Appendix C: Taxonomies of Educational Objectives


Taxonomy Information and quotations in this summary, except where otherwise noted, are drawn from Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice, 41 (4), 212-261. Krathwohl participated in the creation of the original Taxonomy, and was the co-author of the revised Taxonomy.

“The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives is a framework for classifying statements of what we expect or intend students to learn as a result of instruction. The framework was conceived as a means of facilitating the exchange of test items among faculty at various universities in order to create banks of items, each measuring the same educational objective (p. 212).”

The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives provides a common language with which to discuss educational goals.

Bloom’s Original Taxonomy
Benjamin Bloom of the University of Chicago developed the Taxonomy in 1956 with the help of several educational measurement specialists.

Bloom saw the original Taxonomy as more than a measurement tool. He believed it could serve as a:

  • common language about learning goals to facilitate communication across persons, subject matter, and grade levels;
  • basis for determining in a particular course or curriculum the specific meaning of broad educational goals, such as those found in the currently prevalent national, state, and local standards;
  • means for determining the congruence of educational objectives, activities, and assessments in a unit, course, or curriculum; and
  • panorama of the range of educational possibilities against which the limited breadth and depth of any particular educational course or curriculum could be contrasted (Krathwohl, 2002).

Bloom’s Taxonomy provided six categories that described the cognitive processes of learning: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The categories were meant to represent educational activities of increasing complexity and abstraction.

Bloom and associated scholars found that the original Taxonomy addressed only part of the learning that takes place in most educational settings, and developed complementary taxonomies for the Affective Domain (addressing values, emotions, or attitudes associated with learning) and the Psychomotor Domain (addressing physical skills and actions). These can provide other useful classifications of types of knowledge that may be important parts of a course.

The Affective Domain

  1. Receiving
  2. Responding
  3. Valuing
  4. Organization
  5. Characterization by a value or value complex

From Krathwohl, Bloom, & Masia. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, the Classification of Educational Goals. Handbook II: Affective Domain. (1973).

Psychomotor Domain

  1. Reflex movements
  2. Basic-fundamental movements
  3. Perceptual abilities
  4. Physical abilities
  5. Skilled movements
  6. Nondiscursive communication

From Harrow. A taxonomy of psychomotor domain: a guide for developing behavioral objectives. (1972).

The Revised Taxonomy
Bloom’s Taxonomy was reviewed and revised by Anderson and Krathwohl, with the help of many scholars and practitioners in the field, in 2001. They developed the revised Taxonomy, which retained the same goals as the original Taxonomy but reflected almost half a century of engagement with Bloom’s original version by educators and researchers.

Orignal vs Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy

[1] Unlike Bloom’s original “Knowledge” category, “Remember” refers only to the recall of specific facts or procedures
[2] Many instructors, in response to the original Taxonomy, commented on the absence of the term “understand”. Bloom did not include it because the word could refer to many different kinds of learning. However, in creating the revised Taxonomy, the authors found that when instructors use the word “understand”, they were most frequently describing what the original taxonomy had named “comprehension”.

Structure of the Cognitive Process Dimension of the Revised Taxonomy

1.0 Remember – Retrieving relevant knowledge from long-term memory
1.1 Recognizing
1.2 Recalling

2.0 Understand – Determining the meaning of instructional messages, including oral, written, and graphic communication
2.1 Interpreting
2.2 Exemplifying
2.3 Classifying
2.4 Summarizing
2.5 Inferring
2.6 Comparing
2.7 Explaining

3.0 Apply – Carrying out or using a procedure in a given situation
3.1 Executing
3.2 Implementing

4.0 Analyze – Breaking material into its constituent parts and detecting how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose
4.1 Differentiating
4.2 Organizing
4.3 Attributing

5.0 Evaluate – Making judgments based on criteria and standards
5.1 Checking
5.2 Critiquing

6.0 Create – Putting elements together to form a novel, coherent whole or make an original product
6.1 Generating
6.2 Planning
6.3 Producing

One major change of the revised Taxonomy was to address Bloom’s very complicated “knowledge” category, the first level in the original Taxonomy. In the original Taxonomy, the knowledge category referred both to knowledge of specific facts, ideas, and processes (as the revised category “Remember” now does), and to an awareness of possible actions that can be performed with that knowledge. The revised Taxonomy recognized that such actions address knowledge and skills learned throughout all levels of the Taxonomy, and thus added a second “dimension” to the Taxonomy: the knowledge dimension, comprised of factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognitive knowledge.

Structure of the Knowledge Dimension of the Revised Taxonomy

  • Factual knowledge – The basic elements that students must know to be acquainted with a discipline or solve problems in it.
  • Conceptual knowledge – The interrelationships among the basic elements within a larger structure that enable them to function together.
  • Procedural knowledge – How to do something; methods of inquiry; and criteria for using skills, algorithms, techniques, and methods.
  • Metacognitive knowledge – Knowledge of cognition in general as well as awareness and knowledge of one’s own condition.

The two dimensions – knowledge and cognitive – of the revised Taxonomy combine to create a taxonomy table with which written objectives can be analyzed. This can help instructors understand what kind of knowledge and skills are being covered by the course to ensure that adequate breadth in types of learning is addressed by the course.

For examples of learning objectives that match combinations of knowledge and cognitive dimensions see Iowa State University’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching interactive Flash Model by Rex Heer.

Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) taxonomy
Like Bloom’s taxonomy, the Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) taxonomy developed by Biggs and Collis in 1992 distinguishes between increasingly complex levels of understanding that can be used to describe and assess student learning. While Bloom’s taxonomy describes what students do with information they acquire, the SOLO taxonomy describes the relationship students articulate between multiple pieces of information. Atherton (2005) provides an overview of the five levels that make up the SOLO taxonomy:

  1. Pre-structural: here students are simply acquiring bits of unconnected information, which have no organization and make no sense.
  2. Unistructural: simple and obvious connections are made, but their significance is not grasped.
  3. Multistructural: a number of connections may be made, but the meta-connections between them are missed, as is their significance for the whole.
  4. Relational level: the student is now able to appreciate the significance of the parts in relation to the whole.
  5. At the extended abstract level, the student is making connections not only within the given subject area, but also beyond it, able to generalize and transfer the principles and ideas underlying the specific instance.

[From Atherton, J. (2005). Learning and teaching: SOLO taxonomy.]