A wise educationalist once wrote “When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself.” With this in mind, a useful structure for Computing lessons (and indeed all teaching) is Bloom's Taxonomy. This is a framework that aims to help teachers shift what goes on in a classroom from teaching (giving facts to students) to learning (designing questions and activities that allow students to discover and use information for themselves). Common points raised in lesson observations and OFSTED inspections relate to lessons being too teacher-led, with teachers being too keen to use questions and activities that focus on lower order thinking skills and not keen enough to challenge all students to use higher order cognitive processes. By keeping in mind a simple model of six types of learning when planning your lessons, you can improve your questioning of students and the activities you ask them to do. If you want to read more detail about the background to Bloom's Taxonomy and how and why it helps teachers, there are plenty of online resources but a very useful summary has been produced by the eLearning Guild. You can download it here.
A very quick summary for the busy teacher of what Bloom's Taxonomy is all about.
The following is a very quick summary of Bloom's Taxonomy and it is followed by some helpful, practical prompts you can use. As you look into Bloom's Taxonomy in more detail, you'll find that there is an original model and an updated model. The original model emerged in 1956 and splits up learning into the following six divisions:
1) Knowledge (recall facts)
2) Comprehension (understand the meaning of facts)
3) Application (use the information in a new situation)
4) Analysis (break down information into concepts and reapply in different situations)
5) Synthesis (create something new from concepts)
6) Evaluation (make judgements)
As you go from Knowledge (factual recall) through to Evaluation (making judgements), ever higher cognitive processes are required. Teachers tend to lean towards asking questions and doing activities in the first three bands (lower order thinking skills) and less so in the upper three bands (higher order thinking skills), where students really have to think hard! The model is trying to get you to design your questions and activities across all six cognitive areas, to cater for all pupils' needs and to push all students to higher levels of learning.
This model was revisited following further research and an improved version was released in 2001, some fifty years after the original model came out. This is the model in use today. It goes like this:
1) Remembering (recalling facts)
2) Understanding (understanding the meaning of facts)
3) Applying (using the information in a new situation)
4) Analysing (breaking down, calculating, validation, reorganisation)
5) Evaluating (making judgements)
6) Creating (making new things)
There are some subtle differences. If you want to explore these, you can read about them online or by using the link given to the eLearning Guild's document above.
So what does all this mean for the classroom teacher?
1) When planning your lessons, simply ensure that you think about the types of questions you will ask students and the activities you will get them to do so that you cover all the six areas of cognitive skills identified in Bloom's Taxonomy.
2) The trick is to use a crib sheet. There are thousands of them available online, for example, here.
3) Here is another very good set of questions, done by the Public Consulting Group’s Center for Resource Management, in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (August 2007).
4) Click here for a Word document of a crib sheet, which you can download and modify as you build up your own list of questions and activities.
Many teachers will be using at least some if not all of Bloom's Taxonomy subconsciously anyway but by using this formal framework methodically, you can ensure that you are addressing all cognitive areas. After a while, it all becomes second nature. Good luck!