Blog Post: Bloom’s Taxonomy
Author: Kristi Kraychy, Head of School
The most common parent question we encounter is if their child might fall “behind” academically at our school due to our emphasis on projects, outdoor time and playful learning. This genuinely felt parental concern arises from a parent measuring their child against a perceived standard informed from the parent’s own educational experiences (or what a particular government of the time deems important in the standardized industrial model of education). Parents often do not recognize the incredible higher-level skills children are developing at our school. These parental concerns and measures as expressed are related to lower-order level thinking and memorizing tasks because those are the skills the traditional public school system was designed for and it is what we think, as parents, is necessary in order for our children to be “successful”. (‘What is success anyway’ is a blog post for another day).
As a community of educators and parents, we are working to push past the outdated industrial “assembly line” models of education so we can nurture a new generation of innovators, creators and Changemakers. These students know how to self-regulate, be adaptable in learning, be curious, have the ability to understand and analyze academic material, and be able to healthily navigate conflict and complex social relationships. But as teachers, we are only one part of the equation in shaping these future citizens. We therefore believe it is important that we as a whole community also understand the latest research and theories behind how children really learn. One common and well-researched theoretical basis used is Bloom’s Taxonomy which we use when we plan lessons and activities to create deeper and more meaningful learning for most of our student projects and assignments. We start briefly at the bottom of the pyramid, and as each student demonstrates their willingness and abilities, we strive to help them reach the top.
“Education aims to unearth our critical thinking skills so that we can better understand our environment and make decisions that will make it a better place to live… According to Watanabe-Crockett (2018) critical thinking skills is always a challenge to teach and deliver effectively to learners and the best approach is to adopt the Bloom’s taxonomy as the basis of learning. Bloom’s taxonomy is a hierarchical system that categorizes the thinking skills of students.” – London School of Educational Management
To use such a tool though requires more than the mere application of theory. A learning environment has to be supportive of such a theory. The school’s learning environment is its physical premises and materials, its class sizes and its teachers supported by an administration and parent community. Our classroom design and project materials as well as our emphasis on playful outdoor learning is intentionally and deliberately aligned to support best practices in education and help students move beyond the basics. And the selection and ongoing development of our amazingly dedicated and empathetic teaching team is equally deliberate. But this blog focuses on the class size and how it in particular supports the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
The vast majority of our funds (and your tuition) goes towards having a low student to adult ratio. We recognize there are pros and cons with small class sizes from a social perspective. However, if you consider that a traditional school day only allows for approximately 1 hour to focus on a particular subject and even if we only have a class of 10 students, that still leaves just 6 minutes of individual attention per student per subject (and that doesn’t factor in direct instruction to the whole group or getting out materials or the time it takes to get the attention of a group of chatty 8 year olds!). Now imagine how little 1:1 time is available to students in a typical class size of 30 students in other schools! Based on academics alone, the positives of a low student to adult ratio begin to outweigh the negatives, but the smaller more manageable ratio facilitates many other benefits.
Due to our class sizes and a smaller total school population, our weekly timetable can incorporate longer project blocks that allow teachers and students to dig deeper into what they have learned in their foundational skills classes and enables them to move up the hierarchy to higher-order level, more complex thinking. Small class sizes allow the lesson plans to be customized for the nuances of the students making up the class. While designing lessons around Bloom’s Taxonomy is particularly important for our advanced and gifted learners, all students benefit from being challenged to move beyond an otherwise more preliminary, lower order level thinking patterns. The challenges of this learning dynamic within smaller class sizes can also then be better managed to encourage self-regulation, social skill building, critical thinking, dynamic collaboration and exploration based on creative interests. Yes, this higher level learning is messy and hard to articulate and to quantify! While it might be easy to measure (and can be falsely comforting), to send students home with 10 words to memorize for a test the following day or endless worksheets to prove “learning” is taking place, it is simply not going to prepare them for their life as adults in a modern world. It does, however, sacrifice a love of learning and a significant piece of their essential childhood.
Changemaker students’ academic ability to analyze, critically evaluate and collaboratively create will position them well ahead of others in the society that will emerge in the latter half of the 21st century.
“An assessment of the findings of Bloom and his team indicated that more than 95% of test questions encountered by students requires them to think only at the lowest level. As such, the taxonomy was designed to encourage teachers to design instructions that ask students to think in rather increasingly complex ways.
Through Bloom’s taxonomy, challenging questions can be posed to students to ascertain their knowledge as the facts given form the basis of their justification of an answer as well as promotes student’s ownership and sense of power over their education… Basically, Bloom’s taxonomy helps encourage and teach students to make their own decisions not just in a classroom setting but also helps promote life skills.” – London School of Educational Management
References & Read More:
Bloom’s taxonomy. Centre for Teaching Excellence. (2023, January 20). Retrieved February 4, 2023, from https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/planning-courses-and-assignments/blooms-taxonomy
London School of Management Education. (2023, January 9). Bloom’s taxonomy – what is it and how it can be applied effectively to develop critical thinking skills. LSME. Retrieved February 4, 2023, from https://lsme.ac.uk/blogs/blooms-taxonomy-what-is-it-and-how-it-can-be-applied-effectively-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills/
Watanabe-Crockett, L. (2018). Future-focused learning: 10 essential shifts of everyday practice. Hawker Brownlow Education.