Tuesday, January 26, 2010

6 Levels of Cognition for Teachers

After a few mediocre lessons I taught at my high school, I finally decided to delve into one of the many mountains of teaching handbooks that was given to me in my orientation for JET, and I think I found a gem that has helped me out lately .

After a bit of searching, I came across "Bloom's Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain," which was developed by Benjamin Bloom in the 1950's to help develop a "classification hierarchy for types of knowledge, cognitive processes, and skills." I'll just go ahead and dive in.

1.) Knowledge
This encompasses observing, recalling data, and knowing information by rote.

2.) Comprehension
This is more about grasping meanings, interpreting information, translating knowledge into a new context, and predicting consequences.

3.) Application
Applying methods, concepts, and theories you have learned into new situations, solving problems using skills and knowledge, and generalizing information.

4.) Analysis
Recognizing patterns, breaking down complex information into components or parts, and organizing information.

5.) Synthesis
Building a more complex idea from a set of components or parts, and organizing information.

6.) Evaluation
Comparing and discriminating between ideas, judging something against a standard or set evidence, and recognizing subjectivity.

So there you have it. Now, for all you teachers, how do your teaching methods address this matrix? When you introduce a new concept to a student, are you forcing their brains to work on all six of these cylinders? If so, they may have a hard time understanding it.

A good example of my mistakes was making Japanese students EVALUATE on level 6 in English right off the bat. My favorite course that I teach is a Language Lab course for second year students, and I basically get to design the class. I work with a teacher who on one day translates a long essay from English to Japanese with the students, and on another day I get to do whatever I want. The essays are about difficult questions and situations one encounters in different cultures. This is the class that focuses on my role to explore ideas of internationalization with the students, which is awesome. We inevitably end up running on level six, and thats good, but I must start the class out a little easier. For instance, having sentences read a dialogue I've written to simply practice reading with each other and getting comfortable in the rythm of speaking English. Then on level two, have them change key words so that they can interpret the situation correctly and begin translating the knowledge into a new context. Then to level three with them writing their own brand new situations to practice applying knowledge to new situations. Now we begin the harder stuff. Maybe for level four I'll start explaining stories about my travels and experiences and they have to break down that complex information and generalize in order to understand. OK, here we go, then I will ask them generalized questions about my experiences and travels, maybe connecting different ideas discussed in class. THEN, finally, I can give them complex essay questions asking them about their opinions.

I don't think this is so difficult, and can actually be very satisfying at the end of a lesson to see the progress made up the cognitive ladder. I think its important to break down each part and go through the steps one at a time , for a relaxed and coherent learning atmosphere.

One goal, one step at a time, one mind.


  1. Information literacy

    These our built on Bloom. We use these in my profession. The standards specifically:

    Information literacy standards


  2. Wow, I want those students! Well, out of a few hundred, I'm sure the four that are in English Club will be the most likely candidates, so I will heed your information and test those guineas out.