‘Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.’ John Cotton Dana
A teacher called Bloom suggested a taxonomy (classification) of learning activities. His taxonomy will help you create learning activities that teach a range of skills students will require throughout life. Bloom’s taxonomy teaches us there is more to education than remembering facts and understanding. The taxonomy encourages us to create excellent classrooms where a wide variety of educational activities can take place.
Bloom identified six categories of educational activity:
Level one: Remember: Recall facts and basic concepts.
Level two: Understand: Know why a fact or concept is true.
Level three: Apply: Use what you know in new situations.
Level four: Analyse: Examine methodically and in detail, to explain and interpret something.
Level five: Evaluate: Using many pieces of information to form an opinion or argue a case.
Level six: Create: Produce new or original knowledge, work or things.
- Which of these categories are taught in the Malagasy education system?
- Which categories are not taught in the Malagasy education system?
- Critical Thinking: Why is it important to teach each of the categories? Try to think of an example in life outside of school where skill in each of the categories is important.
Why are skills in the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy important?
Dining in Foulepointe, I ordered rice and sautéed vegetables. It wasn’t an option on the menu, but there was an option of rice, chicken and sautéed vegetables. There ensued a lengthy discussion with the waitress:
Me: ‘I’d like rice and sautéed vegetables.’
Waitress: ‘You can’t have that!’
Waitress: ‘It’s not on the menu.’
Me: ‘Does the kitchen have vegetables?’
Me: ‘Does the kitchen have rice?’
Me: ‘So you can cook rice and vegetables?’
Waitress: ‘No… it’s not on the menu.’
Me: ‘What about rice, chicken and vegetables… without the chicken.’
Waitress: ‘I can’t do that.’
I hope you can see how absurd this conversation is. The waitress was stuck to a rigid set of rules and had no way of thinking creatively and doing something new. Students who lack education, or who are only taught the skills lower down in Bloom’s taxonomy will be like the waitress. But those who are taught skills higher up in Bloom’s taxonomy are more likely to be able to come up with creative solutions to problems. This will help them create new businesses, deal sensibly with hardship etc… Exam scores may also improve as when students don’t know something, they are more likely to be able to work it out for themselves.
The next section of the chapter will deal individually with each level in Bloom’s taxonomy. There will be examples of activities you could do in a class. These examples can be changed to fit your subject.
Teachers Tip! When planning lessons, don’t spend too long worrying about which area of Bloom’s taxonomy a class activity fits in – it can be challenging, and some activities fit in multiple levels. However, do spend time trying to include activities from all levels of the taxonomy.
Level one: Remember
- Give the name of an object.
- Write a cloze passage on the board that students copy and complete. This engages students better than students copying what you write. For example:
Antananarivo is the __________ city in ____________.
Word bank: Madagascar Spain Largest
- At the end of a lesson, students write down the key points from a lesson. Then they pair up and compare their notes with another student.
- Play Fady to revise definitions of words (see the Active learning chapter).
- Give students five homework questions that ask students about the key lesson facts.
This is about remembering facts, words, definitions and equations.
Questions that test knowledge usually have only one correct answer. They look a bit like:
‘What is the chemical symbol for Uranium?’
‘List the names of three towns on the west coast of Madagascar’
‘What happened that caused a change of prime minister in Madagascar?’
Teachers Tip! If students don’t remember important facts, it may be because they don’t know what they need to know. You should point out facts students may need in a course exam, and emphasise the most important ones.
Level two: Understand
- Teach facts, as well as why the facts are true. E.g. Antananarivo is the capital of Madagascar because that’s where Madagascar has always been governed from.
- Ask students to write something in their own words.
- Ask questions that require more than just facts, for example why is a mosquito net more important when sleeping at night than during the day?
- Read a text that contains arguments for and against capital punishment. Then write a list of supporting and opposing arguments.
- Discuss why disassembly and discontent start with ‘dis’.
