Thinking of cognitive skills (Bloom’s Taxonomy)

Bloom himself recognized that the taxonomy was being “unexpectedly” used by countless groups never considered an audience for the original publication.

Forehand, M. (2005). Bloom’s taxonomy: Original and revised…


We live in a world where everything is in hierarchical graded. Since we were kids we learn to distinguished ranks, positions, roles, degrees of difficulty previously defined by others and that is how we pass our lives.

In any school organization, for instance, it is easy to recognize the levels of authority (rankings), from the lowest to highest we find: the watchman, the janitors, the secretaries, the assistants, the prefect, the teaching personnel, the academic coordinator and the sub-principal and the principal. Any student immediately recognizes this order and accepts it as normal. However, there might be some other unconsidered scale in this example (?).

Some knowledge, some abilities or skills are considered more difficult than others (even if they are not), and that is the order we follow and respect.

So, to think in hierarchical way is not bad when we live in the West side of the World and this thinking really helps us to conceive a paradigm of working and designing. Models of this hierarchical way of representation have great influence in how we see the world and interpret it, so, they can be useful tools.

It is said we must learn basic things and then grow to make harder tasks. Another example of this was Piaget’s theory, a well-respected one that really helps to understand kids and adolescents.

Maslow’s pyramid of human needs comes as illustrative to consolidate these patterns. In this framework are explained how a person has to fulfill his needs from a basic stage (hunger, cold) passing through intermediate (love, affection) to reach the highest levels (self-accomplishment) and with this a great amount of human behavior have successfully explained.

NO doubt those were magnificent and practical tools for any person who has to deal with people, however we are into an age of constant change and renewal of knowledge.


Almost half a century ago, a group of scholars proposed a hierarchical order to cognitive skills. These psychologists defined plenty of mental activities and categorized them into major groups, each group was assigned to a certain degree of complexity of thinking and like this was born Bloom’s taxonomy.

Bloom was, actually, the chief editor of such study, and it was his name that became much more than famed and praised –at least for three decades-. Bloom’s taxonomy was an attempt to help educational goals by defining the mental skills from a lower stage to the most complex. And this was helpful and accepted many years.

“After almost 50 years, Bloom’s taxonomy is still being used by educators and trainers as a pedagogical tool for the analysis of learning objectives. Originally designed as a method for the development of test questions, the six levels of the cognitive domain (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) have become almost standard in the “learning business.”

Jarche, H (2004). Better than Bloom? Available at: (Visited on Nov. 27, 2012)

Teachers are very far away of being intellectual, scholars or academic people. Teachers (and I am one of them) are more like blue-collar men, dedicated to work in front of students and with lessons plans to help them to manage our classes. So, no matter that a construct like this half a century aged may be into the eye of the storm, it still helps in planning and teaching, it really does.

If we decide to go deeper and find out what are the weak points of this taxonomy here I suggest some ideas to think over it:

·        Categorizing cognitive skills into fields from lower to higher is a more complicated task that it seems. Let us say for instance that some cognitive skills from a lower field may be mixed or reconsidered in the higher levels.

·        Into this taxonomy, how can I include the multiple intelligences theory or the types of learning? Do these theories go together well? Are they somehow related or should be considered from streams apart?

·        The hierarchical structure of Bloom’s Taxonomy simply did not hold together well from logical or empirical perspectives… The structure claimed for the ierarchy, then, resembles a hierarchy.

Marzano, R. & Kendall, J. (2007). The new taxonomy of educational objectives, Second Edition, Corwin/ Sage Publications, p. 9

  • It assumed a rather simple construct of difficulty as the characteristic separating one level from another: Superordinate levels involved more difficult cognitive processes than did subordinate levels. The research conducted on Bloom’s Taxonomy simply did not support this structure. For example, educators who were trained in the structure of Bloom’s Taxonomy were consistently unable to recognize questions at higher levels as more difficult than questions at lower levels of the taxonomy.

Marzano, R. & Kendall, J. (2007). The new taxonomy of educational objectives, Second Edition, Corwin/ Sage Publications, p. 8


Two new taxonomies to keep in mind. The first is Bloom’s updated, the second a more complex proposal…

New Blooom's Taxonomy

A new taxonomy of cognitive skills


Marzano, R. & Kendall, J. (2007). The new taxonomy of educational objectives, Second Edition, Corwin/ Sage Publications, p. 14


About zavalatkt

The sudden pain of losing all I know I’m scared to dream, I hear me scream (sorry, nothing else came to my mind!)
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One Response to Thinking of cognitive skills (Bloom’s Taxonomy)

  1. Jose,
    Nothing is ever as clear as it might be when we try to categorize and pigeon hole concepts. First of all, they are only concepts. Second of all, everyone interprets them according to their prior knowledge and personal experience; in other words, everyone sees a concept differently. So, when we work with the taxonomy, new, revised or revamped, it is interesting to see the graduating shades and nuances of difference between each level as each person interprets the categorization. What is outstanding to me is that the more meta-cognitive each activity becomes, the more we learn, become critical thinkers, and question our world. And isn’t that what we want…?

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