Bloom et al.'s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain

Citation: Huitt, W. (2011). Bloom et al.'s taxonomy of the cognitive domain. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date], from [pdf]

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Beginning in 1948, a group of educators undertook the task of classifying education goals and objectives.  The intent was to develop a classification system for three domains: the cognitive, the affective, and the psychomotor.  Work on the cognitive domain was completed in the 1950s and is commonly referred to as Bloom's Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain (Bloom, Englehart, Furst, Hill,  & Krathwohl, 1956).  Others have developed taxonomies for the affective and psychomotor domains.

The major idea of the taxonomy is that what educators want students to know (encompassed in statements of educational objectives) can be arranged in a hierarchy from less to more complex.  The levels are understood to be successive, so that one level must be mastered before the next level can be reached.

The original levels by Bloom et al. (1956) were ordered as follows:  Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation.  The taxonomy is presented below with sample verbs and a sample behavior statement for each level.






Student recalls or
recognizes information,
ideas, and principles
in the approximate
form in which they
were learned.


The student will define
the 6 levels of Bloom's
taxonomy of the
cognitive domain.


Student translates,
comprehends, or
interprets information
based on prior


The student will explain
the purpose of Bloom's
taxonomy of the
cognitive domain.


Student selects, trans-
fers, and uses data
and principles to
complete a problem
or task with a mini-
mum of direction.


The student will
write an instructional
objective for each
level of Bloom's


Student distinguishes,
classifies, and relates
the assumptions,
hypotheses, evidence,
or structure of a
statement or question.


The student will
compare and contrast
the cognitive and
affective domains.


Student originates,
integrates, and
combines ideas into a
product, plan or
proposal that is new
to him or her.


The student will
design a classification
scheme for writing
educational objectives
that combines the
cognitive, affective,
and psychomotor


Student appraises,
assesses, or critiques
on a basis of specific
standards and criteria.


The student will
judge the effective-
ness of writing
objectives using
Bloom's taxonomy.

Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) revised Bloom's taxonomy to fit the more outcome-focused modern education objectives, including switching the names of the levels from nouns to active verbs, and reversing the order of the highest two levels (see Krathwohl, 2002 for an overview).  The lowest-order level (Knowledge) became Remembering, in which the student is asked to recall or remember information.  Comprehension, became Understanding, in which the student would explain or describe concepts.  Application became Applying, or using the information in some new way, such as choosing, writing, or interpreting.  Analysis was revised to become Analyzing, requiring the student to differentiate between different components or relationships, demonstrating the ability to compare and contrast.  These four levels remain the same as Bloom et al.’s (1956) original hierarchy.  In general, research over the last 40 years has confirmed these levels as a hierarchy (Anderson & Krathwohl).  In addition to revising the taxonomy, Anderson and Krathwohl added a conceptualization of knowledge dimensions within which these processing levels are used (factual, conceptual, procedural, and metacognition).

Remember Understand Apply Analyze Evaluate Create
Factual Knowledge Terminology
Elements & Components
Label map
List names
Interpret paragraph
Summarize book
Use math algorithm Categorize words Critique article Create short story
Conceptual Knowledge Categories
Define levels of cognitive taxonomy Describe taxonomy in own words Write objectives using taxonomy Differentiate levels of cognitive taxonomy Critique written objectives Create new classification system
Procedural Knowledge Specific Skills & Techniques
Criteria for Use
List steps in problem solving Paraphrase problem solving process in own words Use problem solving process for assigned task Compare convergent and divergent techniques Critique appropriateness of techniques used in case analysis Develop original approach to problem solving
Meta-Cognitive Knowledge General Knowledge
Self Knowledge
List elements of personal learning style Describe implications of learning style Develop study skills appropriate to learning style Compare elements of dimensions in learning style Critique appropriateness of particular learning style theory to own learning Create an original learning style theory

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Iowa State University (2011) provides an excellent graphic representation on how these two taxonomies can be used together to generate lesson objectives.

The two highest, most complex levels of Synthesis and Evaluation were reversed in the revised model, and were renamed Evaluating and Creating (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001).  As the authors did not provide empirical evidence for this reversal, it is my belief that these two highest levels are essentially equal in level of complexity.  Both depend on analysis as a foundational process.  However, synthesis or creating requires rearranging the parts in a new, original way whereas evaluation or evaluating requires a comparison to a standard with a judgment as to good, better or best.  This is similar to the distinction between creative thinking and critical thinking.  Both are valuable while neither is superior.  In fact, when either is omitted during the problem solving process, effectiveness declines (Huitt, 1992).

Synthesis /

Evaluation /


Analysis / Analyze
Application / Apply
Comprehension / Understand
Knowledge / Remember

In any case it is clear that students can "know" about a topic or subject in different ways and at different levels.  While most teacher-made tests still test at the lower levels of the taxonomy, research has shown that students remember more when they have learned to handle the topic at the higher levels of the taxonomy (Garavalia, Hummel, Wiley, & Huitt, 1999).  This is because more elaboration is required, a principle of learning based on finding from the information processing approach to learning.

Krathwohl, Bloom, and Masia (1956) also developed a taxonomy for the affective domain. In my opinion, this taxonomy is really more of a reflection of attachment or valuing rather than processing affective-related information as reflected in the cognitive taxonomy.  There are three taxonomies of the psychomotor domain that are received acceptance (Dave, 1975; Harrow, 1972; Simpson, 1972).  Clark (2010) provides an overview of these three taxonomies.


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