February 27, 2008

Wherein we become cranky about Bloom's taxonomy and accidentally teach our sharp-tongued son some math

I will admit that I am one of people who grind their teeth when hearing the umpteenth time about Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives in the context of planning instruction. In my experience, most people point to it as a source of heuristic advice: how do you design assignments that push students to do more than they thought they could?

But I've also seen people view the taxonomy as Truth Incarnate about Instruction, as a hierarchy of thinking, and that drives me up the wall, as I have written before. Last week, I read something that relied on a Bloom-as-truth assumption, and I began to think, why do humans think in hierarchical terms, even where it is inappropriate? I'll speculate on that in another post, but when I tried to set this up with my adolescent son, he had an interesting counter-argument (apart from trying to argue with me about Bloom, just because he wanted to argue):

Any scheme that is not hierarchical can be converted into a hierarchical scheme.

I tossed out a few examples, such as a circle, a random array, etc., and he handled them all with aplomb, explaining how he would pick a path through each scheme and declared (roughly paraphrased), "If I can pick a path from first to last, then I've created a hierarchy." I didn't argue with him on the difference between an order and a hierarchy, because what he'd just discovered for himself is the notion of a change of variables.

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Posted in Education policy on February 27, 2008 9:59 AM |