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Levels of Questions in Bloom's Taxonomy

Use these levels of questions to challenge students in all grade levels with various types of questions as defined by Bloom's Taxonomy. They will be doing higher-level thinking and you will have a more interesting classroom! This Bloom's Taxonomy resource includes an in-depth discussion of the different levels of questioning with suggested examples to help you form your own higher-level questions to use in your classroom.
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The goal of classroom questioning is not to determine whether students have learned something (as would be the case in tests, quizzes, and exams), but rather to guide students to help them learn necessary information and material. Questions should be used to teach students rather than to just test students!

Teachers frequently spend a great deal of classroom time testing students through questions. In fact, observations of teachers at all levels of education reveal that most spend more than 90 percent of their instructional time testing students (through questioning). And most of the questions teachers ask are typically factual questions that rely on short-term memory.

Jabberwocky

Taxonomy is an orderly classification of items according to a systematic relationship (low to high, small to big, simple to complex).

Although questions are widely used and serve many functions, teachers tend to overuse factual questions such as “What is the capital of California?” Not surprising, many teachers ask upward of 400 questions each and every school day. And approximately 80 percent of all the questions teachers ask tend to be factual, literal, or knowledge-based questions. The result is a classroom in which there is little creative thinking taking place.

It's been my experience that one all-important factor is key in the successful classroom: students tend to read and think based on the kinds of questions they anticipate receiving from the teacher. If students are constantly bombarded with questions that require only low levels of intellectual involvement (or no involvement whatsoever), they will tend to think accordingly. Conversely, students who are given questions based on higher levels of thinking will tend to think more creatively and divergently.

Many years ago, an educator named Benjamin Bloom developed a classification system we now refer to as Bloom's Taxonomy to assist teachers in recognizing their various levels of question-asking (among other things). The system contains six levels, which are arranged in hierarchical form, moving from the lowest level of cognition (thinking) to the highest level of cognition (or from the least complex to the most complex):

Fire Alarm

Observations of both elementary and secondary classrooms has shown that teachers significantly overuse knowledge questions. In fact, during the course of an average day, many teachers will ask upward of 300 or more knowledge-based questions.

  • Knowledge

  • Comprehension

  • Application

  • Analysis

  • Synthesis

  • Evaluation

Knowledge

This is the lowest level of questions and requires students to recall information. Knowledge questions usually require students to identify information in basically the same form it was presented. Some examples of knowledge questions include …

  • “What is the biggest city in Japan?”

  • “Who wrote War and Peace?

  • “How many ounces in a pound?”

Words often used in knowledge questions include know, who, define, what, name, where, list, and when.

Expert Opinion

Never end a presentation by asking, “Are there any questions?” This is the surest way to turn off students. Instead, say something like, “Take five minutes and write down two questions you have about the lesson. Share those questions and discuss possible answers with a partner.”

Comprehension

Simply stated, comprehension is the way in which ideas are organized into categories. Comprehension questions are those that ask students to take several bits of information and put them into a single category or grouping. These questions go beyond simple recall and require students to combine data together. Some examples of comprehension questions include …

  • “How would you illustrate the water cycle?”

  • “What is the main idea of this story?”

  • “If I put these three blocks together, what shape do they form?”

Words often used in comprehension questions include describe, use your own words, outline, explain, discuss, and compare.

Jabberwocky

In analysis, you move from the whole to the parts. In synthesis, you move from the parts to the whole.

Application

At this level, teachers ask students to take information they already know and apply it to a new situation. In other words, they must use their knowledge to determine a correct response. Some examples of application questions include …

  • “How would you use your knowledge of latitude and longitude to locate Greenland?”

  • “What happens when you multiply each of these numbers by nine?”

  • “If you had eight inches of water in your basement and a hose, how would you use the hose to get the water out?”

Words often used in application questions include apply, manipulate, put to use, employ, dramatize, demonstrate, interpret, and choose.

Analysis

An analysis question is one that asks a student to break down something into its component parts. To analyze requires students to identify reasons, causes, or motives and reach conclusions or generalizations. Some examples of analysis questions include …

  • “What are some of the factors that cause rust?”

  • “Why did the United States go to war with England?”

  • “Why do we call all these animals mammals?”

Words often used in analysis questions include analyze, why, take apart, diagram, draw conclusions, simplify, distinguish, and survey.

Synthesis

Synthesis questions challenge students to engage in creative and original thinking. These questions invite students to produce original ideas and solve problems. There's always a variety of potential responses to synthesis questions. Some examples of synthesis questions include …

  • “How would you assemble these items to create a windmill?”

  • “How would your life be different if you could breathe under water?”

  • “Construct a tower one foot tall using only four blocks.”

  • “Put these words together to form a complete sentence.”

Words often used in synthesis questions include compose, construct, design, revise, create, formulate, produce, and plan.

Evaluation

Evaluation requires an individual to make a judgment about something. We are asked to judge the value of an idea, a candidate, a work of art, or a solution to a problem. When students are engaged in decision-making and problem-solving, they should be thinking at this level. Evaluation questions do not have single right answers. Some examples of evaluation questions include …

  • “What do you think about your work so far?”

  • “What story did you like the best?”

  • “Do you think that the pioneers did the right thing?”

  • “Why do you think Benjamin Franklin is so famous?”

Words often used in evaluation questions include judge, rate, assess, evaluate, What is the best …, value, criticize, and compare.

It's Elementary

Many teachers think primary-level students (kindergarten through grade 2) cannot “handle” higher-level thinking questions (application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation). Nothing could be further from the truth! Challenging all students through higher-order questioning is one of the best ways to stimulate learning and enhance brain development—regardless of age.

What does all this mean? Several things, actually! It means you can ask your students several different kinds of questions. If you only focus on one type of question, your students might not be exposed to higher levels of thinking necessary to a complete understanding of a topic. If, for example, you only ask students knowledge-based questions, then your students might think that learning (a specific topic) is nothing more than the ability to memorize a select number of facts.

You can use this taxonomy to help craft a wide range of questions—from low-level thinking questions to high-level thinking questions. If variety is the spice of life, you should sprinkle a variety of question types throughout every lesson, regardless of the topic or the grade level you teach.

Bloom's Taxonomy is not grade-specific. That is, it does not begin at the lower grades (kindergarten, first, second) with knowledge and comprehension questions and move upward to the higher grades (tenth, eleventh, twelfth) with synthesis and evaluation questions. The six levels of questions are appropriate for all grade levels.

Perhaps most important, students tend to read and think based on the types of questions they anticipate receiving from the teacher. In other words, students will tend to approach any subject as a knowledge-based subject if they are presented with an overabundance of knowledge-level questions throughout a lesson. On the other hand, students will tend to approach a topic at higher levels of thinking if they are presented with an abundance of questions at higher levels of thinking.

Visit our Bloom's Taxonomy Activities Printable for a downloadable version.

Looking for more resources on 21st Century skills and social-emotional learning? Find them in our FutureFit resources center.

Excerpted from

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Success as a Teacher
Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Success as a Teacher © 2005 by Anthony D. Fredericks. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.
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