The Language Fix

A blog for sharing language and learning information


April 2015

Bloom’s Taxonomy – Influences and Implications

Bloom's Taxonomy has been often represented by shapes - such as the triangle and the circle.
Bloom’s Taxonomy has been often represented by shapes – such as the triangle and the circle.

Conventional wisdom in education once held that only some children could be genuinely helped by their educators.  The others were pretty much doomed by their circumstances.  But then along came Benjamin Bloom, who in 1956 published his widely influential, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.  Bloom’s work helped lead an educational renaissance over the next several decades resulting in such things as Head Start and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Starting in the 1950s, research exploded exploring the hows and whys of using structure, individualized attention, and feedback, to give educators the tools to help all children maximize their potential.  Bloom contributed his list of cognitive processes that organized thinking and learning from the simplest (recall) to the most complex (judging or evaluating).  The point was to use the understanding of exactly where a person’s specific knowledge of a topic is to guide further teaching on that topic.  After acquiring recall knowledge of an objective, learning proceeded hierarchically from comprehension, to application, to analysis and synthesis, before ending up at the top step – evaluation.

Of course the taxonomy wasn’t perfect.  Since that time, educational researchers and cognitive psychologists have learned a great deal more about learning, especially concerning the impact of feelings and beliefs, as well as social and cultural influences.  Bloom’s hierarchy came to be seen as too rigidly denying these external factors, while oversimplifying the progression from one step to another, and too strictly separating specific areas of knowledge.  Other researchers, such as Marzano and Anderson have since made their own contributions, helping increase the taxonomy’s relevance and accuracy.  In particular, the skill of creativity has been added to the top level.  Creating specifically involves combining skills needed to generate, plan, and produce things, which are hopefully useful.

Other useful classifications often accompanying the taxonomy include procedural and declarative knowledge, and meta-cognitive knowledge.  Procedural knowledge can be thought of as “know how” knowledge.  An example would be knowing how to tie shoes.  This kind of knowledge, which is greatly helped by actually doing the task, is often seen as the most difficult to teach.  Declarative, or conceptual knowledge, is the “know what” type of knowledge.  This usually involves facts and/or linguistic representations.  This would involve, for example, the verbal instructions of what you do when you tie shoes (First you grab one lace in each hand, then…).  Meta-cognitive knowledge is the “know why,” of knowledge.   Why do we need to learn to tie shoes?  “Meta” knowledge can also be very difficult to teach and to learn.

For more in depth information, check out this from Intel.  Or this from Bloom’s hometown paper.

The Autism Shield

Okay, this is going to be a controversial post with the potential to make a lot of people a lot of mad. But, after much contemplation, fueled by relentless personal experience, I feel very strongly that this is the right thing to do. Today, on Autism Awareness day, I’m going to assert the following position: our society is too aware of autism. And way too often, autism is used to shield parents from what’s actually going on with their children. So, before I get into the controversial part, let me get the facts out of the way. Autism is a real and serious public health issue. While we seem to be getting some better guesses, its causes are still pretty much completely unknown. The best way to treat autism is intense and personally tailored therapy. Autism diagnosis has grown rapidly over the last couple of decades, and more rapidly over the past couple of years. Some of this seems to be due to increased awareness. Some seems due to a yet to be discovered cause. It is not due to cold and non-responsive mothering, which was an early and long ago repudiated suspect. But something else is no doubt going on, contributing insidiously to this recent rise. It keeps happening to me over and over again, and I’m done with merely grumbling to those around me each successive time.

Does this look like something we’re under aware of?

I assess hundreds of children each year, many with multiple types of language delays, and many with concerns of autism. I get several very valid autism referrals each year. I also get several referrals from more borderline cases. What makes identification of all of these autistic kids more difficult, however, is the fact that I also get multiple referrals from parents and professionals alike – and I’m carefully choosing to put this bluntly – who want these children to get the label. Yes, this happens. And inevitably, it hurts all of these children.

The kids vary. Sometimes it’s just kids who are a little “weird.” Sometimes it’s kids with families with a history of known or suspected abuse. Other times diagnosticians will get referrals from parents or family members of a child with a different diagnosis who think that autism is somehow less severe. Sometimes no one knows exactly what’s going on, and so the finding of any label at all satisfies the human need to know. Additionally, I have seen, over my many years, parents emulating the actions of seeking the joining of a friendly and supportive community, not only of parents with autism, but also of community members who give extra care and compassion toward parents of disabled children. I’m sorry, but it happens.   Continue reading “The Autism Shield”

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