A recent Google search for “Bloom’s taxonomy” reveals over 50,000 hits.
After almost 50 years, Bloom’s taxonomy is still being used by educators and trainers as a pedagogical tool for the analysis of learning objectives. Originally designed as a method for the development of test questions, the six levels of the cognitive domain (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) have become almost standard in the “learning business”.
I used Bloom’s taxonomy about ten years ago, while developing an estimate for the cost of CBT development.
We assumed that the higher the level, the higher would be the cost. With hundreds of performance objectives, we quickly reduced the six levels to three, but I now realise that there could have been many other ways to address the problem.
For instance, in Problems With Bloom’s Taxonomy (PDF) Brenda Sugrue states that Bloom’s taxonomy is invalid, unreliable and impractical. According to Sugrue, the six levels of Bloom’s taxonomy for the cognitive domain ” … are not supported by any research on learning.” Basically the taxonomy was a “best guess” by some knowledgeable educators of the time. The six levels make for nice matrices and provide a simple tool for analysis and evaluation, but Sugrue shows an even more effective way to create a Content-Performance matrix. Sugrue is not the only person who considers Bloom’s taxonomy passé. Another critic of the taxonomy is Robert Lewis [dead link] Professor of Knowledge Technology at Lancaster University.
Unfortunately, old chestnuts like Bloom’s taxonomy stay around longer than they should, because after a while we take them for granted. Every once in a while, it’s good to take a long, hard look at our practices, and make sure that we are using proven methods, and not second-rate tools.
Update: Donald Clark adds to the fire, stating that, “The weaknesses are so strong that it is simply sensible to abandon it altogether.”
Also, Carl Bereiter & Marlene Scardamalia of OISE offer Beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy: Rethinking Knowledge for the Knowledge Age.