Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bloom's Taxonomy vs. UbD

In reading Bloom's Taxonomy 2.0, I quickly thought of posting an alternative that I believe is more representative of how one learns today. The taxonomy revision (i.e., relabeling, changing nouns to verbs, etc.) does little to change how it's being used in the classroom: mainly to establish pre-determined outcomes. For example, many course objectives are expressed as the following: "By the end of the course the learner will be able to apply this, or analyze that, etc. Since the new taxonomy is still hierarchical, teachers, I feel, still tend to think linear in that they begin considering the lower order of thinking skills first.

Churches (2009) answers the following question:

Is it important where you start? Must I start with remembering?

I don't think it is. The learning can start at any point, but inherent in that learning is going to be the prior elements and stages.

But in practice, I wonder how much of the lower levels of the taxonomy are explicitly being taught in the classroom, and how much the learner actually brings to the learning experience on their own (either through prior experiences or through the classroom experience itself). Also, is it possible to develop "prior elements" (i.e., "remembering" and "understanding") at the same time as developing "later elements", such as "evaluating" and "creating"?

An alternative that is more conducive to learning as an emergent phenomenon, based more on chaos theory is Wiggins and McTighe's (2005) notion of building understandings, a term quite different than the way the term is being defined in the new taxonomy. Understandings are expressed in terms of "six facets":

With this alternative, objectives are stated in terms of understandings whereby the teacher facilitates the development of these six facets according to the teaching context. In other words, learners gain understandings (i.e., information and ideas that relate to the learner) through their own personal journey that is certain to be unique for each individual.

Take the following understanding for example, often seen in a thematic unit on friendship in a foreign language class: Learners will understand that friendship requires give and take. Imagine how learners can provide their own understanding of what constitutes a friendship without working typically through a hierarchical process that adheres solely to the cognitive domain. The empathy facet, for example, includes an affective aspect of learning and is seen as just as important as being able to explain, apply, interpret, etc. Understandings thus become the cultivation of six, equal, aspects of learning that emerge from the learning experience as opposed to being dictated to the learner on the first day of class.