One of the most widely used ways of organizing levels of expertise is according to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Bloom’s Taxonomy (Tables 1-3) uses a multi-tiered scale to express the level of expertise required to achieve each measurable student outcome. Organizing measurable student outcomes in this way will allow us to select appropriate classroom assessment techniques for the course.
There are three taxonomies. Which of the three to use for a given measurable student outcome depends upon the original goal to which the measurable student outcome is connected. There are knowledge-based goals, skills-based goals, and affective goals (affective: values, attitudes, and interests); accordingly, there is a taxonomy for each. Within each taxonomy, levels of expertise are listed in order of increasing complexity. Measurable student outcomes that require the higher levels of expertise will require more sophisticated classroom assessment techniques.
To determine the level of expertise required for each measurable student outcome, first decide which of these three broad categories (knowledge-based, skills-based, and affective) the corresponding course goal belongs to. Then, using the appropriate Bloom’s Taxonomy, look over the descriptions of the various levels of expertise. Determine which description most closely matches that measurable student
outcome. As can be seen from the examples given in the three Tables, there are different ways of representing measurable student outcomes, e.g., as statements about students, as questions to be asked of students (Tables 1 and 2), or as statements from the student’s perspective (Table 3). You may find additional ways of representing measurable student outcomes; those listed in Tables 1-3 are just examples.
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a convenient way to describe the degree to which we want our students to understand and use concepts, to demonstrate particular skills, and to have their values, attitudes, and interests affected. It is critical that we determine the levels of student expertise that we are expecting our students to achieve because this will determine which classroom assessment techniques are most appropriate for the course. Though the most common form of classroom assessment used in introductory courses–multiple choice tests–might be quite adequate for assessing knowledge and comprehension (Table 1), this type of assessment often falls short when we want to assess our students knowledge at the higher levels of synthesis and evaluation.
Multiple-choice tests also rarely provide information about achievement of skills- based goals. Similarly, traditional course evaluations, a technique commonly used for affective assessment, do not generally provide useful information about changes in student values, attitudes, and interests.
Thus, commonly used assessment techniques, while perhaps providing a means for assigning grades, often do not provide us (or our students) with useful feedback for determining whether students are attaining our course goals. Usually, this is due to a combination of not having formalized goals to begin with, not having translated those goals into outcomes that are measurable, and not using assessment techniques capable of measuring expected student outcomes given the levels of expertise required to achieve them.
Note that Bloom’s Taxonomy need not be applied exclusively after course goals have been defined. Indeed, Bloom’s Taxonomy and the words associated with its different categories can help in the goals-defining process itself. Thus, Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used in an iterative fashion to first state and then refine course goals. Bloom’s Taxonomy can finally be used to identify which classroom assessment techniques are most appropriate for measuring these goals.
* For more detailed information on Bloom’s Taxonomy, including background, the original taxonomy, the revised taxonomy, and how Bloom’s Taxonomy should be used in course development, visit Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.