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What we need to do
is learn to work
in the system,
by which I mean that
everybody, every team,
every platform,
every division,
every component is there
not for individual competitive profit
or recognition,
but for contribution
to the system as a whole
on a win-win basis.
W. Edwards Deming
1900 - 1993, American statistician

Teaching critical thinking

Benjamin Bloom (1956) created this taxonomy or classification system for categorizing "competencies" in educational settings, as defined by skills demonstrated by learner type or intelligence.

This breakdown provides a useful, incremental framework of complexity in demonstrating mastery of a subject or topic. The verbs include the skills that demonstrate each:

To know something means to be able to remember or recall facts or bits of information, though one can "know" something without understanding it or being able to put it into a higher context.

This process is illustrated by recall of sequences and lists, of events and dates; landmarks on a route; pictures and their graphic details; songs and lyrics; titles and names; even memorized definitions and explanations. It includes being able to remember to move a certain way, as for an athlete or dancer, or ritualized procedures for greeting and meeting people.

Verbs include: choose, define, describe, enumerate, identify, label, list, locate, match, memorize, name, quote, recall, recite, recognize, reproduce, select, show, state

To comprehend a fact or piece of information is to understand what it means, and be able to provide new examples or instances of the concept. The key is that the learner demonstrate a subject from a personal, internalized perspective, rather than a formal externally driven one.

This process is illustrated by describing or defining words or situations in one's own words, or perhaps illustrating a concept with pictures or words or actions, or describing a main theme or best answer, or rephrasing an idea.

Verbs include: associate, convert, classify, create analogies, diagram, distinguish, draw out, estimate, generalize, graph, explain, illustrate, map, match, outline, predict, relate, paraphrase, relate, restate, summarize, systematize

To apply information means to use it according to principles and rules.

This process is illustrated by being able to derive new examples from principles, as in answering "How" a person would apply what they have learned. For example, being able to add examples from your own life or experience to those studied that demonstrate a principle, or even being able to change a condition and give an example that fits the new situation.

Verbs include: apply, assemble and construct, calculate, change, collect and organize, complete, defend, demonstrate, diagram, discover, dramatize, forecast, illustrate, interpret, make, prepare, produce, relate, show, solve, translate

To analyze means to break information down into the sum of its parts and to see how those parts work together, and be able to organize or place it into meaningful and new patterns or relationships.

This process can be illustrated a number of ways, as in making illustrations that reinforce or detail a story or concept; or acting out a story. A researcher might exemplify with an outline or apply the scientific method to a study, or create a model or plan of an object or building. A writer might detail motives or relationships, or make a distinction between parts or examples.

Verbs include: analyze; arrange, compare, categorize and differentiate, connect, distinguish and contrast; examine, explain, role-play, subdivide, research, disassemble, separate, investigate, subdivide, infer,

To synthesize means to take the knowledge you have and connect it with other knowledge, or putting parts together to form a new and original whole.

Application of this process could research new applications, adapt routine or studied movements into new applications, make stereotypes new and exciting, adapt conventions and rules into new products, take chance occurrences and recognize new applications, see possibilities that skirt dead-ends, draw out incites from people to encourage new ways of thinking and doing.

Verbs include: adapt, create, combine, compile, compose, design, develop, experiment, forecast, formulate, hypothesize, imagine, integrate, invent, originate, plan, predict, speculate, synthesize

Evaluation: To evaluate means to be able to judge whether information or an argument is good or bad? Sound or unsound?

This process is illustrated by defining a set of standards or criteria and applying a situation or instance to them to evaluate whether or not it fits, or detail how it does not.

Verbs include: assess, award, commend, conclude, criticize, critique, debate, discuss, estimate, evaluate, judge, justify, opine, prioritize, rank, recommend, self-evaluate, standardize, support, weigh, value

Curricular guides and resources:

Using feedback in the classroom | Teaching critical thinking | Bloom's taxonomy |
Teaching with questioning | Preparing guided notes |
A curricular idea! | Curricular resources and guides |
Learning Exercises & Games | Exploring learning styles |
Constructing true/false tests | Constructing multiple choice tests |
Constructing essay exams | Cross language resources including digital translators |
Online Learning/eLearning books and resources for teachers