Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bloom's Taxonomy -- Is It for Language Learning/Aquisition?

I've been poking around in the various versions of Bloom's taxonomy of learning lately, while developing materials for a DoS-UO MOOC. I've decided it has a few inadequacies as a way of talking about language acquisition. Below are two recent versions of Bloom (old and new):

 (from Overbaugh & Shultz)

 We can immediately see that language learners often comprehend/understand language when it is appropriately contextualized, but they may not remember the actual words later. So these attainments cannot really be measured or tested.

Also, being creative (top of the pyramid) with language is quite possible long before the learner is able to evaluate or analyze new terms. In fact, being able to describe or define new terms is often quite separate from being able to appropriately use new terms in context.

So the language teacher must keep in mind that  Bloom's taxonomy is not really a one-way street, bottom to top in the pyramid. In fact, trying to get students to remember words before they have had an opportunity to understand or apply them can be deadly. We see this in classroom practices where students are "introduced" to vocabulary before a reading. Or (failed) attempts to memorize long lists of vocabulary words in isolation, which is still the practice in some EFL situations.

I suspect Bloom's taxonomy, although it is superficially useful, will be "overthrown" eventually. As you can see from the old and new versions in the illustration above, there is already some pressure to revise.

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