Friday, January 08, 2010

Benjamin Bloom

A variety of instructional systems theories have had a profound and persistent influence on educational practice in K-12 settings in America. Among the most significant over the past half century have been programmed learning (B.F. Skinner, 1958), instructional objectives (Mager, 1962), conditions of learning (Gagne, 1965), mastery learning (Bloom, Madeus, & Hastings, 1981), and the essential elements of education by Madeline Hunter (1967) in popularizing these instructional theories.

The American Psychological Association created a task force in the 1950's to generate a taxonomy of objectives. Bloom and his colleagues eventually developed three of them: Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor. Chosen to head up this task force Bloom and his colleagues developed the most well known one; the cognitive classification system that is frequently referred to today as Bloom's Taxonomy which is a classification of "the goals of the educational process". It is a hierarchical classification system based on the cognitive processing demands placed on students. A common use of the taxonomy is to support the development of questioning strategies. Though more than thirty years old, Bloom's taxonomy has been used in a variety of settings to analyze objective s, classroom questions, text problems, exercises, and test items. It's value in structuring classroom questions centers on it's hierarchical structure.

As a young cognitive psychologist Bloom studied in Geneva with colleagues Jean Piaget and Reuven Feuerstein. By 1956 he had published his Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for the cognitive domain endorsing instructional techniques that encourages a mastery approach to learning. It called for instructors to vary their techniques based upon the requirements of the learner and to develop means by which the instructor could match the subject matter and instructional methods. Today Bloom's taxonomy is easily understood and widely applied. His teaching methods changed the trends in teaching from instructor oriented to tailoring lessons to the students needs.

In addition to his taxonomy Bloom is also known for his studies on mastery learning and his model of talent development. In his theory Bloom believes, and thorough research has demonstrated, that the vast majority of students can master the curriculum. The key is a change in teaching methods. Mastery learning includes subject instruction, a "pre-test" to determine need for re-teaching, the re-teaching of missed concepts using traditional instruction and peer collaboration, and a final test. For instructors this means:

    All children are expected to master the curriculum, with only rare exceptions. Re-teaching and collaborative work is used extensively to bring all students up to expected proficiency.

    Activities emphasize problem-solving and other "higher-order" thinking skills.

    Students are actively engaged in learning process with frequent interaction and feedback with instructor and / or other students.

    Successful interactions with the curriculum and positive relationships with the instructor should result in increased student self-concept and lead to happier, more productive individuals.

    Bloom, Benjamin S. (1980). All Our Children Learning. New York: McGraw-Hill

University of Kentucky Professor Tom Guskey said this about his mentor, Benjamin Bloom while working with him in 1981 :

    Benjamin Bloom reminds us of the link between expectations and achievement and of the human capacity to accomplish things that were once considered impossible. A wonderful thing about our beliefs, though, is that they can be changed in the blink of an eye, and that once altered, everything that flows from them changes forever.

A humanist, psychologist, and author Benjamin Bloom is best known for being the father of higher order thinking skills that has become known as the standards or outcomes that make up Outcome-Based Education. Often called the father of Outcome-Based Education, Bloom summed up his philosophy when he said, The highest form of intellect is when an individual no longer believes in right or wrong.

There have many successes in my classroom over 25 years of teaching experiences using Bloom's taxonomy and the research over the past fifty years bears his theories out well. Unfortunately, some have jumped on the political correctness band wagon and have confused their opinion with the facts by taking the means of expressing qualitatively different kinds of thinking and calling it 'nothing less than the promotion of socialism.'


Mergel, Brenda. Learning Theories of Instructional Design
Accessed June 7, 2005.

Sparks, Dennis. Expect the impossible
Accessed June 7, 2005.

Worldview, The Revolutionary's Survival Guidehttp
Accessed: June 7, 2005.

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