- Ask students why a lemur is a mammal not a reptile.
- Identify the adjectives in a sentence.
- Translate a text into a different language.
- Use models (discussed in the Active Learning chapter), to help students understand things they cannot see.
- Use images or videos to help students see the things you are teaching them about. Even in a large class, you can have groups watch a slide show or video on a small screen while other students are doing written work. For example, when teaching about Malagasy geography, you should show pictures and videos of different rocks and landscapes from across Madagascar.
- Carry out experiments to find out new information.
- Explain to a partner why untreated water can make you sick.
- Research the difference between different religions.
To develop understanding you should explain why. You should also ask students to try and write something in their own words. Ask students to identify the main ideas, or in languages, ask them to translate.
You may need to work on your understanding of the topics you teach. Be open to being wrong in your understanding. Despite having taught science for many years I often learn new things when I teach.
Level three: Application
Application is using facts and understanding to solve simple problems.
- Solve x2 + 6x – 12 = 0
- Work out how much rice you can buy for 2000Ar.
- Calculate the gain in potential energy when a 50kg man climbs up 20m.
- In the language you are studying, pretend you are in a market, haggling for goods. Work in groups with one person selling and another buying.
- Sketch a map of your school. Sketch means create a diagram showing the important parts – this is more than drawing a diagram the students remembers.
- Make up a puzzle game to revise the ideas from the topic.
- Suggest animals that are reptiles based on their appearance only.
- Have a debate in class.
- Solve problems to do with the subject area.
- Think of other examples of what you are teaching, e.g. ‘Can you think of other examples of words beginning with ‘dis’. Do they fit the pattern?’
- Sort ideas into different categories, e.g. sort shapes into ones with straight edges and ones with curvy edges.
- How should a Christian behave in … situation?
The application of facts and understanding is essential in many jobs. Therefore, it is essential that you expose students to application questions. Like all new skills, students will find application difficult to start with. Application is more challenging than knowing facts and understanding so you can expect students to make more mistakes in this area, and you will probably need to show them how to apply their knowledge.
Level four: Analysis
Analysis is defined as ‘Examine methodically and in detail, typically in order to explain and interpret something’.
- What is the difference
- How is Stella Maris different to Happiness school?
- Compare and contrast (compare = say what is similar. Contrast = say what is different)
- Compare and contrast a lemur and a fish.
- What is the underlying theme of the book?
- Can you explain why … happened?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of private schools?
- Investigate how changing the way rice is grown can improve the yield.
This involves thinking of a way of finding out how changing the way rice is grown changes the yield. You might carry out an experiment with some rice paddies. Or you might read some books written by rice experts.
- Examine how a complex system works, for example the life cycle of the malaria parasite, or an engine.
- What if?
- What if humans didn’t know what we learnt today?
- What would the world be like if humans had as many children as frogs?
- How would Madagascar change if contraception was available to everyone?
- What were the motives behind the presidential coup?
- Why are foreign companies very reluctant to invest in Madagascar?
- What is causing my illness?
- Why has the doctor prescribed me this medicine?
Good analysis is difficult. In many areas, one must recognise that things are not clear cut. For example, different people would come up with different answers to many of the questions above.
Analysis is often taught well through group work, where groups discuss a problem and then share with the class. As a teacher, be prepared to show students how you analyse a problem as they will learn from seeing your thought process.
Teachers Tip! You need to be humble enough to know your opinion may not be the only correct one, and your method may not be the only way to solve a problem! Be open to your students teaching you something, or solving a problem by a different method, particularly in subjects that often seem ‘black and white’ like mathematics and science.
Level five: Evaluation
It has taken me a long time to learn how to evaluate fruit in a market. Malagasy fruit is very different from British fruit, and a trip to the market can be a challenge. Initially I had no idea what the fruit was, if it was ripe, or if the price was right. After making many entertaining mistakes, like buying rotten mangoes, squash instead of papaya and struggling to get jackfruit sap off a knife, my evaluation skills are better… but still not as good as locals!
