Friday, March 5, 2010

Bloom's Taxonomy - Cognitive Domain

Benjamin Bloom

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues created a taxonomy of three learning domains, including Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor. The cognitive Domain is what I will primarily focus on for now, and involves the acquisition of knowledge and the development of intellectual skills. There are six levels of behavior; each must be mastered before going on to the next. From the simplest to the most complex, they are:

1. Knowledge – At this level, learners are able to recall data and information.

Key words include: arrange, define, duplicate, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce, describes, identifies, knows, matches, outlines, selects, and states.

2. Comprehension – At this level, learners are able to understand the meaning and interpretation of instructions and problems, as well as state the problems in their own words.

Key words include: classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify, indicate, locate, recognize, report, restate, review, select, translate, comprehend, convert, defend, distinguish, estimate, extend, generalize, give examples, infer, interpret, paraphrase, predict, rewrite, and summarize.

3. Application – At this level, learners apply what they have learned in the classroom to job situations.

Key words include: apply, change, choose, compute, construct, demonstrate, discover, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, manipulate, modify, operate, practice, predict, prepare, produce, relate, show, schedule, sketch, solve, use, and write.

4. Analysis – At this level, learners break down information into components. Then they differentiate between the different parts of the content.

Key words include: analyze, appraise, breaks down, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, diagram, deconstruct, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, identify, illustrate, infer, outline, relate, select, separate question, and test.

5. Synthesis – At this level, learners take course information and make something new with it.

Key words include: arrange, assemble, categorize, collect, combine, compile, compose, construct, create, create design, develop, devise, explain, formulate, generate, manage, modify, organize, plan, prepare, propose, rearrange, reconstruct, relate, reorganize, revise, rewrite, summarize, set up, tell, and write.

6. Evaluation – At this level, learners can make judgments about content based on their own personal values and opinions.

Key words include: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose, conclude, compare, contrast, criticize, critique, defend, describe, discriminate, estimate, evaluate, explain, interpret, justify, judge, predict, rate, core, relate, select, support, summarize, support, value.

So how do Instructional Designers apply Bloom’s Taxonomy? The best way I’ve seen to apply the taxonomy is to use it to keep congruence between objectives, instructional activities, and assessment methods. To be effective, each should address the same level in the cognitive domain.

First you will need to decide which cognitive level your objective falls into. As an example suppose your learning objective is for learners to use shapes in Microsoft Word to create graphics. Assuming that the lesson so far has involved how to create and format individual shapes, the cognitive domain level would be Synthesis because you are asking someone to use what they know (how to create individual shapes) to create something new (a full graphic). Your instructional activity might then involve having learners combine individual shapes to create graphics. The assessment method would be how you determine whether or not the learner has picked up this skill. So for example, in a post-test, have the learners use individual shapes to create graphics.

Written out in a chart it might look like this:

(Click table to enlarge)

Notice how each column involves synthesis level keywords. Having that kind of congruency ensures you are teaching in a way that will allow learners to apply the content. You are also ensuring that you are properly measuring their ability. When you then compare a pre-test to a post-test, you can get a more accurate idea of how successful the training really was. Of course, transfer to the job requires additional effort from us AFTER training is complete. But if learners can’t really do the task by the time they leave training, can we really expect them to do it on the job?

That’s it for Bloom. Next time I’ll dive into Robert Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.


Clark, D. (1999). Blooms Taxonomy of Learning Domains: The Three Types of Learning. Retrieved from:

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