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Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

06.01.17Imagining a New Bloom’s

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the uses and mis-uses of Bloom’s Taxonomy, that trusted framework of teaching referenced by just about every teacher on god’s green earth.  Briefly, people see the pyramid and they think- “Oh, more rigorous is higher up… I should ask all “higher order questions.” I should avoid being the teacher who asks “lower order” (i.e. lesser) questions that merely reinforce knowledge or even (whisper it so no one hears!): facts.

Unfortunately this flies in the face of what cognitive science tells us–that there is no high order thinking without knowledge and that teaching and retrieval practice of “mere facts” are actually hugely important. Conveniently, this appears to be exactly what Bloom himself believed. 

“The categories were presented,” according to Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching, with the understanding that knowledge was the necessary precondition for putting these skills and abilities into practice.”

Anyway I proposed a re-envisioning of the pyramid.  My own re-envisioning was a cheap knock-off done by a guy (me) with limited graphic artist skills and in a hurry. But several readers quickly produced far better versions. First, Barbara Davidson at Standards Work took me up on the idea of “turning the pyramid on its side.” The result was a big improvement in that it erodes some of the hierarchy implicit in getting to the top. It’s also clean and elegant:

blooms side

I liked it.  But I found myself wondering: Even though it’s on its side, it might still be easy for teachers to interpret it as a de facto hierarchy, and “rush to the right,” skipping over the knowledge part that’s necessary to getting there successfully. They’d do this through the best of intentions, mind you… it’s the nature of teachers… Lord let me be the most rigorous I can be…

So I found myself thinking that in the absolutely ideal graphic, knowledge would be separate, outside the hierarchy- it would be a circle with the pyramid in the middle, or a truck with the pyramid sitting on it or…

Anyway this morning, Matthew Levey of the International Charter School of New York   sent me this.  It almost made me weep with joy … and also laugh… note the labeling on the truck’s cab and the “moving kids towards wisdom” slogan at the top.  Honestly I think it captures the idea perfectly- with a lot of wisdom (the inter-connections of the questions types in the truck’s box) and a bit of whimsy. Just right. Anyway, I had to share and I hope you steal it and steal it and steal it. This weekend I’m having a few drinks and getting a tattoo of it.

Blooms Delivery


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One Response to “Imagining a New Bloom’s”

  1. June 2, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks for posting this, Doug. I love Matthew’s rendition as well, particularly the suggestion that retrieval practice can add what we’d already started calling “the octane” (the metaphor works!) to content-rich curriculum. I am curious if anyone thinks it’s worth our time to trying to promote “Blooms on its side”, or your new tattoo, in teacher prep circles.

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