Creativity or Synthesis? Bloom Revisited 

Roger Wagnerhttp://www.rogerwagner.comshapeimage_1_link_0


This poster is available as both a pdf (2.3mb) and a tiff (19.1mb) file.













Note: This is a draft of a work-in-progress, and as such there are parts still to be written, parts that may be redundant, and deletions of extra material that may be made in the future.


Creativity or Synthesis? Bloom Revisited


Classroom activities aren't in Bloom's Taxonomy.  And in addition, it wasn't just "Bloom's Taxonomy", it was a collaborative effort.


Bloom's Taxonomy was originally created as a classification system for the assessment of different categories of learning.  It's worth repeating - the taxonomy was designed to assist assessment, and from that to guide the design of lessons that are more effective through applied pedagogy in light of how they will be assessed.


   


(above: Title and Authors page from "Taxonomy of Educational Objectives")


In the reading of the many discussions of Bloom's taxonomy, it actually becomes more difficult to be able to clearly identify activities and work products as being representative of a given level.  If that is the case, then how can any classroom teacher effectively and efficiently use the system?


Is it possible to describe a simple set of criteria that would reliably and objectively identify the student behaviors that would correspond to categories of Bloom's taxonomy?


Here is a diagram that illustrates the conclusion that I'll be working towards in the discussion that follows:




The overall idea is that there are many different models of learning, whether that is Piaget or Papert, "Project-based learning" or Renzulli's Triad Enrichment model, and that they all describe an underlying fundamental "truth" about how people learn, and how they use what they've learned in solving problems.


The diagram attempts to illustrate that these different learning models are all different views of a basic cycle of learning, and that the categories within that learning process can be assessed with four simple and highly objective tests, those four tests being:




  

Those tests need to be done while being mindful of both the content being taught and the technology that is being used as the expressive medium.  It should also be noted that without the ability to express, none of the categories can be assessed.  Student self-expression is essential for an accurate assessment, and without which, application and synthesis are impossible.


Along the way, we’ll also see that the best educational technology should be that which is the most enabling, the least restrictive, to the learning process, and goals of demonstrating comprehension, application and synthesis.   Technology that limits the student in their ability to gather and organize information, and later to express themselves and represent their research and thinking, is much less effective. 


Ideally, the technology environment should function as a truly enabling tool, presenting as few roadblocks as possible, and in fact leading, encouraging, and permitting the student to do more research, organization and self-expression than would otherwise be possible.


Creativity: Why re-examine it?  Isn't “creativity” just simple and good?


In the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy, "create" is at the top:




Anderson, Lorin W. & Krathwohl, David R. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning,

Teaching and Assessing: a Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy. New York. Longman Publishing.



So, what does it really mean to "create"?


If students use technology to 'make something', are they automatically at the highest order thinking skill, teachers have done their job, and everything is cool?


The dictionary defines "create" as:





Here's a video of an elephant creating a painting:


http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1203547/original_elephant_painting/


Is this "creativity"?  Does this demonstrate the highest level of learning and higher-order thinking?


In fact, maybe the elephant is working too hard.  If "create" just means to bring into existence, then if an elephant barfs on a piece of paper, is it creative?





from http://www.arthursclipart.org/justforkids/animals/elephant.gif


Some might answer, "He is if he's my kid!!", but is there an objective way to be able to assess when "to create" really does represent a higher-order, if not highest-order, thinking skill?



Some Problems with the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy


Here is a chart that was made to help teachers categorize classroom activities according to the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy:






For "Apply", it says "illustrate", but isn't that being creative?  It also says "solve".  But doesn't "solving" require analyzing alternative solutions and evaluating their value to the objective?


For "Understand", it says, "translate", but isn't that just "Recall" of word meanings?  Notice also that the chart doesn't particularly help with assessment.




Here’s another:




From http://www.heybradfords.com/moonlight/files/CV/ProfSampleFiles/CDWS/bloom_revised_taxonomy_fB1-graphic.jpg

This one describes (mostly) student-created products (projects). 


* First off, they've combined Remember and Understand, which to me are categories with a huge distance between them, but let's look a little further...


* For "Remember/Understand", it has "films, books, newspapers, etc.".  It would seem that those are actually "inputs" to the learning process, not products ("outputs").  Maybe we'll have better luck with another segment.


* For "Analyze" it shows "dissect", but isn't a student's first dissection really just a combination of recall (how they were shown to do it) and observing? But "observe" is over there under "Remember". 






Bloom's Revised Digital Taxonomy


In 2009, Andrew Churches proposed additional verbs encompassing digital activities called "Bloom's Revised Digital Taxonomy":


http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/file/view/bloom%27s+Digital+taxonomy+v3.01.pdf


described at:


http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+Taxonomy



    


For "applying" it lists "sharing" as an identifying verb.  Does that mean that passing the answers to a test are application?


Does the fact that a particular form of technology was used indicated a higher order thinking skill?  Would using a 3-color pen indicate a higher level than using a pencil?



Are "Analyze and Evaluation" really separate levels?


Looking further at Analyze and Evaluate raises a question:  Is it possible to do any of the activities that really would be "Understand", "Apply" and "Create" without having to do the verbs that we see used in the process of analyzing and evaluating?






