As our school division works on AISI project on Critical Thinking (Alberta Initiative for School Improvement), we are focusing on higher level thinking strategies within our classroom. From the time I started university, we have talked about Bloom’s taxonomy and known the importance of higher level questions. Yesterday though, my colleague and friend, Scott Johnston, did a wonderful presentation on assessment. He used a very simple analogy about a pen and how we can look at an object like that and develop our understanding of the different levels of questions. Hopefully I can do his analogy justice.
Knowledge – This would be something simple as “What is a pen? What does it look like?”. Very simple information that just needs someone to have recall memory. This is the lowest level of questioning you can have, but it is often the one we use too much in our classrooms.
Comprehension - Although a step up from the knowledge level, a question for this could be, “What are some uses for a pen? It can be used to write but are there other things as well?”
Application – Now that you know what a pen is used for, how do you use it? With your source of knowledge about the pen, how could you apply this to whatever you need a pen to do?
Analysis – A pen is more than just one part. If you are able to take apart that pen, what is the function of each part? What is each part’s importance and role in making that pen being able to do the task it is used for?
Synthesis -This is where you take other knowledge and apply it to the knowledge that you have of the pen. For example, if you were to write an essay, is the pen the best way to do this or is there something more efficient to use? What are the reasons that something might be better and why would it be for any specific task?
Evaluation - Now looking at the pen and building upon all of the knowledge you have, is the pen the best way to be doing the things that it is currently used for? You have decided that a pen is not the best way to write, but what are the arguments and reasons that you have for coming to this conclusion? You are now sharing a viewpoint with critical points to back up your ideas. This is the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Although Scott explained this much better than I ever could, I still think as educators we look at the topics we are teaching and not only develop questions similar to the ones above, but that we also use simple examples as the pen to explain these levels of questions to our students. Sooner than later we want our students to be able to understand how to create these questions themselves.