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What Are the Steps to Critical Thinking According to Bloom's Taxonomy?

by Michele Norfleet, studioD

Bloom’s taxonomy was first developed in 1956 by a group of educational psychologists headed by Benjamin Bloom. Since that time it has been utilized by teachers in the presentation of curriculum. In 2001, Bloom’s taxonomy underwent some modifications by educators, L.W. Anderson and D.R. Krathwohl. Although these educators changed the vocabulary, the underlying intent remains the same and is still used by teachers to encourage critical thinking and learning in the classroom.

What's It All About?

Bloom’s taxonomy classifies levels and forms of learning from the most basic level of recalling facts to the highest levels of evaluating and creating. When teaching material to students, the higher levels of learning on the hierarchy, which lead to critical thinking, are not utilized until the lower levels are achieved. For example, you would not expect a student to analyze relationships between information until he is able to recall details and demonstrate understanding of the basic meaning of the information.


The first level of learning utilized in instruction, according to Bloom’s taxonomy, is remembering. At this level the learner is expected to recall facts and repeat information. This is a level of rote learning in which the learner answers basic who, what, when and where questions.


At the next level on the hierarchy, understanding, the learner begins to grasp meaning, interpret material and shows a deeper understanding. After reading a passage he can give the main idea of the passage and retell it in his own words. At this level the learner is simply asked to understand what has been presented.


Moving up the hierarchy, the student is asked to use information in new ways by applying what he knows, but is still employing lower order thinking skills. He might draw illustrations depicting a scene from a passage he has read. In math, he might apply his understanding of math operations to solve word problems.


At the next level of the hierarchy, analyzing, the student begins to utilize higher order critical thinking skills in his learning. When analyzing, the student determines the relationship between parts, uses information to develop cause and effect relationships between events, and is led to seek the reasons why characters behave in the ways they do. For example, “Why did Goldilocks run away from the three bears? “


The next step in higher order thinking on Bloom’s hierarchy is evaluating. The student is asked to use his knowledge and understanding about a subject to analyze and assess information and then go a step beyond by explaining why he thinks this is true. For example, if asked “Which vegetable is the healthiest?” the student evaluates facts about different vegetables to make a decision, providing support for his assessment.


The highest level on Bloom's taxonomy is creating, which employs the most complex level of thinking. When creating, the student utilizes all other levels to create a completely new thought or idea. For example, the student might decide what would happen to a character with different circumstances. "What would have happened to Cinderella if she had not had a fairy godmother?"

About the Author

Michele Norfleet is a freelance writer who writes on travel, home and garden and education topics. She has coauthored a handbook for teachers on school-wide discipline and has contributed tips for special-needs students in the basal curriculum for RCL Benziger. Norfleet holds a master's degree from Southern Illinois University and has experience as a special-needs teacher and speech pathologist.

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