When Should You Apply the Idea of Bloom's Taxonomy to Guide Your Critical Reading of Arguments?

by Susie Zappia

Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains was developed in 1956 by a group of educational psychologists, led by Dr. Benjamin Bloom. Bloom's goal was to promote more complex thinking in education by focusing on analysis and evaluation instead of memorizing facts. The taxonomy is a six-level description of thinking, which organizes the thinking process from the simplest tasks, such as memorizing, to the most complex judgments about values. The six levels, in order from lowest to highest are: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. All six stages relate directly to how the brain processes new information, but analysis, synthesis and evaluation are most important to critical reading.

Analysis and Critical Reading

Analysis, Bloom's fourth level, is about distinguishing among parts and understanding how they relate to the whole. A good analysis might, for example, describe what social factors are at work in a situation and who in society is affected. A reader might also apply analysis to causes, such as the causes of poverty or obesity. Another use of analysis is identifying patterns of behavior, such as what bullies do. Critically and effectively reading arguments involves asking questions about the material, such as: What are the causes? What evidence is needed to support these claims? What evidence would effectively contradict this claim?

Synthesizing and Critical Reading

Bloom's fifth level involves synthesizing. Synthesizing uses the information read or studied to create new patterns. This might include considering solutions which differ from those offered in the argument. The critical reader will also consider what predictions are indicated by the argument. It is important to connect the information offered in the argument with other knowledge the reader has already learned. The reader should also consider the conclusions reached in the argument. It is worth noting if these conclusions follow from the claims made earlier in the argument and the information provided. Synthesis is ultimately about generating new ideas and applying ideas across disciplines, as well as integrating information from sources.

Evaluation and Critical Reading

Bloom's sixth level is evaluation, the stage at which the critical reader is beginning to formulate his or her own theories or opposing arguments. It is often the stage at which he or she chooses thoughtfully among ideas or positions. The ability to recognize bias also marks this stage of higher-order thinking. Level six is the stage of thinking in which creating occurs, in the sense that the critical reader uses the existing information to construct his or her own argument or position. A critical reader might consider asking, "How would I describe this situation or problem in my own words?" or "What evidence do I have to support my position?"

Putting it Together

Bloom's Taxonomy is an excellent tool for a reader to apply when reading or analyzing complex arguments. For example, analysis is the stage during which the reader is asking good questions that involve "reading between the lines" of what is assumed or not directly covered. Level five's focus on synthesizing is when the reader decides how logic and completeness of an argument. A critical reader should work in level six, finally, upon selecting information from among sources to begin building an argument. Working effectively within Bloom's taxonomy means that the critical reader has achieved the ability to formulate a theory or craft a thoughtful argument.

Photo Credits

  • Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images