in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
year, Benjamin Bloom publishes a book that would largely influence curriculum
theory and practice for many years. Indeed, the book was published several times
and translated into several languages, and it was read in faculties of
education, teacher training programs and schools all over the world. The book
influenced almost every aspect of formal education, from the way curricula were
designed at national and provincial ministries of education to the way teachers
were evaluating student performance at the classroom level. It is well known
that Bloom and his associates identified three main domains of educational
goals: cognitive, affective and psychomotor. What is not well known is the
history that led to the development of this framework.
the convention of the American Psychological Association in 1948, a group of
college examiners considered the utility of a system of classifying educational
goals for the evaluation of student performance. Educational objectives provide
the basis for building curricula and the tests for measuring the understanding
of those curricula by students. To these examiners, a classification system
represented the appropriate place to start. They chose to identify it as a taxonomy. In this brief historical note, we refer to the system
itself as the taxonomy and the
collective publications as the Taxonomy.
group of college examiners who ultimately coalesced to prepare and publish the Taxonomy met annually following the convention. They identified
three problems involved in organizing a classification of educational
objectives. First, these phenomena could not be observed and manipulated in the
same concrete form as is done in the natural sciences. Second, the availability
of the taxonomy might tend to abort the thinking and planning of teachers with
regard to curriculum. Third, some feared that it might lead to fragmentation and
atomization of educational purposes.
these reservations, the group persevered. They saw value in a taxonomy. First,
they felt that it would be helpful to be able to clarify and tighten up the
language pertaining to educational objectives. Second, a taxonomy would offer a
convenient system for describing and ordering test items, examination
techniques, and evaluation instruments. Third, a classification system would
enable educators to compare and study educational programs. Finally, they hoped
that their taxonomy would reveal a real order among educational objectives.
to consideration of the content of the Taxonomy,
it is appropriate to ask what this group intended by their use of the term, taxonomy,
for their classification. The authors of Handbook
II of the Taxonomy acknowledge the
problem with their terminology:
taxonomy is a set of classifications which are ordered and arranged on the basis
of a single principle or on the basis of a consistent set of principles. Such a
true taxonomy may be tested by determining whether it is in agreement with
empirical evidence and whether the way in which the classifications are ordered
corresponds to a real order among the relevant phenomena. The taxonomy must also
be consistent with sound theoretical views available in the field. Where it is
inconsistent, a way should be developed of demonstrating or determining which
alternative is the most adequate one. Finally, a true taxonomy should be of
value in pointing to phenomena yet to be discovered (Krathwohl. Bloom, &
Masia, 1964, p. 11).
admitted that their system may not be a true taxonomy. However, the two
handbooks have been of great use to educators and researchers in the way
envisioned by the group of examiners who conceived this idea. In practice, it
may not make any difference as to whether they developed a taxonomic
order or only a classification scheme.
The Taxonomy fulfills a function.
The Three Domains
group found that most of the objectives of teachers could be placed in one of
three major classifications or domains:
cognitive, affective, and psychomotor.
In Handbook I of the Taxonomy,
the research team offers brief descriptions of what these three domains entail
(Bloom, 1956, pp. 7-8). The cognitive
domain includes those objectives that deal with “the recall or recognition
of knowledge and the development of intellectual abilities and skills.” The
objectives of the affective domain
describe “changes in interest, attitudes, and values, and the development of
appreciations and adequate adjustment.” Finally, the psychomotor domain pertains to “the manipulative or motor-skill
facilitate their task, the group organized themselves into committees to study
the domains separately. Benjamin S. Bloom, as the editor, and four others, Max
D. Engelhart, Edward J. Furst, Walker H. Hill, and David R. Krathwohl, comprised
a Committee of College and University Examiners, who undertook the analysis of
the cognitive domain. The book, Taxonomy
of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Objectives Handbook
I: Cognitive Domain, was published
in 1956. David R. Krathwohl, Benjamin S. Bloom, and Bertram B. Masia were the
co-authors of Taxonomy of Educational
Objectives: The Classification of Educational Objectives Handbook II: Affective
Domain, published in 1964. The committee members were unable to find
psychomotor objectives in the literature and they did not write a third handbook
on this domain.
research team found that the largest proportion of educational objectives fall
within this domain. In Handbook I, Bloom divides this taxonomy into six major classes as
Evaluation (p. 18)
classes are arranged hierarchically as the objectives of a higher class
typically build on the behaviours found in the lower classes. Most learners and
their teachers likely consider the acquisition of knowledge or information to be
the primary, if not the sole, objective of any program of education. If a
student is able to recall or recognize some idea or phenomenon encountered in
learning, he or she satisfies the requirements of the first level of this
domain. However, there is more to learning than simply recollection. True
knowledge involves relating and judging, organizing and reorganizing. It
requires a higher degree of cognitive capability. These enhanced capacities are
realized in the higher classes of the cognitive domain. “Although information
or knowledge is recognized as an important outcome of education, very few
teachers would be satisfied to regard this as the primary or the sole outcome of
instruction. What is needed is some evidence that the students can do something
with their knowledge, that is, that they can apply the information to new
situations and problems.” (p. 38) The names given to these higher classes
suggest the learning objectives associated at each of those levels.
