“…discuss the value of taxonomies for defining student learning, with specific examples from your subject area.”
In education–as in any other intellectual endeavor–taxonomies are a tool that, like any other tool, may be useful or damaging. I’m convinced that, because taxonomies are fundamentally a description of relationships, humans have likely been creating them for tens of thousands of years. But we have evidence that they go back at least 5000 years. Obviously taxonomies must have value as a utility.
Bloom’s Taxonomy, for example, is obviously a useful, interesting tool based on its longevity alone. Coming to the educational party 40 years later, I can’t tell whether Bloom’s Taxonomy is just so accurate and sensible that it melds with our natural way of thinking about education or if it has become so pervasive that it has subtly insinuated itself into–and become a central driver for–our thinking.
Whatever the case, Bloom’s idea is a productive way of considering educational goals. Looking at curriculum and objectives and activities through the lens of Bloom’s Taxonomy can reveal what is missing, what is under- (or over-) emphasized, opportunities for growth, and much more.
But Bloom’s Taxonomy can be dangerous. It is commonly assumed to be a hierarchy (and visualized as such) when it isn’t necessarily so. The heritage of Aristotle’s brilliant classification system for living creatures–and its ubiquitousness in early education institutions–has seemingly implanted the conflation of taxonomies and hierarchies deep in our brains. Assumed to be a hierarchy, Bloom’s Taxonomy is suddenly transformed from an interrelated group of descriptions to a sequence. And where sequences exist, so do educators who slavishly follow them at the expense of flexibility and innovation.
Even if Bloom’s Taxonomy were necessarily a hierarchy, who’s to say how many rungs might be effectively skipped? Who’s to say we can’t just jump into analysis or even creation and let the rest be filled in as part of that process? Why are so many taking part in an intellectual activity (education) convinced that Bloom’s Taxonomy is practically a physical thing, making entry at any point other than the 1st or 2nd run inconceivable? It reminds me of those who build structures in virtual worlds that conform to the physics of the natural world of the creator rather than the physics of the world they are building in.
This goes some way to explaining why I have become enamored of Lee Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning. Fink makes clear that her taxonomy is not a hierarchy, but relational, and that the intersection of each kind of learning has a potential and dynamic of its own (and everyone knows by now that I am a big fan of Venn diagrams). I find this productive approach because it allows for a vast number of potential coordination between kinds of learning and, more significant to this discussion, it lets (requires) that the educator define their own hierarchy and/or sequence based on their specific educational objectives and context.
Following are required elements of my curriculum unit.
“Use of Creative Commons Licenses”
Students will be able to:
- Describe the basic elements of Creative Commons licenses and contrast them with standard Fair Use provisions. (Recollection, Comprehension)
- Interpret fairness/legality of use for given use-case scenarios. (Application)
- Select an appropriate alternative license type for given content/context scenarios. (Synthesis)
- Apply and publish an original creative work using a license appropriate to their explicitly shared needs. (Application, Synthesis)
- Argue for or against the value of alternative licenses in light of the context of education and technology today. (Evaluation)