Skip to Content

History and Development of Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a model that describes the cognitive processes of learning and developing mastery of subject. The model is named after Benjamin Bloom, the man who headed up the original committee of researchers and educators who developed the original taxonomy throughout the 1950s and 60s. Bloom is also the editor of the book that revised the model in 2001, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. Bloom’s Taxonomy has since become a standard tool for developing educational objectives, assessments, and activities.

Most commonly envisioned as a pyramid, with more basic cognitive activities at the base, the original model was centered around static knowledge and abstract abilities, while the revised model focuses on measurable activities (e.g., the original base of the pyramid, “Knowledge,” was replaced with “Remember,” while “Application” was replaced with the more active “Apply”).

Figure 1

Even more modern understandings of the model acknowledge the complexity of the hierarchy; as with all models, the taxonomy has its limits. For example, the implied distinct nature of the six high level categories of cognition is exaggerated—can one universally apply or understand without some level of creativity or evaluation also being required? Sometimes, but not always! Additionally, the specific order in which people are able to do each type of cognitive activity varies depending on the teaching style, learning style, and specific activity. For example, while a traditional class typically starts with introducing facts, a problem based class might start with understanding a concept, then move to facts. Another class that focuses on experiential learning might begin with application. Thus, the specific context is rather important in understanding and applying the model to lesson development.

Because the current model of Bloom’s Taxonomy is largely focused on activities that support learning, it plays an important role in the development of active classroom curricula. For this reason, we include the model as an important reference in the Active Learning Toolkit. There are also versions that target technology:

Figure 2
Figure 3

Other versions focus on showing equivalent levels:

Figure 4
Figure 5

We designed our model to show the the overlap of levels, the increasing complexity of typical activities in each level, and the need to revisit different levels as new material is introduced.  Additionally, our chart includes both descriptions of the levels and an extensive list of activities that are representative of each level.

While there are more complete and complex models of human cognition (Pulk & Seifert, 2002) that are useful in developing, for example, cognitive tutors or machine learning programs, Bloom’s Taxonomy remains the most accessible and feasible to use for classroom educators. We hope you find these resources useful!

[Note: In addition to the cognitive domain, similar distinctions can be applied to the affective and psychomotor domains; however, these taxonomies are not often considered for educational purposes.]