Educators are acquainted with Bloom’s Taxonomy as a set of criteria by which evaluation may be measured. Bloom’s is often presented in a hierarchy of thought processes as follows: lower level thinking includes knowledge, comprehension and application; and the higher level thinking includes analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Recently, a revised version (Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy or RBT) has also become well known, with the stages in the hierarchy renamed as verbs: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating.
Some educators have become interested in the transformative level of metacognition. Adrienne Gear is a well-known writer on this topic, which emphasizes the change or transformation in thinking that happens for a learner during the learning process. I would argue that transformative thinking needs to be added to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Beyond the ability to be uniquely creative with knowledge is the ability to reflect upon the change in thinking one has undergone. Furthermore, as a next step, the ability to articulate the meaning of knowledge should also be added to Bloom’s.
While much has been written about the higher order thinking and the utilitarian purposes of analyzing and synthesizing knowledge, understanding the meaning of knowledge to the individual and to others is a still higher level of thinking because meaning is related to motivation. It is difficult for anyone to be motivated to do something that has no meaning for him or her. Even doing a job simply for the pay provides meaning— that meaning is making a living. The job “means” that a living can be got. If students’ needs as people are intimately connected to their motivation, then the personal and communal meaning of knowledge is integral to learning. As educators often struggle to instill intrinsic motivation in their students, perhaps a rubric based on Bloom’s that includes transformative and existentialist (meaning) thinking will provide the link to motivating students.
In assessment of learning, a section may be included that involves a reflective process in which students articulate the meaning of gained knowledge— for them, and for their community. For example, many students ask for the purpose of studying Mathematics. In other words, what is the meaning of Mathematics for them? Inasmuch as we must assess students’ ability to complete all the levels of Bloom’s when it comes to a concept in Math, we must also model how our thinking has changed due to that concept, and, more importantly, what learning that concept means to them in their personal lives. As a student, I often asked the meaning of the study of Mathematics in general. Typically, a utilitarian answer was given, and it was usually that learning Math was a stepping stone to gaining a good job. However, in later years, I discovered for myself the true meaning of the study of Mathematics: Mathematics teaches us to estimate, to calculate, and among other things, to use deductive and inductive logic. Those are skills I use in making real-world decisions every day.
The practical application of the understanding of the meaning of concepts to students’ lives and to their communities is critical.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Glen Burrill is an education student who has become intrigued by the learning process—in particular, Bloom’s Taxonomy and the role that meaning plays in student motivation.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s May/June 2011 issue.