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Taxonomies of (Six) Educational Objectives

Many educators are familiar with Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.  It arranges cognitive work on a scale from low-order to high-order thinking, and it's a boon for teachers.  It outlines a series of incremental goals, and we aim to move our students upwards from simple knowledge retrieval to complex synthesis and evaluation.

Bloom's Taxonomy has been revised over the years, however.  And these revisions reflect new understanding and educational trends.

Anderson & Krathwohl 
Anderson and Krathwohl offered a variation in 2001, changing nouns for verbs, cutting “synthesis,” and replacing it with “create".  Here was an early sign that education was shifting towards the understanding that using what we learn is as important as simply recalling or manipulating what we learn.

Marzano & Kendall
Five years later, Marzano and Kendall compressed Bloom further and added several metacognitive levels to the taxonomy, acknowledging (or arguing) that education, more broadly, means not only instilling critical thinking skills, but also the internalization of motivation, of process awareness, and of information application--and also the ability to monitor our own thinking and performance.

During this time, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) quietly began offering an assessment framework with its own taxonomy.  All but one of the words they use are new, but the concepts are similar to the other versions, as the colors above show.  (Note: PISA's model isn't expressly stated as a system-wide taxonomy of educational objectives, but is instead included as part of a subset of their work in the area of Information and Communication Technology.)

A quick review reveals a few helpful bits of information:
  • First is that we're apparently only allowed six educational objectives.  Who knew?  
  • But second is that we can see significant overlap between the various models.  
This is extremely helpful to teachers as we plan our courses and design experiences for students.  Is one model right or wrong?  Probably not.  The later models have, however, hit upon the understanding that creative engagement with work best engages students and ingrains learning.

Still, as the people who know our students best, we do well to take what best suits our students, and adjust it to their character, our character, and, as importantly, the content and objectives of our classes.


Bloom, Benjamin, Ed.  (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals; Handbook I: Cognitive Domain New York: Longmans, Green.
Anderson, L. & Krathwohl, D. A. (2001) Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives New York: Longman.
Marzano, R. & Kendall, J. (2006) The New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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