Bloom’s Taxonomy for College Instructors

What Every College Instructor Needs to Know

I want to share some advice for creating assignments and writing test questions based on the work of Benjamin Bloom, specifically Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom’s Taxonomy is well known by many academics. However, unless you have studied education and teaching, you may not be familiar with it. Nevertheless, you should be! Recently, I came across a website entitled TeacherVision®. It focuses on the needs of K-12 teachers, but there is quite a bit of information of value to college instructors. In fact, it has given me some ideas for future posts. This site includes useful information about Bloom's Taxonomy. I recommend it to those of you who wish to learn more about Bloom's Taxonomy basics without getting bogged down by the in-depth explanations one would encounter in a scholarly journal filled with highly academic jargon.
As instructors, we all too often focus on what our students know to the exclusion of what they can do. Knowing does not necessarily translate to doing. For example, I know how to play golf, but I don’t play golf particularly well. Why do I bring this up? We all want our students to be able to do something with the information they learn, or at least we should. Knowing, along with comprehending, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating, are the categories of cognitive learning developed by Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues in 1956. As an aside, Bloom is also credited with developing a taxonomy of the affective domain. Bloom was a proponent of something called behavioral objectives. Take a look at the learning outcomes for your course. Good learning outcomes are behavioral objectives. They use action verbs like the ones in the table below. I selected these verbs from a more comprehensive list on the TeacherVision® website, a list created by Pearson Education, Inc. My table provides the top 20 verbs I recommend using when constructing written assignments, explaining project requirements, and writing test questions.

There is nothing wrong with assessing students on what they know. In fact, you should do this. However, if that is all you do, you may be ignoring some of the most important learning outcomes, ones you are expected to help your students achieve. By using verbs like the ones I have provided, you will be able to create richer learning experiences for your students and be able to more accurately assess their achievements.

Verbs Associated With Bloom's Taxonomy

For more information on Bloom's Taxonomy check out Bloom's Taxonomy and Bloom's Taxonomy Basics.

© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

Revised September 11, 2010


About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC). My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students. After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.

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