Can you "create" without comparing possible solutions to the project objective.  Can you classify things (seen in "Apply") without comparing?


My view is that analysis and evaluation are particularly required to make the transition between Remember and Understand (Recall and Comprehension), and that analysis and evaluation are an integral part of what takes place during Application and Creation.





Various learning models, from Piaget and Papert, to Renzulli and Treffinger, essentially attempt to explain how the "analyze and evaluate" "processes" work as the learner moves through the different phases, and how to improve the process through an informed pedagogy. 




Create - Is it really that special?   Create vs. Synthesis.


* Looking at this slide from a presentation on Bloom:




(http://www.waynecountyschools.org/147210622111220523/lib/147210622111220523/Revised_Blooms_Info.pdf)


Apparently from here:  Dalton, J. & Smith, D. (1986) “Extending Children’s Special Abilities – Strategies for primary classrooms”  pp36-7


http://www.teachers.ash.org.au/researchskills/dalton.htm


It looks like there is "creating" taking place in most of the activies.  Does that mean that while doing recall we are already "creating"?


Remember that the word "create" simply means, "to bring into existence".


      



By that definition, the elephant barfing IS being "creative", and so is pretty much any classroom activity where a pencil, crayon, brush or scissors touches paper, and pretty much any non-passive (non-consuming) activity that you can imagine on a computer or mobile device.




By contrast (feel free to compare, analyze and evaluate), here is the original Bloom's Taxonomy, which used "Synthesis", compared to the Revised Taxonomy:




Here's the definition for "synthesis", which was used in the original Bloom's Taxonomy:




I particularly like 2b.   :)


Looking at the original Bloom, "synthesis" seems to me to be a more fitting aspiration, and certainly a word with richer sub-meanings than "create".




So rather than this,




I really prefer the original Bloom:




Also, Revised Bloom's uses verbs; original Bloom's uses nouns.  People liked the idea of verbs being an action, but the problem is that a verb requires a measurement of its degree of action.  A noun for the most part either "is" or "isn't".  From a practical standpoint, it's easier to observe something that either "is" or "isn't" in a classroom activity than trying to define an accurate and repeatable measurement system for the verbs that we see on many of the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy charts.



Is it possible that they are all describing the same underlying fundamental process of learning? Is it possible that there's a simple way to identify the most important phases of learning, and demonstrations of knowledge and understanding?




Bloom is about Assessment


What we're talking about is assessment. and in fact, Bloom's Taxonomy was originally created as a classification system for the assessment of different categories of learning.   It's worth repeating that: the taxonomy was designed to assist assessment, and from that to guide the design of lessons that are more effective in pedagogy in light of how they will be assessed.




Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain

Anderson, Lorin W. (Editor)/ Krathwohl, David R. (Editor)/ Bloom, Benjamin Samuel (Editor), David McKay, 1956

   




In reading and researching about Bloom's taxonomy in print and on the web though, the majority of the discussion is about the types of student activities, and to me it seemed that they had lost the point that this was about having a clear description of objective assessment.   In fact, proliferation of other models and descriptive terms made it difficult to actually identify activities and work products as being representative of a given level.  If that was the case, then how can any classroom teacher effectively and efficiently use the system?


Is it possible to describe a simple set of criteria that would reliably and objectively identify the categories of Bloom's taxonomy?


Here is a diagram that illustrates the overall idea this session:


 


It illustrates that there are many different models of learning, whether that is Piaget or Papert, "Project-based learning" or Renzulli's Triad Enrichment model, and that they all describe an underlying fundamental "truth" about how people learn, and how they use what they've learned in solving problems.


The diagram attempts to illustrate that these and other learning models are all different views of a basic cycle of learning, and that the categories within that learning process can be assessed with four simple and highly objective tests.




Those tests need to be done while being mindful of both the content being taught and the technology that is being used as the expressive medium.  It should also be noted that without the student's ability to express, none of the categories can be assessed.  Student self-expression is essential for an accurate assessement, and without which, application and synthesis are impossible.



Four Simple Tests for Four Categories of Bloom's Taxonomy.


To my way of thinking, the larger the number of things that seem to qualify a student response or behavior, the more difficult it is to actually have a clear and objective measure.  The science and math guy in me prefers “water is H20” to a hundred words trying to tell me what water sort of seems to be.





from: http://softchalkconnect.com/lesson/files/8wXSLynRaeBOP6/Learning_Outcomes_Lesson_print.html


What I'm looking for is a simple, objective "test" that can be applied to any student activity or project to discern which of the four categories is (or are) being demonstrated, and that can be reasonably agreed upon by most teachers, observers, and students as being a demonstration of a given level in the taxonomy.


Here is what I've come up with:


 
 



Recall:  “Repeat what was previously read, seen, heard, or demonstrated.”


Comprehension: “Re-express without using what was already read, seen, heard or demonstrated.”


Application: "Solve a new problem with a solution that is already known."


Synthesis: “Solve a problem with combined solutions that are not already known.”


Next up: Example Teaching Scenarios


Click on the link above to see how these four assessment techniques help a teacher structure lessons that lead students to demonstrate the different phases of learning.