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Higher-Order Thinking (Analysis; Synthesis; and Evaluation)

Fundamental learning experiences (i.e. Competency-based Paradigms) culminate when students are capable of applying knowledge and skills.  However, higher-order cognitive processes are indicative of three progressively more complex “hierarchical” classes of behavior (i.e. reasoning outcomes).  As presented in the “original” (1956) Taxonomy published by Bloom et.al.; these outcomes are described as follows.

Analysis emphasizes the breakdown of … [the integral] into its constituent parts and detection of the relationships of the parts and of the way they are organized.  It may also be directed at the techniques and devices used to convey the meaning or to establish the conclusion of a communication….  [Analysis entails] … the ability to distinguish fact from hypothesis …, to identify conclusions and supportive statements, to distinguish relevant from extraneous material, to note how one idea relates to another, to … [recognize] unstated assumptions …, to distinguish dominant from subordinate ideas or themes …, to find evidence of the author’s techniques and purposes, etc. (p. 144)  Analysis … may be divided into three types or levels….  [i.e. Elements, Relationships, and Organizational Principles].

Synthesis is … defined as the putting together of elements and parts so as to form a whole [i.e. to constitute a pattern or structure]….  Generally this would involve a recombination of parts of previous experience with new material, reconstructed into a new … integrated whole.  [The] category … provides for creative behavior [i.e. produce and organize original ideas] on the part of the learner.  However, … the student is expected to work within the limits set by particular problems, materials, or some theoretical and methodological framework.  [Although] comprehension, application, and analysis also involve the putting together of elements and the construction of meanings, … these [constituent levels] tend to be more partial and less complete than synthesis in the magnitude of the task. (p. 162)  Three relatively distinct types of products are identified as sub-categories within this class of behavior [i.e. the production of a unique communication, the production of a  planned/proposed set of operations, and the derivation of abstract relations].

Evaluation is defined as the making of [quantitative and qualitative] judgments about the values … of ideas, works [e.g. artifacts, performances, etc.], solutions, methods, material, etc.  It involves the use of criteria [including values] as well as standards for appraising the extent to which particulars are accurate, effective, economical, or satisfying….  Evaluation is placed at this point in the taxonomy because it … involves some combination of all the other behaviors of Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, and Synthesis…. [The process] … is not necessarily the last step in thinking or problem-solving.  It … will in some cases be the prelude to the acquisition of new knowledge, a new attempt at comprehension or application, or a new analysis and synthesis. (p. 185)  Two types of (judgment) are considered (i.e. those in terms of internal evidence and those in terms of external criteria)  Both types must be made in accordance with “distinct” criteria.

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The Potential of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain) “Surprise” Educational Reforms are Possible

The excerpts that follow may be found in the original source material.

Bloom, B. S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals–Handbook 1 [the] cognitive domain. New York, NY: David McKay, Inc.

Historical Perspective 

The idea for this classification system was formed at an informal meeting of college examiners attending the 1948 American Psychological Association Convention….  This meeting became the first of a series of informal annual meetings of college examiners.  Gathering at a different university each year and with some changes in membership, this group … considered the problems involved in organizing a classification of educational objectives….  [Although the members of this cohort (including Benjamin S. Bloom) have accepted responsibility for producing the taxonomy], ‘credit’ for ideas, suggestions, and sound criticism should be distributed more widely among all those who have attended one or more meetings of the group. (pp. 4-5)

[As indicated], this Handbook is truly a group product.  It is the direct outgrowth of the thinking of over thirty persons who attended the taxonomy conferences.  It is based on the work of … test constructors, curriculum workers, and [practitioners].  Several hundred readers of the preliminary edition [i.e. 1000 copies] … contributed criticisms, suggestions, and illustrative materials. (p. 9)

Therefore, “we” ought to think — long and hard — before we reinvent the wheel!  In recent months, I have read several posts which convey an array of confusing alternatives to the “classic” framework (i.e. classification schemes for developing curriculum and subsequent … learning experiences).  It is doubtful that a few misguided (ouch) individuals have conceptualized a more rational approach to enhance the learning experiences of “all” children.  In addition to many misinformed practitioners, I am sure that few political operatives (including those pressing for more testing) possess a fundamental understanding of how the classic framework (i.e. Blooms Taxonomy) may be applied to maximize the outcomes of schooling in a global society.  As described above, many dedicated people worked (for several years) to construct a classification system that “remains” relevant as the 21st century unfolds.  Out of respect for the innovators whom contributed to the 1956 framework, “we” ought to (re)examine the original material “before advocating alternatives”.

The rapid pace of technological change and the growing interconnectedness of communication systems throughout the world necessitates that dynamic curriculums materialize in our schools.  Dynamic instructional programs are considerate of global affairs, indicative of social and workplace requirements and responsive to the needs of students.  Such programs maximize the potential of students by providing them with multiple pathways to success.  Therefore, “we” ought not place an emphasis on prepackaged curriculums (or standardized tests).  Shifting our focus away from “canned” learning by placing our sights (i.e. goals) on educational reforms that perpetuate dynamic instructional programs can be easily accomplished when “all” stakeholders are properly informed about the applications associated with the taxonomy developed by Bloom et al.

Still Reading? — That’s Great!  I shall strive to overcome my weariness and begin framing “our” conceptual doctrine.

We must not rebel against all testing; testing is most appropriate when measuring those outcomes that are associated with knowledge, comprehension, and the application of “essential” knowledge and/or skills (i.e. competencies).  These fundamental tiers of Bloom’s 1956 hierarchical taxonomy are essential pre-requisites to three additional and progressively more complex outcomes (i.e. analysis, synthesis and evaluation) that comprise the classic framework.  Outcomes which align with the latter categories are indicative of “higher-order” thought processes which are enhanced when students engage in independent and/or socially charged learning experiences (which are not conducive to standardized assessment strategies).  Each of these “six” hierarchical categories are composed of several sub-categories which are also organized as hierarchical pre-requisites to those that follow.


… simpler behaviors may be viewed as components of the more complex behaviors….  [So], behaviors of type A [Knowledge] form one class, behaviors of type AB [Knowledge and Comprehension] form another class, while behaviors of type ABC [Knowledge, Comprehension & Application] form still another class [etc.]. (pp. 16,18).

It is essential that “we” conceptualize the taxonomy as being comprised of two distinct (i.e. Dichotomous) halves if we are to comprehend the potential of establishing a contemporary framework for teaching and learning.  As such, the lower three categories of Bloom’s Taxonomy are indicative of learning experiences which are fundamentally Teacher-centered (or Competency-based).  While the latter three categories of this framework are … aligned with Student-centered learning.  Therefore, assessment strategies (including the utilization of performance-based instruments such as procedural checklists) that are aligned with the acquisition of “fundamental” knowledge and skills ought to be employed “until” students can demonstrate that they are capable of “applying” the target competency.  However, “if” our society intends to perpetuate and evaluate higher-order thought processes (which are indicative of progressively more complex applications of knowledge and skills); then, we must sanction strategies for learning (and assessment) that are aligned with the unique characteristics “being developed” by individuals.  Thus, the stage has been set!  We ought to consider the potential of applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to perpetuate a Dichotomous framework for teaching and learning!

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