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July 15, 2021 Thursday 01:09:51 PM IST

Bloom’s Taxonomy Not Scientifically Validated’

Teacher Insights

Joana Stella Kompa, Head of Research and Development at University of Oldenburg, Germany had recently published a critique in her blog on Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy still followed in schools and colleges across the world. She argues that the ideas of Bloom had no empirical basis and lacked scientific validation. In a 3-party editorial interview with Dr Varghese Panthalookaran, Director, Rajagiri Media and Sreekumar Raghavan, Editor of Pallikkutam, she puts forth reasons as to why it is time to retire the Bloom's Taxonomy.

What made you take a critical look at Bloom's Taxonomy?

Joana Stella Kompa (JSK):  Recently, I did an online philosophy course at the University of Oxford which was called Theory of Knowledge. What is the epistemological basis of knowledge? I argued that all knowledge is based on social practice and a community of practitioners and it is not about a single learner. When I wrote the critique on Bloom’s, I had two things to consider. We have to understand Bloom's in his context of the 1950's and 60's of individualist America. I would like to have a weighted assessment. It is always easy to criticise from today's point of view but we must appreciate the fact that Bloom emancipated the pedagogy from the behaviourist model and it was a huge advancement in the post World War II scenario. However, the teaching environment is a lot different now. Now we talk about meta-cognitive knowledge, experience, regulation, teamwork, social skills and also intrinsic motivation.

Dr Varghese Panthalookaran (Dr VP):

There is a reason why Bloom’s got ingrained in schools. In 1956, the industry was progressing and Peter Drucker, management guru, posited management by objectives. If objectives are already fixed and if the processes are all made measurable, then it is easy to gauge the progress towards an objective. Something that can be measured can be improved. This spirit of measurement entered into educational understanding, Bloom introduced objectives and measurability that attracted people across the world. But it was giving a false feeling of giving us the right insights into student learning.

JSK:  It was an illusion that a classroom is a laboratory where one can make perfect measurements as in a machine where we give input and measure output. There is a problem with standardized assessment and Norway and Finland have replaced it with competency based assessments.

Why do you feel that Bloom’s is not scientifically validated?

JSK: Teaching is no longer about imparting knowledge. If that were so the teacher could say impart 80% of her knowledge and feel powerful. This is what I told a group of students when I was in China.  Even when it comes to cognitive skills- the very heart of Blooms taxonomy, we see differently. It is not that facts are not important but we have to be able to connect facts with ideas. It is about concepts, it is about processes, it is about methods and methodologies.  It is still important to teach concepts for good knowledge but we have to move into process, understand processes.

As in Maslow's hierarchy of needs-  in Bloom’s there is a base level and everything above it is higher order skills, from basics you go to advanced. It goes in linear fashion-Beginner, intermediate advanced, and after that expert.  However, neurological science says it is not like connecting smaller things and going into bigger, the lower one in the hierarchy of skills can be connected to something higher, mind operates completely differently.  Bloom's Taxonomy is not useful now as pedagogy.

Dr VP:

The illusionary hierarchy of learning was also related to technological advances in history. In ancient times, when printing was not in vogue, imparting knowledge and remembering was important. As knowledge came to be stored in books, it allowed space for application, analysis and syntheses.  Now such processes can also be done by intelligent machines and algorithms. It was found by a Russian scientist after analyzing millions of patents that even there is a pattern in creativity.

JSK:  At the heart of the constructivist theory is what is called the problem. Students have to be given a context, a problem or challenge. And they have to find a solution. It is the skills that have to be learned by the student to solve the problem. It should be considered that it is not the teacher who is challenging the student but the problems. The teacher is acting as a guide or facilitators.

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Sreekumar Raghavan

Sreekumar Raghavan is an award-winning business journalist with over two and a half decades of experience in print, magazine and online journalism. A Google-certified Digital Marketing Professional, he specialises in content development for web, digital marketing and training, media relations and related areas. He is the recipient of MP Narayana Pillai Award for Journalism in 2001 and holds a bachelors degree in Economics and Masters Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kerala University.





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