Bloom’s Taxonomy – say it ain’t so!!!

With the Common Core continuing to creep deeper and deeper into the curriculum of almost every state in the US, I find myself digger deeper and deeper into my bag of tricks to support teachers and their students as they begin to unpack and revamp standards that push students in newer more challenging ways.  As I continue to look for new ways to support teachers in implementing the Common Core, I continue to push further and further from Bloom’s Taxonomy.

I can’t help but find that the pyramid that so many people look does not promote the higher cognitive levels of thinking that Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge does.  And while many may challenge me on this statement – lets pose it in the form of a question that you could pose to your students for an AIM.

Create an assessment you could give your classmates on World War II  

(the topic of the assessment could be anything but for the sake of this post, I will use WWII)

This project engages the students in a high level of cognitive thinking.  Your are assuming in the completion of this assignment that the students will have enough of the domain knowledge to develop questions that relate to World War II.  You also assume they have the background knowledge needed to develop an assessment or know where to get it.  This also means that they need to know test formats,  grammar, spelling, and conventions to develop the questions and answers and be ready to determine if answers are right.

The project, one that applies the adage that if you can teach something then you truly understand it, is a great one to push your students to complete to assess how much they know about a given topic.  However when you look at it from the Bloom’s Taxonomy the pyramid (or wheel) depending on what version of Bloom’s you look at  “create” is not even included as a form of thinking;


But creating something is such an important aspect to education even from the very early beginnings of our education careers.  Think about it, you ask a kindergartener to create a picture of a house, you are asking a student comprehend the question, to apply their knowledge of what their house looks like, analyze the crayons to determine the best color choice, evaluate the paper to figure out proportions and shapes to create the house and then finally create it.  This process is similar to students developing a test on World War II like the question above asks.  The problem with the pyramid is that the majority of the thinking is done in the lowest levels or the largest part of the triangle.  Yet with the Common Core the expectation is that students should be focusing much of their day-to-day learning in the areas of the pyramid that are the often the least touched because too much time is spent in the lower areas of cognitive thinking with rote learning – something the Common Core challenges on every level.

It is hard to argue that the creation of something is one of the highest forms of cognitive thinking and applies all forms of thinking at one time, much like Depth of Knowledge assumes a student must do.  Thinking is complex, especially when it involves engaging students on a higher level.  Depth of Knowledge assumes that as an educator you are engaging students in multi-faceted thinking, taping into those higher levels.  When you look at the wheel, it is continuous, spiraling around;

Depth of Knowledge


Students asked to “create” an assessment would be expected to apply thinking to all areas of the wheel pushing their thinking to the highest level.  They must apply lower levels of cognitive engagement to build upon each other and foster the highest levels of thinking.

Look at the two charts side by side;


While there are similarities between the two, I will continue to believe that DoK pushes teachers to develop lessons which  ultimately engage students and promote higher cognitive levels of thinking.  This is because it pushes thinking rather than doing and when we are thinking instead of just doing it indeed becomes a teachable moment.


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