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A Balanced View of Bloom’s Taxonomy

The way it’s presented is not helpful. Nor is ‘taxonomy’, both inferring hierarchy, status; class- or even caste-defined thinking. ‘Low order thinking’ – knowledge and understanding; ‘high order thinking’ – application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation. Really? Is one kind better, worse, less or more than any other?

After decades of helping adults and children to think better, may I propose this:

All thinking is equal.

Knowledge

How on earth is this ‘low order’? Bottom of the pile?

Without it, nothing can happen. So often the battle ground of traditionalists and progressives – the former zealously guarding it as purveyor of cultural and historical legacies; a necessary handing down of national identity, threatened by ‘soft skills’ and ‘creativity’.

The latter cite the flexible-future workplace, technology and the need for innovative skill sets. Knowledge is changing and on tap – at the tap of a screen. Why fill up on facts?

Both sides cling to outdated, biased positions.

There’s a joy in knowing. There’s a joy in NOT knowing and struggling with the quest, using the skills of finding out.

Skills bring knowledge to life; knowledge gives skills purpose.

‘I know’ is so much more than ‘I know a fact, I can recall it for you here, in this exam.’

In James Cameron’s innovative CGI epic, Avatar, the ‘Na’vi’ people look each other in the eye and say, ‘I see you.’ They mean, ‘I know you. I really do know who you are and how we connect to each other.’

Understanding

In Robert Macfarlane’s magnum opus, Underland, the earth-beneath is exposed. Enchanting, horrific, illegal, deadly and magical, Macfarlane takes us into caves, sinkholes, abandoned military bases, forests, mines and the complex tunnel systems underneath cities. To really comprehend something, he argues, one must ‘stand under it’. Under-stand.

Knowing and understanding dance around each other. Try to pin them down with difference, it’s tricky. Understanding is ‘getting it’; relating it to other things; categorising, connecting, correlating. Really knowing. See? Knowing is understanding is knowing.

Think about someone you know very, very well. Say, ‘I know you.’ Say, ‘I understand you.’ What do you feel each time. There’s the difference, or the similarity.

Application

Equally important is doing something with what we ‘know’; with what we ‘understand’. We get up and act. We move, we talk, we persuade, we make, we fix. We have impact. They say knowledge is power. But application shows what that power looks like in the world.

Analysis

Let’s take it apart, look at the pieces, put them back together. What did we learn by looking deep inside? The components, the connections, the structure. Then we have…

Synthesis

…putting different parts together in new ways – making better things (or things better) – solving a problem, creating an object of value that has not existed before.

Evaluation

Finally, e-valuation – the ‘drawing out of value’. Asking how it stacks up against some agreed criteria; allocating worth accordingly.

There is no high- or low-order thinking, only different kinds, used for different purposes.

Does this idea resonate with you? All thinking is equal, if different? Let me know what you think…