Applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to teach thinking skills in e-learning

Designers of e-learning often focus on learning activities for the recall or comprehension levels of thinking, paying little attention to the higher levels in the Bloom’s Taxonomy. Read the following info and participate in the Jabberwocky quiz at the bottom of the post. Good luck!

What has Blooms Taxonomy got to do with it e-learning?

Let’s first look at Blooms taxonomy…


Source: z

A closer look at how it applies to e-learning


1. KNOWLEDGE (or recall): This level is the lowest level of thinking requiring the least cognitive effort. It is defined as the remembering data learned in the past.  E- learning activities that focus on this level includes those that help students to remember facts and concepts taught earlier or test their ability to recall the facts and concepts taught earlier.

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

2. COMPREHENSION: This level focuses on students’ ability to comprehend new information presented to them and translate the information from one form into another. E- learning activities that focus on this level includes those that guide students to comprehend the information presented or assess their ability to transform the information in order to demonstrate their understanding.

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

3. APPLICATION: This level requires students to use the new knowledge that was learnt in new or different situations, such as in a simulated or real workplace setting. E- Learning activities that focus on this level includes those that guide students to arrive at a certain concept, rule, principle or method and use the concept, rule, principle or method in a workplace or simulated workplace environment.

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

4. ANALYSIS: This level is defined as the ability to break down material to identify its components and to analyze its organizational structure and content. E- Learning activities that focus on scaffolding thinking at this level includes those that guide students to identify different components of a particular object, to better appreciate the relationships between the parts. It requires students to identify different aspects of a process to appreciate the working principle behind the process.

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

5. SYNTHESIS: This level is often seen as the opposite of Analysis. It involves the capability to assemble individual components to create a new product. E- learning activities includes those that require students to construct a new product from the components given or apply different aspects of their prior learning to put together a product.

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

6. EVALUATION: This level of thinking requires students to evaluate or review the value or relative worth of ideas or objects based on predetermined criteria. This type of thinking is the highest level, often requiring the other five levels of thinking. E- Learning activities at this level includes those that require students to critic or review materials or ideas.

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

More examples of Blooms taxonomy question construction can be found here:

Critical thinking


Using critical thinking will help  your students develop a higher level of learning.

John Dewey defined the nature of reflective thought as:

“active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it tends” (1938, p.9).

Critical thinking includes the evaluation of the worth, accuracy, or authenticity of various propositions, leading to a supportable decision or direction for action.

  1. Critical thinking is a learnable skill with teachers and peers serving as resources.
  2. Problems, questions, and issues serve as the source of motivation for the learner.
  3. Courses are assignment or decision making centered rather than text or lecture oriented.
  4. Goals, methods, and evaluation emphasize using content rather than simply acquiring it.
  5. Students need to formulate and justify their ideas in some way.
  6. Students collaborate to learn and enhance their thinking (Meyers 1986).

You will find some more info and practical tips on my previous blog post: Information dumping: Is it effective?

An example of how ineffective ‘knowledge’ based questions can be…

Read this excerpt from ‘Jabberwocky’ and answer the following questions.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


  1. What were the slithy toves doing in the wabe?
  2. How would you describe the state of the borogoves?
  3. What can you say about the mome raths?

Insert your answers here:

Did you need to understand material in order to answer low level questions directly related to the text?

Most people will be able to answer these questions, without any understanding of the nonsense verse at all.

Now try these questions…

  1. Were the borogroves right to feel mimsey?
  2. How effective was the mome raths strategy?

OK… they were pretty difficult questions. To answer these particular questions, more data is required (please tell me if I’m wrong!!) but you can see how it requires a higher thought process when the questions are re-phrased.


Knowledge questions are fine at the start but continuing to base your questions at the bottom of Blooms will lead to surface learning. Knowledge questions may be necessary, but they are never sufficient.

Ideas for applying this to your e-learning are welcome… just pop them in the ‘comments’ section.



Filed under E-learning tips, Teaching and learning tips

7 responses to “Applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to teach thinking skills in e-learning

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to teach thinking skills in e-learning | Jen e-blogger --

  2. Thank you for a great post! I especially appreciated the explanation of the language used when integrating the elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy. This will be especially useful for me when writing learning objectives/outcomes for DL courses!

  3. jennywood


  4. Pingback: What is Blooms Taxonomy?

  5. Jenny, I loved this piece and was especialy engaged with the questions on the Jabberwocky – one of my favourite pieces from Alice in Wonderland. I loved the latest version of this film in 3D where I got to meet the Jabberwocky up close and personal!

    I’d like to refer to this article as an excellent example of a ‘reflective practice piece’ – an artefact for a teacher’s eportfolio.

    More please ….

    Coach Carole

  6. Pingback: Video watching and how to put your students to sleep « Jen e-blogger

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