There is a commonly used series of levels of learning, called Bloom’s taxonomy [Bloom, 1956]. It is most frequently presented in terms of six levels of understanding, starting with pure recall of facts from memory and culminating with a sufficiently deep understanding to be able to analyse, synthesize and predict. The levels are often described in terms of the verbs which could be deployed in testing achievement on the Bloom scale. Bloom is therefore useful when devising teaching approaches but comes into its own when developing assessment tools such as exams and assignments.
This is a version of the taxonomy for the cognitive domain (i.e. about knowledge and understanding). Bloom proposed other taxonomies, in the affective and psychomotor domains, but they have not been so influential.
Level: Verbs which might be used in assessment
1 Knowledge : count, define, describe, draw, find, identify, label, list, match, name, quote, recall, recite, write
2 Comprehension : conclude, demonstrate, discuss, explain, generalize, identify, illustrate, interpret, paraphrase, predict, report, restate, review, summarize, tell
3 Application : apply, change, choose, compute, prepare, produce, role-play, select, show, transfer, use
4 Analysis : analyze, characterize, classify, compare, contrast, debate, deduce, diagram, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, outline, relate, research, separate
5 Synthesis : compose, construct, create, design, develop, integrate, invent, make, organize, perform, plan, produce, propose, rewrite
6 Evaluation : appraise, argue, assess, choose, conclude, criticise, decide, evaluate, judge, justify, predict, prioritize, prove, rank, rate, select [Bloom (1956)]
Those of us who have been teaching, and therefore writing exam questions, since the nineteen sixties or seventies need to notice that ‘discuss’ is only asking for a level 2 response and ‘compare and contrast’ is still only testing level 4 skills.
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