Bloom’s Taxonomy, Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, and Mrs. Pilgreen. Who? What?
You haven’t heard of them? Well, some really smart people laid out how learning happens in a multitude of ways and on a multitude of levels- mostly for teachers, but everyone should know about these people.
For years and years and years, Bloom’s Taxonomy was the foundation of pedagogical understanding for teachers. Okay, Bloom is good (foundational, in fact), but Webb took it one step farther attempting to evolve (there’s that word again) our thought processes by providing more clarity, maybe too much. Anyway, then Mrs. Pilgreen came along and rocked my world.
Who? Mrs. Pilgreen. I hadn’t heard of her either until a few years ago. Actually, I didn’t even know who created this evolved beauty until today. Previously, I just stole it, printed it, and used it. Today, she gets the credit. This lady summed up my ideas and teaching style into a convenient little visual. Throw in giftedness and it’s purrfect. (Yes, I’m purring…that’s how freaking wonderful it is!)
So, everyone knows that learning is built with a foundation of Knowledge (also called Remembering). First, you have to know what you know. Then, you move onto Understanding or Comprehension of that knowledge. So, in schools, that first little bit of Knowledge 2+2=4 is taught to you, and then you Understand that those 2 crayons and those other 2 crayons can be put together to make 4 crayons and we can relate the quantity of crayons to the numerical equation (without all of those technical words, at first).
Moving on, next you Understand that you can take that same concept and use it with oranges and 3s and apples and 22s. You figure out how to Apply the same concept elsewhere.
Moving up the pyramid, next a learner may be able to Analyze that the use of a number is a symbol that represents the quantity and addition represents putting the quantities together.
The uppermost two levels tend to get a little blurry as they involve Evaluating how the concept of addition works, and using Synthesis to rank addition within the concept of computation, understand symbolic use in mathematics (and beyond) and perhaps even Create a separate way of thinking all related to that prior concept.
So, that sums up Bloom’s foundational contribution to learning and it’s been very well received and accepted in the field of education. Most standardized testing is still built on those bottom levels as the top levels are thought to be the most difficult to reach for learners (and test creators), and also to test, and evaluate.
Enter Mrs. Pilgreen.
In all actuality, I’m not sure of the intention Mrs. Pilgreen had for flipping Bloom’s. My guess is, that as she alludes to the top levels of Bloom’s as the “critical thinking skills” – (which in education has become a buzzword with no apparent connection to usage in the classroom or in standards of teaching), she understands their importance and so, she decided to place them at the top and broaden their prominence as they have increased in importance in education-speak.
Not only does Mrs. Pilgreen flip the triangle, she goes onto use the terminology, give explanations along with key words, and then she does something interesting…she changes the triangle into a quadrilateral. Curious…indeed. Yes, I have contacted her about her design and will let you know what I discover later.
Now, here is the reason for my amazement.
I have discovered over the years that a select group of learners actually don’t follow the rules. No, not those rules. The rules of learning set in motion by Bloom. Perhaps, he already knew this and chose his design of a triangle instead of a pathway image or something similar for this reason. Perhaps, I was taught by some misguided folks who assumed that instruction (I’ll come back to that word later), begins at the bottom building lots of knowledge and perhaps ends at the top having completed all of the levels in between. Whoever imagined learning beginning a different way or in a different order? My hope is that Bloom was merely representing learning as a bulk of knowledge, etc so he designed that section with the largest area. But, again Mrs. Pilgreen’s model is still my favorite. Her choice in design makes me wonder if she understood the importance of the separate levels and their placement, but also understood that not all learning comes from the bottom up.
Bear with me.
Have you ever created something only to learn that what you created demonstrated some understanding you never really understood until that moment?
Perhaps, you discovered the true meaning of percentages or fractions while drawing something to scale, never cutting off a portion, but instead reducing it. You now REALLY have a conceptual understanding that you didn’t have before. Is that an Understanding or a Synthesis (Analysis for Mrs. P.)?
Have you ever been exposed to tons of knowledge, yet had no idea what it was all about, no way to organize it, categorize it, or access that knowledge? Having the knowledge or remembering wasn’t of any use until during the Creation of a product (where you were initially lost), your Knowledge later kicked in and you were able to seemingly blend it altogether (Analysis & Synthesis) and Evaluate your product too.
It sounds strange, but many of us are not linear thinkers and learners. Many gifted children do not follow the patterns so often used in schooling. Many of us actually start at the top. I may never be able to tell you the names and dates (of early and utmost importance on most testing), but I have the fabulous ability of being able to synthesize information. I understand concepts before I can even begin to think about the details, the people, the places, the vocabulary involved.
Therein lies the disconnect for many learners.
That is one of the reasons why I will be forever grateful to Mrs. Pilgreen and her inverted version of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Not only did she flip Bloom’s learning triangle on its head (and squash it a bit in the process), she put into her visual design what I have always understood only in my own head. It wasn’t until she created it, that I was able to understand why it was all so difficult for me and so many others.
We need to keep evolving our understandings in education for our gifted kids and for many others. Education has to be open to evolution. Its ancient design isn’t serving our learners. It’s time to start flipping Bloom’s and start flipping education on its head. Join me.