calculate the probability of a specific outcome.
Solve: Problem-solving is one of the most practical application tasks. It involves identifying, analyzing, and resolving problems based on the knowledge acquired. Students might solve a complex equation, solve a puzzle, or propose solutions to a social issue.
Illustrate: This verb requires students to use examples or diagrams to explain or show something. They could illustrate a concept with real-life examples, illustrate a story with a storyboard, or illustrate data with a graph.
Other verbs associated with this stage include implement, execute, perform, present, and practice.
As students become comfortable in using their knowledge in different situations, it’s time to take their cognitive skills to the next level: analyzing. Analyzing involves breaking information down into its component parts, examining these parts, and understanding how they relate to one another.
Bloom’s verbs that signify the analyzing stage help educators craft learning objectives that provoke students to dissect complex information. Here’s a closer look at these verbs:
Analyze: The very action that defines this stage, analyze involves breaking down complex information into smaller parts for closer examination. For instance, students can be tasked to analyze a poem for its literary devices, or analyze an ecosystem to understand its various components and their interactions.
Differentiate: This verb requires students to identify differences between parts of a whole. They could differentiate between different types of cells in biology, differentiate between multiple themes in a novel, or differentiate between competing theories in social science.
Distinguish: Similar to differentiate, distinguish involves recognizing unique characteristics that separate one thing from another. For example, students might distinguish between the voices of different characters in a play, or distinguish between valid and fallacious arguments in a debate.
Examine: Examination involves a careful scrutiny of information. Students might examine a historical source for its bias, examine a mathematical problem to identify the steps needed for its solution, or examine a piece of art to understand its style and influences.
Investigate: Investigation typically involves a deeper, more systematic examination. It’s about going beyond the surface to uncover deeper layers of meaning or understanding. For instance, students can investigate a scientific phenomenon through a lab experiment, or investigate a social issue through a research project.
Additional verbs associated with this stage include categorize, compare, contrast, dissect, infer, and deconstruct.
The process of analyzing sharpens students’ critical thinking skills, helping them to see the ‘big picture’ by understanding its ‘smaller pieces’. It prepares them for the next stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy – evaluating and creating, where they will judge the value of information and construct new knowledge based on their analysis.
As students progress up the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, they reach the stage of evaluating. This level involves making judgments or forming opinions about the value of information based on criteria and standards. It requires critical thinking and the ability to defend one’s perspectives.
Bloom’s verbs associated with the evaluating stage help educators to construct learning objectives that foster students’ evaluation skills. Here are some key verbs and their implications:
Evaluate: The fundamental action of this stage, evaluate requires students to make judgments about the value of ideas, items, materials, and more. For example, students can evaluate the validity of a scientific theory, the effectiveness of a literary technique, or the quality of a piece of art.
Critique: This verb requires students to provide a detailed analysis and assessment of something, typically in a critical manner. Students can critique an author’s argument in a text, a policy’s potential impact on society, or a musical performance.
Justify: Justifying involves providing sound reasons or evidence in support of decisions, responses, or conclusions. Students might justify their solution to a mathematical problem, their interpretation of a historical event, or their design choices in a project.
Argue: Arguing requires students to provide reasons in support of or against a particular point of view. For instance, students can argue for or against a philosophical proposition, a scientific hypothesis, or a political policy.
Appraise: Appraisal requires a detailed assessment of the value, performance, or nature of a certain item or idea. This might involve appraising a literary work, a scientific experiment, or a social initiative.
Other verbs associated with the evaluating stage include assess, rank, defend, rate, and validate.
At the very top of Bloom’s Taxonomy, we reach the stage of creating. This level is considered the highest level of cognitive processes as it involves generating, planning, and producing new ideas, products, or ways of viewing things. It’s about using knowledge and understanding gained from the previous stages to create something original and valuable.
Bloom’s verbs linked with the creating stage help educators to formulate learning objectives that push students to innovate and create. Here’s more detail on these verbs:
Design: This verb requires students to plan and create something. This could involve designing a scientific experiment to test a hypothesis, designing a building in architecture studies, or designing a program to solve a computer science problem.
Construct: Constructing involves building or assembling something. Students could be tasked with constructing a model of the solar system, constructing an essay in English, or constructing a bridge in a physics class.
Create: The verb that defines this stage, create involves bringing something new into existence. This might involve creating a piece of art, creating a short story, or creating a business plan.
Invent: Inventing requires students to create something new or novel. This could involve inventing a new product in an entrepreneurship course, inventing a new solution to a social issue, or inventing a game for a programming assignment.
Compose: Composing often involves creating something in the medium of words, music, or art. Students might be tasked with composing a poem, composing a piece of music, or composing a portfolio of artwork.
Other verbs that denote this highest cognitive stage include formulate, propose, devise, generate, and plan.
The visual below provides a comprehensive range of verbs for each of Bloom’s cognitive categories. You can use it to help you create learning objectives that align with each cognitive level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. It’s a versatile resource that can help you to scaffold learning tasks and assessments to guide your students on their journey from basic recall to innovative creation.
As we wrap up our exploration of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the multitude of verbs that can serve as stepping stones along the journey of cognitive growth, we hope this guide has equipped you with a rich vocabulary to articulate and design your learning objectives.
Learning is a process and these categories aren’t separate boxes; in fact, they are interlinked stages in a fluid continuum of understanding. Using these verbs strategically in your lesson planning and instruction can effectively scaffold students’ cognitive development from basic recall to critical evaluation and creative synthesis.
Sources and further readings
2. Bloom’s Taxonomy, Vanderbilt University
3. Bloom’s Taxonomy, IOWA University
4. Bloom’s Digital Verbs, University of Louisville
5. Bloom’s Taxonomy, Britannica
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