The Benefits of Bloom

image source: Google Images
image source: Google Images

We all know the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but is it really true? Art theorists and philosophers would answer “No, of course not!” and here I quote Dennis Dutton, famous art theorist who stated in his 2010 Ted Talk, “…it’s deep in our minds. It’s a gift handed down from the intelligent skills and rich emotional lives of our most ancient ancestors.” In other words, the experience of beauty is not subjective, but quite objective. There are clear guidelines or criteria to what constitutes beauty for all of us, based on our genetic pre-disposition.

Teaching: Art or Science?

Now, how about this expression:“Teaching is an art form”. As teachers, we have all heard this opinion expressed and there may be some truth to it, but if this expression was entirely true, there would be no such thing as educational science. Is teaching efficacy subjective? When considering different disciplines, student demographics, time of day, and type of course, it becomes clear that there will always be a subjective element to teaching. But, to call teaching an “art” is to deny that it can be objectively analyzed, evaluated and improved based on scientifically grounded criteria.

The Science of Teaching and Learning

I believe teaching and learning is a science. I would also posit, that similar to our appreciation of beauty, effective teaching approaches are already “deep in our minds” and “handed down to us from our ancestors”. Let’s think about this for a moment. How does an infant best learn to walk? Should the infant listen to her parents and take notes? Alternatively, should the child attempt to walk by herself? How does a young child best learn to play soccer? Should he listen to his coach talk about it, or should he get on the field and start kicking that ball? How effective would it be to have our language learners spend an entire class session taking down notes from the board? More importantly, how can we even start thinking about these questions without a clearly defined scientific language on teaching and learning? Luckily, Benjamin Bloom provided us with one in 1956. I personally view “Bloom’s Taxonomy” as the single most powerful teaching and learning tool, enabling educators not only to objectively think about their craft, but also to enhance every facet of it through a deliberate scientific analysis.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s taxonomy targets three main domains: the cognitive,  affective, and psychomotor domains. These basically constitute all of the elements at work when a student engages in learning. The cognitive domain encompasses the mental processes that are engaged when learning. The affective domain considers emotions and well-being and the psychomotor deals with all things in the purview of the reptilian brain, i.e. bodily-kinesthetic motion. English language learning combines all of these aspects. I wish to address the cognitive domain.

Bloom’s Cognitive Domain

Bloom’s cognitive domain ranks all mental processes on a “depth” level. The basic foundational level is “remember”- the simple mental process of memorizing and producing the required knowledge. The next level up is “understand”, which is the ability to explain concepts and their meaning. Next is “apply”, which takes into account that the learner “remembers and understands” and can now “do”. For example, Bob now remembers the simple present conjugation. He understands that the simple present is all about habits, but must now speak using it. This is considered more difficult than conjugating and has a deeper long-lasting imprint on the student. The deeper levels are “analyze”, “evaluate” and finally “create”. These six simple categories encompass any other verb to describe a learning task. Writing a business report would be synonymous with “apply”. Conjugating verbs on a worksheet would be synonymous with “remember”.

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy in your Teaching

The power of Bloom’s taxonomy resides in the possibility of aligning our teaching methodologies with the topic, the learning outcomes, and the students’ needs through a coherent scientific language. If the goal of your course is to get students to talk to one another using basic tenses, this should also be your classroom activity and assessment.

If you are interested in reading more on Bloom, please see:

Do you use Bloom’s Taxonomy in your teaching? Can you share ways in which it has enhanced your planning or teaching?

Greetings to all my TESL colleagues at large! My name is Greg De Luca: ESL instructor extraordinaire, education advisor, program developer, innovative researcher in SLA, progressive rock drummer, amateur novelist, decent critic of fine whiskey – and last but not least, a somewhat dejected father of two princess-obsessed toddlers. Self-glorification and whining aside, my goal as guest blogger will be, first and foremost, to promote discussion about the best practices involved in teaching and learning as well as to provide succinct instructional strategies for your teaching practice. My TESL-ing began in Japan in 2004 after graduating from Concordia University’s Creative Writing program. Upon my return to Canada in 2006, I was promptly hired as an ESL instructor for several government-funded, full-time ESL programs at Champlain College Saint-Lambert in Quebec. I recently took on a new role as Education Advisor after obtaining my M.Ed., where I am helping our teachers cope with the challenges of adult instruction.


2 thoughts on “The Benefits of Bloom”

  1. Interesting article and we’ll written. I don’t believe that teaching is so black or white. There can be gray areas too. I think as humans we like to slot information or methods into nice boxes.

    Teaching can be argued to be an art or science, or both. What ever works! I’ve learned over the years to adapt my teaching style to ensure that the learner reaches their goal.

    The two most important things I learned in life to assist learners was to find out what interests and what motivates them. Secondly, I learned about strategies that work for the individual learner that they can use. At the university level it’s too much information to memorize. Building on an interest or passion and practicing a strategy consistently using as many senses as possible over time allowed the information to be recalled without using memorization at all.

    Thankyou for sharing.

  2. Absolutely! Motivation is paramount. In this respect, doing everything possible to keep the student engaged and learning is so important and yes – there is an element of “art” to teaching, especially when you are in the moment, without over-thinking and things just work out smoothly and effectively.

    However, I wanted to point out that by ignoring the science of education and calling teaching an “art”, we inadvertently dismiss the “self-reflective” practice that every teacher should have. Teachers should be asking themselves, at course’s end, questions like: “what went well today? What didn’t? Why was Ahmed not interested in playing charades today? Was my presentation effective? Were my worksheets helpful? Was group-work enjoyable today?” If we were to adopt a creative or “artful” approach to answering these questions, we would never get an answer. By applying educational science to these questions, we do come up with quite valid answers…

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