Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

Bloom’s Taxonomy & the Deeper Dimensions

bfe0a-bloom(May this readers’ favorite inspire you to think about not only how you take your students but also how the Master Teacher might be trying to take you into the deeper dimensions.)

When I first came to China in the 1990s, I met some students who endeavored to memorize the dictionary. Yes, the entire English dictionary. I recently asked a colleague, who was one of those students, how far she got. “I finished it in three months. I reviewed the following term,” she replied.

Our awe at such grit is tempered by questions about its point. Yet, I wonder how often our students feel like dictionaries in the making. I wonder if we appear to assume that with enough input they’ll eventually spew out the desired information. Input IS important, even foundational. But learning is much deeper than simply ingesting a steady diet of facts, concepts, or rules.

My favorite tool for the deeper dimensions is Bloom’s Taxonomy. It’s old (1956 and then revised about 50 years later)[1] but still applicable. I keep a copy by my computer as a reference and reminder to delve into the deeper dimensions of output and critical thinking. (You can see a chart here: Bloom’s Taxonomy.) Currently, I’m using it in two ways:

  • designing lessons: My Teaching Methodology sessions follow a similar pattern. After a lesson demonstration, we discuss background knowledge (remembering and understanding) and figure out techniques by deconstructing the demonstration (analyzing). Then, students critique ideas (evaluating) and synthesize all they’ve learned into a lesson plan (creating).
  • asking questions: In a Teachers English Corner, whether we’re talking about teaching or life, I guide our conversations with questions that go below the surface of personal experiences. We make decisions about what works and why (analyzing and evaluating) and what steps we’ll take toward change (creating).

Some teachers get stuck at the surface because their students never seem to have enough mastery to move on. However, one of the benefits of moving on is that remembering and understanding are then maximized. In a series of health-related oral English activities, groups of students analyzed the nutrition of common snack foods, gave each other advice, and evaluated their health habits. Throughout, learned vocabulary was reinforced, and new was added, and then all was further processed when they created posters showing how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Processing continued the following week. I had jokingly reprimanded a student for speaking too much Chinese by telling her she owed me some chocolate. The next week, there she stood with a greenish-colored offering in her hands. “Teacher,” she said, “chocolate is high in fat and has a lot of calories, so I brought you this bread instead.”

ff0a3-thinkerAnother benefit of working at the deeper dimensions is that students participate in a learning process that trajects from classroom to the world. Output and critical thinking involve them.  Involvement can pique interest and heighten motivation. These, in turn, feed into more and deeper learning and in the end help learners navigate not just our subject but also the world.

In the meantime, students learn, for school and life, from each other’s ideas. As do we teachers.  In last week’s Teaching Methodology class, at the end of a demonstration using “The Lost Son,” students chose one word to express the meaning of the story. Their answers gave me food for thought: love, understanding, cherish, tolerance, decision, and forgiveness.

Teaching at the deeper dimensions calls for some analyzing and evaluating, reflection on what might stand in our way and why. Are we overwhelmed by how to go there or afraid learners won’t respond? Are we accustomed to being on stage or too comfortable with the sound of our own voice? Do we need to surrender beliefs and humbly attempt something new? The resources below might help. Then, we can turn to the Master Teacher for wisdom. He’s skilled at moving students from a diet of milk to the deeper dimensions of judging good from evil and producing the fruit of a righteous life.

Now, it’s time to create.

(This is a two-part post. Read part 2 here: Bloom’s Taxonomy Plus the Moral Dimension.)

[1]David R. Krathwohl (2002), “A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy:  An Overview,” Theory into Practice, 41:4.

Further reading

What’s your perspective?

  • How do you take learners below the surface of remembering and understanding?
  • What keeps you from taking students deeper?
  • In what ways has the Master Teacher taken you into the deeper dimensions?

Post Author

Melissa K. Smith

Photo Credit: _Hadock_ via Compfight cc

8 comments on “Bloom’s Taxonomy & the Deeper Dimensions

  1. Julie
    June 6, 2014

    I like the examples you gave in the blog, particularly the one about the astute learner who very rightfully analyzed the merits of chocolate vs. bread and expressed her evaluation in the gift of bread! (Did I get those categories right?) It seems like here in the States we sometimes unwisely try and move students to the higher stages of the taxonomy before they have a strong enough foundation in understanding, and while there is surely recycling and intertwining of the different stages, we are lost without the foundation.


  2. Melissa K. Smith
    June 7, 2014

    Yes, that student was a creative analyzer and evaluator although I disagree with her assessment of chocolate, especially if it's dark. Ha ha. I believe you're right, Julie, that in the U.S. remembering and understanding are sometimes skipped in order to get to the “more important” critical thinking levels when all levels are important. No matter what–or who–we ARE lost without the foundation.


  3. Ken Smith
    May 20, 2015

    I will have to examine the concept of taxonomy before I can comprehend all this. But it is challenging.


    • Melissa
      May 21, 2015

      Oh good. I’m glad you’re studying up because I’m writing a book chapter that includes this topic, and I’m hoping you’ll give me some feedback. 🙂


  4. tom walters
    May 21, 2015

    I would like to see the value of positive reinforcement added to Mastery Teaching.
    I assume it is there.


    • LEAPAsia
      May 21, 2015

      Good idea, Tom. Thanks for the suggestion. We will keep that in mind in our planning. In the meantime, check back here on Saturday. We’ll be posting an excerpt from a speech that includes a whole section on encouragement. You might like it. 🙂


  5. Robin
    May 23, 2015

    Melissa, thank you of the helpful links


    • Melissa
      May 24, 2015

      You’re welcome, Robin. 🙂


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This entry was posted on May 20, 2015 by in bloom's taxonomy, critical thinking, Melissa K. Smith, readers' choice, Yahweh's wisdom.



Photo Credit: Eric Fischer via Compfight cc
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