As a learner, there are few things I have found to be as valuable to me as the model I’m sharing in this article. I didn’t learn of this model until I had completed my undergraduate education. But as a learner, once I explored it thoroughly, I found it to be life changing. I know those are big words but I can’t back down on this. A thorough knowledge of this model changes everything for a learner—no matter their age or education level.
The name of the model is Bloom’s Taxonomy in honor of Benjamin Bloom the gentleman who led the original team of educators involved in the development of the model back in the late 1940s and 50s. Yes, this model has been around that long. It’s one of those things that has been around and known in some circles for decades and completely unheard of in other circles.
Around 2002 an updated version of the model was released but it’s still referred to as Bloom’s Taxonomy. To keep things simple, let’s just call it The Six Levels of Thinking/Learning.
Level One – Memorization
The first level of learning is memorization and requires simply that learners remember and be able to recall or restate information. There is a certain amount of memorization required in all learning. Examples: sight words, vocabulary, and multiplication facts.
Level Two – Comprehension
Comprehension is the next level of learning and requires that learners take what they have memorized and put it into their own words. Young learners spend a lot of their time focusing on comprehension of reading material in elementary school. If you can accurately explain something in your own words then you are operating at the Comprehension level.
Level Three – Application
Once a learner has mastered the content at the Comprehension level, the next step is to ensure they are able to use that information to solve a problem or address a situation. Math is a good example of when the application of content becomes important. Learners have to memorize, comprehend, and then apply the information to be able to move forward in their math curriculum.
Many learners fail to study appropriately at the Comprehension level only to find that they are poorly prepared for a well-written exam written at the Application level.
Level Four – Analysis
The Analysis level is where things get really interesting. At this level learners have to break information down into related pieces and parts. This is the level where learners go from basic thinking to engaging in critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, this is also where some learners are left behind. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Learners who take an exam and feel like there were trick questions on the exam usually stopped studying at the Comprehension level of Application level when they should have prepared at the Analysis level. When you are asked by an instructor to compare and contrast two items you are operating at the Analysis level.
Level Five – Evaluation
Once a learner can take complex information and analyze it, the next step is to begin making decisions regarding the value or quality of whatever it is being explored. Until learners are able to analyze they will not be able to effectively engage in evaluation. Effective evaluation is not possible without thorough analysis taking place first.
Level Six – Creation
At the highest level of thinking and learning it’s all about creating something new by combining the information learned while studying at the previous levels of the model. Operating at this level literally requires you to take what you’ve learned and create something new. You may have guessed by now that this isn’t the easiest thing to achieve. In fact, it takes a significant amount of skill. But it’s extremely rewarding to operate at this level.
Now that you know each of the six levels, I’d like to point out a couple of important notes.
- Each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy subsumes previous levels. Meaning, in order for a learner to succeed at level four of the model they must first succeed at levels one, two, and three. So before a person can successfully analyze they should first understand that content at the memorization, comprehension, and application levels.
- Levels four, five, and six of the model are those all-important critical thinking skills we hear so much about. Learners (of all ages) need these skills to succeed in K -12, higher education AND in today’s workplace.
Seems simple enough right? It really isn’t complicated at all. But then some of the most powerful information out there is often simple in nature. If you approach anything you want to learn with these levels in mind and ask yourself at what level you need to operate in order to succeed—you will change your ability to learn even complex material. AND, being able to learn anything you want to learn effectively has the power to change your life. -cd