Using Bloom's Taxonomy

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Bloom edited the work of numerous educationalists over fifty years ago and suggested that learning has levels of complexity. Knowing factual content is the lowest form, then understanding that content, then applying it into a different context. After these three the next three are called 'higher order thinking skills or HOTS'. There is some debate about their order but they are essentially about evaluating, analysing and creating new ideas.

Hundreds of resources exist on the web to use with students but my favouritebloomsisn't a free one, it is on the "teachers pay teachers" site and refers to blooms in terms of thinking signal strength as shown in the picture.

Remembering Knowledge

Basically there is a whole load of material that is in the curriculum and students just need to learn. Despite the fact that we can search so easily now on the web, the amount of lower order knowledge in the curriculum has not really decreased. Computerised records that keep track of the gaps and set multiple choice questions for example are ideal for this low level.


It has long been accepted that understanding is best served through dialogue or experimentation. Collaborative work that encourages students to check understanding with each other and digs a little deeper is important here. Personalisation here is key because the understanding forms building blocks for later development. The good news is that research in the 70s discovered that student's self assessment and peer assessment of their understanding is accurate so asking them if they understand is actually the most efficient method. It also allows you to use 'understanding lines'. You ask people who are certain they completely understand the concept to go to one side of the room and those that don't to the other then you pair them as teachers.


Bloom stated it should be a new context that you are applying the understanding into but stressed that it should be a 'simple' context with just one solution. Exam style questions and computer generated problems work well here. Collaboration can be used as a backup because of the idea of 'cognitive conflict'. This occurs when you try to apply your understanding to a situation and it doesn't quite fit, forcing you to revisit and update your understanding.

Higher Order Thinking

When students reach this stage, the education system internationally tends to serve them very poorly. There are no computerised systems that can assess these skills yet even though some claim to do so, and as teachers we tend to jump in and simplify tasks which normally means we drop them down to the application level. The diversity and creativity at this level is exactly why personalisation is vital. It is precisely because the education systems around the world are attempting to address these skills that personalisation has been thrust into centre stage. Five ideas to consider:

  1. Students need access to self direction to explore HOTS
  2. It isn't a HOT if there is a definite right or wrong answer
  3. Some computer simulations give opportunities to explore HOTS
  4. We need to network much more as a profession if we are to identify and bank ideas for helping students develop HOTS
  5. Peer assessment and peer teaching are the activities that cover more of the HOTsS than any others. We have to train students how to do them by first getting them to use the same techniques for the LOTS (lower order)

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