ETAD, Teaching and Instruction

Turning Bloom’s and My Thinking Upside Down

The Blooming Butterfly poster by Learning Today is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

I recently attended the Saskatchewan IT Summit where I had the privilege to take in a session by Shelly Wright entitled Rethinking Learning.  Shelly shared with us her vision of leaning in an inquiry based, technology enhanced classroom.  The big learning I took from this session was Shelly’s take on the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy.  She simply stated that it was wrong.  WHAT????…..I have been a big proponent of the taxonomy for a long time and here was a person I respect and admire saying it was wrong.  This powerful and succinct statement gave me pause, made me stop, pay attention and listen for her justification.

Shelly went on to say that our  perception has been that we learn by starting with remembering a concept, so that we can understand it.  Then we can apply our learning to new situations, analyze, evaluating and finally at the end use our learning to create. 

But what if…

What if we started with creating?  What if students could start with creativity and end with the knowledge that emerges from their creations?  What if student creations allowed them to evaluate,analyse, apply, understand and finally come to know?  What if this knowledge was driven not by the textbook or the teacher but by the students themselves through the creation process? 

Shelly’s flip has been stuck in my head all week.  It has influenced my thinking and my learning.  It has led me to start rethinking.  Hmmm…what if?

9 thoughts on “Turning Bloom’s and My Thinking Upside Down”

  1. Funny you mention this, because it has been sticking in my head too. I love conceptual models of learning to begin with, and this inversion of Bloom’s Taxonomy makes some sense. If you want to see something interesting, look up Edgar Dale’s “Cone of Experience” from sometime in the 40’s – 50’s. I think you’ll see he was onto the same thing. Old guys rule! 🙂

  2. I also respect Shelley Wright since I had the opportunity of listening to her during the first Reform Symposium…I was just wondering if anyone else notice that if you flip Blooms Taxonomy…you get a rough approach to the scientific method. The first three parts of the scientific method, Ask a Question, Do Background Research and Construct a Hypothesis all follow under Creating. Test Your Hypothesis by doing an experiment would be Evaluating. Analyze your data would be Analyzing, Draw a Conclusion would be Understanding and Communicate Your Results would be new knowledge ergo adding knew data to your memory. Well just throwing out an observation.

    1. Great observation Orlando!! I hadn’t thought of it from a scientific lens but now that I am I think you are onto something here. Scientific inquiry is all about creating knowledge and understanding. I also think that creating first in order to achieve knowledge fits into mathematics especially in primary education. Students use manipulatives to create representations that foster understanding. Thanks for sharing your thinking.

  3. There are two things going on here. It is my understanding that Bloom’s represents the way learning moves from the known to the new. Teachers sometimes (too often , in my opinion) see this learning continuum as the blueprint for teaching, as well. But teaching can start anywhere in the taxonomy. Starting at creativity (the shift Shelly suggests) certainly provides more motivation to learners than beginning with memorization of facts. Still, the learners need to go back to what they know and build upon it.

    From the learner’s perspective, this is a recursive act – creation leads to new knowledge. From the teacher’s perspective, outside the learning event, the initial task can be placed anywhere within the continuum. The teacher keeps in mind, however, that the learner will need to start with what is known and the teacher will need to monitor and mentor the learner throughout the process.

    1. Brilliant David. I knew that your thinking would provide me with another lens in which to think about this. I like how you added two perspectives here…the learner and the teacher. I think that awareness from teachers about where the learning opportunities are grounded is very important. Although I agree it is not a blueprint. Thanks for sharing.

    2. I came to this conclusion independently. However I do think you need teachers to help guide pupils with their evaluating and analysing, otherwise it’s too easy for them to jump to the wrong conclusions, or to be wasting time reinventing the wheel.
      I think we learn by trying new things out. In an intrinsically motivated environment we try new things and then evaluate them. After a few more tries we can analyse then start applying what we think we now know. If all goes well we start to understand our new knowledge and from there remembering is a given. What I think teaching has always (misguidedly) tried to do is short circuit this process and jump straight to simply training people to memorise and apply the knowledge.

  4. A taxonomy is not a ‘recipe’ for going either higher or lower. It’s a system of classification and where most people (=teachers) ‘go wrong’ is in assuming that you have to level 1 then move on to level 2 then… I always believe you should throw everything you can at a learner. Let them flounder about, THEN see where they fall in the taxonomy… So yes, start with being creative, but if Shelly Wright was trying to say that the taxonomy should be used as a ‘process’ then she is just as wrong as you think you were Jenn.

    Find your learner’s level of cognitive development, classifying by using Bloom’s taxonomy if you like!, and then use Vygotsky’s principle of the zone of proximal development to push them towards higher levels… That’s what I’d do anyway!

    Oh, and you also have to triangulate where the learner is in a particular task with what the teacher expects the task to achieve and a method of assessing… Having done one or two presentations on this, I would say that the majority of the other presenters I’ve seen talking about Bloom, or just mentioning his team’s work, basically haven’t got ‘the whole picture’.

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