classification of the educational objectives of the affective domain was more
challenging. First, they are not stated as precisely as are those of the
cognitive domain and, in fact, educators are not so clear as to the learning
experiences appropriate to these objectives. Second, the behaviours themselves
are difficult to describe “since the internal or covert feelings and emotions
are as significant for this domain as are the overt behavioral
manifestations.” (Bloom, p. 7) Third, the testing procedures for measuring the
satisfaction of these educational objectives are not as well developed. In Handbook
II, Krathwohl et al. provide a working definition of the affective domain:
Affective: Objectives which emphasize
a feeling tone, an emotion, or a degree of acceptance or rejection. Affective
objectives vary from simple attention to selected phenomena to complex but
internally consistent qualities of character and conscience. We found a large
number of such objectives in the literature expressed as interests, attitudes,
appreciations, values, and emotional sets or biases. (p. 7)
the affective domain was less predisposed to classification. While a
considerable body of material existed with which to evaluate performance and
achievement in the cognitive domain, what was available in the affective domain
et al. discuss an assumption concerning the relationship between the cognitive
and affective domains. It has been said that, if the cognitive objectives are
developed, the development of the affective behaviours follows. Krathwohl et al.
deny this assumption. “The evidence suggests that affective behaviors develop
when appropriate learning experiences are provided for students much the same as
cognitive behaviors develop from appropriate learning experiences.” (p. 20)
The research team did assume that the affective domain would be
structured hierarchically as is the cognitive domain. The challenge was to
locate the continuum of behaviours. Their continuum begins at the level at which
the learner is merely aware of or able to perceive a phenomenon, following which
he or she attends to that phenomenon, responds to it with a positive feeling,
places value upon it, organizes that value within his or her valuation system,
and, finally, characterizes this value complex within his or her entire life
The Psychomotor Domain
committee did not produce a handbook of educational objectives for the
psychomotor domain. Subsequent to the publication of the Taxonomy,
others attempted to construct a taxonomy for behaviours in this domain. In The Classification of Educational Objectives in the Pyschomotor Domain,
Elizabeth Simpson offers her taxonomy (1972). She opens with the following
explanation of her classification.
major organizational principle operating is that of complexity with attention to
the sequence involved in the performance of a motor act. That is, objectives
that would be classified at the lower levels are less complex in nature than
related objectives at upper levels. In general, they are easier to carry out.
And, those at the upper levels build on those at the lower.
with the learning objectives of the cognitive and affective domains, the
psychomotor domain is organized hierarchically.
is as important for the development of adult education programs as it is for
elementary and secondary school teachers in the formulation of their curricula.
To ascertain the learning requirements of any adult population, it is first
necessary to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment. A study of this kind
reveals the gap between what the learners know and what they need to know.
Educators and trainers develop the learning objectives with which to design
learning activities that provide the learning to fill that gap. The Taxonomy
provides a standard or set of guidelines with which to prepare those learning
the Diploma in Adult Education program offered by St. Francis Xavier University
(Halifax, Canada), for instance, the curriculum refers to the knowledge, skills,
attitudes, or KSAs, sought by the learners to bridge the gap between their
present state of affairs, PSA, and the desired future state of affairs, FSA. The
KSAs correspond to the three domains of learning: the cognitive with knowledge
or intellectual skills (K); the psychomotor with physical skills (S), and the
affective with attitudes (A). Every learning objective must be associated with
one of these three domains. The educator or trainer asks what it is that he or
she wants his or her learners to know or to do or to feel at the conclusion of
the education or training program. Knowledge of learning within the three
domains is fundamental to the art of formulating appropriate learning
the learning objective is for the learner to possess knowledge of certain
information, the learning involves the development of cognitive skills at the
lowest level of this domain. Accordingly, upon completion of the program the
learner should be able to repeat or summarize that information. The evaluation
instrument tests him or her on this basis. Similarly, if the goal of the program
is for the learner to be able to accomplish more complex thinking in the nature
of problem solving or decision making, learning occurs at a higher level of the
cognitive domain. The learner must be able to demonstrate specific application
of the information by way of appropriate and suitable testing instruments.
psychomotor learning, the learner should be able to perform some physical or
motor skill as a result of the education or training program. The learning
objectives are so framed. They state that the learner will be able to perform
the stated skill(s) in accordance with some accepted standard amenable to
precise measurement. In contrast with learning in the cognitive domain, the
emphasis is upon the physical as opposed to the intellectual.
development of learning objectives in the affective domain is as difficult for
educators and trainers as it was for the research team to develop their
taxonomy. The objective of the learning program is to produce a change in the
attitudes, values, or appreciation of the learners. While activities and
exercises can be designed and implemented, the challenge is to create
instruments that accurately evaluate learning. For learning to be demonstrated,
some change or transformation of the learner must be apparent. If the program
fails to achieve learning in the affective domain, the accomplishments in either
or both of the cognitive and psychomotor domains may be rendered ineffective.
Although The Taxonomy developed
by Benjamin Bloom and associates in 1965 has been criticized from other
educational approaches, three decades later it continues to guide educational
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Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy
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L.W. & Sosniak, L.A. (1994). Bloom’s
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for Instruction and Evaluation (2nd Ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and
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B.N. & Merrill, M.D. (1972). Writing
Complete Affective Objectives: A Short Course. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
R.F. (1975). Preparing Instructional
Objectives (2nd Ed.). Belmont, CA: Fearon-Pitman.
R.J. (2001). Designing a New Taxonomy of
Educational Objectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
R. (1994). Dragon in the Clouds:
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3:43-56. Gryphon House.
Prepared by Richard W. Shields (OISE/University of Toronto)
Citation: Shields, Richard W. (2001). 1965: Benjamin Bloom publishes Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available: http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~daniel_schugurensky/assignment1/1965bloom.html (date accessed).
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