In 1956, a committee of educators chaired by Benjamin Bloom published their "Taxonomy of Educational Objectives." The focal point of this work is known as Bloom's Taxonomy, a framework of objectives used by teachers to guide and assess student learning. Bloom's Taxonomy identifies six distinct levels of learning. Though the levels are most commonly known by their original names -- knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation -- they were renamed in 2001.
By the time they reach fifth grade, many students already have solid foundational knowledge. This level of Bloom's Taxonomy focuses on the ability to recall, or remember, basic facts without needing to apply any kind of understanding or analysis. Recall of important dates, mathematical facts in multiplication and division, recitation of scientific principles and spelling patterns are examples of this skill in fifth grade. Students continue to add to their pool of knowledge in all subjects in order to facilitate higher order tasks in later grades.
The second level of Bloom's Taxonomy asks students to take their knowledge a step further and understand it in context. Students working at this level begin to explain and summarize their own understandings and the actions of others and of characters in literature. Interpreting events and making inferences are crucial at this level. Examples of students classifying, comparing, interpreting and inferring can be seen in all subjects across the fifth-grade curriculum. In most cases, educators spend the vast majority of their time focusing on knowledge and comprehension -- the two lowest levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.
As students begin to perform tasks in the third level of Bloom's Taxonomy, they move away from teacher-driven learning and begin applying their own knowledge and comprehension to particular and concrete situations. Students in this level are executing and implementing their own ideas. They answer questions that ask them to consider how they would solve a particular problem. This application is seen when fifth-grade students conduct science experiments, consider character actions and reactions in literature, offer alternative solutions to historical situations and tackle complex word problems.
Once a student can apply their knowledge to a situation and comprehend what has happened, they can begin to analyze the situation through their own particular lens. The analysis level of Bloom's Taxonomy finds fifth-grade students analyzing the results of their own actions and the actions of others -- both real and imagined. In this level students spend a great deal of time categorizing, comparing, contrasting, organizing and breaking information down into its individual pieces. Working at this level assumes mastery of the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Students who are focusing on analysis look to their teachers for guidance but not for answers.
In the fifth level of Bloom's Taxonomy, the original and revised names and concepts diverge slightly. The 1956 publication stated that synthesis involves the "putting together of elements and parts so as to form a whole.” The newer model names this level "evaluating" and, essentially, flips it with the final level of the original taxonomy -- "evaluation." Sticking with the original taxonomy, at the synthesis level, students are reconstructing their understanding of concepts and events using their own analyzations. In the newer model, students are checking and critiquing the work of others by applying their own analyzations to established truths.
The final level of the original Bloom's Taxonomy has students evaluating and passing judgment on established materials and methods. Students studying American history, for example, might be asked to consider all of the work they have done on the Civil War -- their understanding, comprehension, application, analysis and synthesis of ideas -- and then to evaluate whether or not President Lincoln was justified in sending troops into the Confederacy. The revised taxonomy asks students at this level to perform the same kind of evaluation, but to also generate some form of new knowledge.
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