I’ve been following a discussion on one of the education forums that is discussing the utility of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and others.
There are complaints that Bloom’s is out of date, that we know so much more now than we did then, that is needs to be updated to take modern technology into account, and so on. Then people point to whatever their favorite taxonomy is.
Truth is, they ALL have problems (some more than others) – but it really has nothing to do with what most people complain about.
People tend to view Bloom’s in a linear fashion simply because it is presented as a linear list. Educators seem to have this great faith in visual representations – if you can make it into a chart or some sort of picture, it magically takes on significance that it never had before.
Bloom’s should not be viewed as a simple liner list. And it for sure isn’t a formula or recipe for designing instruction. I’ve never thought of it that way. Bloom’s has its limitations, just like any other list, but if it is viewed as a set of non-exclusive classifications it remains useful. Webb’s DOK is also a simple list; it’s just that the list is presented as a circular chart.
There is still an implied linearity in the fact that the levels are numbered 1,2,3,4. If they really wanted to remove the linearity, then it would be important to use some other label – colours maybe. And, just for the record, there is an implied progression – going clockwise, of course – because, after all, clockwise is simply a linear progression wrapped around a circle. Note the incongruity between ‘Level One’ and ‘Level Four’ – Level One really does not follow from Level Four, so the representation of this list as a pie (or whatever you want to call it) is misleading.
Whatever people want to say about it, Bloom’s is still a useful guide (although, I have serious problems with the ‘revised’ one), but neither it nor any of the other charts should be used as though they are formulas for designing instruction.
That’s where the real problems lie. People really want some sort of recipe they can follow that will ensure their instructional designs are robust, complete, effective, and, well, good. I’m willing to grant that most educators do this because they genuinely want to produce good learning experiences.
People try to do the same thing (find recipes) when designing software. That’s what the field of Software Engineering is about – but here it’s even worse because often the ‘desire to produce better software’ is a pretense. What they really want is to find ways for mediocre programmers to write programs that work (at least, sort of). That way you can hire 20 mediocre programmers, pay them peanuts, and sell the resultant software for buckets of money. What they really should be doing, is hiring just a few, really GOOD programmers, and pay them what they’re worth.
Taxonomies are great in biology. Taxonomies describe mutually exclusive classifications in the the natural world (i.e. a mammal cannot also be a fish), but when it comes to education (and anything else that has to do with social interaction and behaviour), taxonomies do not have those same clear-cut demarcations. They are NOT formulas.