Evaluation is a skill that is different in each field of learning and is learnt through trying many times and making lots of mistakes. It’s often best learnt by doing it with other people. And like analysis there is not always a right answer to evaluation questions. I like ripe papaya, others like it green.
Many students find evaluation particularly difficult so it’s worth doing these tasks in groups and then giving feedback to the class at the end of a session.
Some ideas of classroom activities you could do are:
- Review a lesson, book or sports game. Say what is good and bad about it and how it could be improved.
- Select the best equipment for a science experiment. Different scientists might use different equipment to do the same thing.
- Suggest how something could be improved.
- Identify subject areas which you find difficult and need to study further.
- Prioritise the responsibilities of government.
- Prepare a presentation about how to solve Madagascar’s malnutrition crisis.
- Rate food sellers near the school using a list of criteria the students produced.
- Have students mark each other’s work.
- Discuss the good and bad points of a certain religious group.
Some types of evaluation are:
- Judge. Judging is when you use the information you have to make a decision. For example judging which argument is correct in a court case. Judge whether all the recommendations of a doctor are correct.
- Select or Choose. Similar to judge, except you are choosing the best thing from several choices… e.g. Select the best teacher for a job, choose the best fruit.
- Decide. Similar still to select, e.g. decide if you should learn English or not.
- Justify. Justify means make an argument for something. For example, justify why the school you teach at is a good school. To answer this, you would give me all the reasons the school is a good school.
- Debate. Debate is like justify, except you are looking at two sides of an argument. For example, debate the reasons for and against the statement that education is worse than it used to be.
- Rate. Give a score to something. For example, rate food cooked by different people.
- Prioritise. Choose from a list the least and most important things. For example, ‘prioritise what you should study’.
- Recommend. Based on your knowledge of a subject make a recommendation. For example recommend a course of action to deal with the cane toad invasion around Toamasina.
- Evaluate. Students could self-evaluate how much they learnt in a lesson and display it to you by using thumbs or fist to five.
Level six: Creating and Synthesis
I’ve been teaching Science, Mathematics and Computer Science for many years. When I came to Madagascar, I was asked to teach some English. I’d never done this before however I was able to apply my teaching knowledge, understanding and skills to create successful new lessons in English.
Creating new things requires you to take existing knowledge, understanding and skills and apply them to something new.
The words in bold are key words to do with creating or synthesis. Many activities at this level will contain these words.
- Students compose a song about the importance of teeth brushing.
- If you were the government, how would you change education in Madagascar?
- Design an experiment to investigate which mug keeps drinks hot for the longest.
- Devise a new way to make learning fun.
- Can you see a solution that will help us train every teacher in Toamasina?
- How many ways can you think of to get from here to Tana?
- Design a new painting of something that you have not seen.
- Write a story about…
- Invent a bicycle for a person with no legs.
- Create a new product. Give it a name and plan a marketing campaign.
- Design a new house.
- Work out some new knowledge based on what you already know. This can be used to great effect in science class if you help students to derive formulae (rather than just writing the derivation on the board), or use their understanding of one thing to predict another.
- Fix a type of machine you have not seen before.
- Solve a problem that requires knowledge and understanding from many topics.
Creating and synthesis can be challenging however they are the most important activities in Bloom’s taxonomy. Creating this course took a lot of time and effort. It’s much easier to deliver an existing course that has been written than a new one.
As a teacher, creating is an important skill to develop. After working through this book, you will have lots of new ideas from which to create new and more successful lessons!
1) What struck you as being important about Bloom’s taxonomy? How will this change how you teach?
2) Create six activities you will use in your classes over the next two weeks. Each activity will focus on a different level in Bloom’s Taxonomy.
This activity might take a long time. Don’t worry! As your teaching becomes more varied and creative, everything will become quicker and more natural to you.
3) Critical Thinking: Why is it important to teach at all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy?