STUDENT SUCCESS & Bloom’s Taxonomy Explained … What It Means for Student Learning

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 10/23/17, 4/21/22.

When a student is in graduate school, they are expected to “think at a higher level” than they would while pursuing an undergraduate degree.

But how do you define this higher level of thinking?

Thankfully, an educator named Benjamin S. Bloom and his colleagues devised a hierarchal way of looking at learning. They gave the “higher levels of thinking, higher numbers” in a chart called “Bloom’s Taxonomy”  It can be found in the book: Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals (1969).

Here is what I said in an article I wrote for adjunct instructors about this: “Graduate education differs to a degree with undergraduate education in that graduate education tries to foster thinking and application that is “higher” on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning domains.”

So, we as professors are trying to encourage students to think at higher levels as charted on Bloom’s chart of learning.

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To see the difference, look at the words associated with the higher domains, such as “analyzing (level 4), evaluating (level 5) and creating (level 6).”  I think you can see that you can’t be analyzing without comparing 2+ views on the topic. And you certainly can’t be evaluating or creating without looking at 2+ views on each topic.

Therefore as a professor, I give my students a rule-of-thumb in my syllabi that “analyzing, evaluating and creating” in my courses requires a rule-of-thumb use of 1-2 textbooks and 2-3 outside sources for average, i.e. “B-level” work. Therefore a student who scores better than a B would be expected to use 3+ textbooks and 4+ outside sources. Students had told me this rule of thumb greatly helps.

So dig into other views on each topic you’re studying by skimming articles, books and videos on each topic.

To help you do this, I created as a great place to find those articles. You can just “search” for a topic and you will find hand-picked articles I have curated for you because they are relevant to the topics I teach.

For a quick overview see this chart:

Also, skim over this comparative diagram developed by Andrew Churches ( which depicts and compares the varying levels of Bloom’s taxonomy: FIGURE Blooms Taxonomy poster GlobalDigitalCitizenFIGURE Blooms Taxonomy poster GlobalDigitalCitizen

And, here are more ideas that I have posted elsewhere (for students applying for “independent studies”) about how to create research at the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy:

(The following is by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 9/5/17 and is from STUDENT SUCCESS & How to create and receive approval for an independent study at Wesley Seminary. See #3 under the first set of bulleted points.)

Students often request the “independent study”  or IP option as a replacement for a course that isn’t offered within a reasonable timeframe.

However the title “independent study” can be misleading if it gives the impression that the student is going to just independently write up the assignments required in the course.

Rather the term “independent” connotes that a student will “independently” take an existing course syllabus and add to it learning activities that would equal and compensate for a 4-8 hours of classroom interaction each week.

Wesley Seminary provides students a form to fill out for an independent study that includes these stipulations. In the middle of the form are four boxes to be checked regarding additional material that must be attached to the application.

The four checked boxes and attachments indicate what additional learning activities the student has added to the syllabus to make this an “independent” study.

Remember, an independent study does not only mean that it’s done independently. But it also means that the student has “independently” created a course based on the provided syllabus which adds roughly 4-8 hours a week of student work that would have been part of the online or onsite discussion/interaction.

It isn’t hard to do, but an “independent study” does require the same amount of work as a course that has interaction with other students and with a professor. Thus, the student independently creates assignments and learning activities that compensate and equal the amount of time the student would have spent conversing with other students and faculty in a course that was taught live.

Here are ideas a student can use to create the 4-8 hours a week of work that would have been part of the online or onsite discussion/interaction in a live course.

First, remember that during a live course the interaction with students and professor would result in the following benefits:

  1. The student would be learning from other students about different contexts.
  2. From the professor they would be learning about the latest books and articles on the topic.
  3. This student would be operating in the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. These levels would include:

To compensate in an IP, a student might undertake the following ideas based upon the numbered bulleted points above:

  1. The student might interview people from various contexts (this is called primary research, where students go themselves to learn about something first-hand).
  2. The student would independently find and skim tools from the latest articles and books (that otherwise a professor might bring into class discussion).
  3. The student would demonstrate each week that they are evaluating, comparing creating and synthesizing ideas into a new, original plan that is indigenous to the student’s context. Be sure to read more about these higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

You can also download a helpful explanation of Bloom’s Taxonomy from here:

The Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching graphic with an explanatory article are available here: