Educational Thinkers’ Hall of Fame – Benjamin Bloom

It’s very heartening that some non-educational specialists in the WEA are interested in knowing more about the thinking behind the best quality of teaching and learning.

Various thinkers have made lasting contributions to the theories of adult learning that tutors and teachers apply in their day-to-day practice. Some of their ideas are not known very widely outside the world of education but they can help us to develop our own thinking and learning in all sorts of settings.

Who should be in an ‘Educational Thinkers’ Hall of Fame’?

Benjamin Bloom (1913 – 1999) is a strong candidate. He was the American educational psychologist who classified educational objectives in a model known as Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom believed that education should be more than just the dull transfer of ‘facts’ to unquestioning students. He encouraged active and engaging teaching and learning that promoted higher levels of thinking.

Benjamin Bloom

Bloom developed a clear and logical model showing different levels of learning. Various versions have appeared since 1956 but his basic ideas have stood the test of time with slight revision.

He defined the lowest level of learning as simply the absorption of facts – including learning ‘by heart’ or ‘by rote’ without necessarily understanding the ‘knowledge’ being taken in. The higher levels of learning are increasingly complex with much more active student participation and originality. The most exciting, lively and stimulating learning is at the higher levels.

Simplified version of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning

The poet Robert Frost described himself as, ‘not a teacher, but an awakener’. Bloom’s Taxonomy gives us a practical checklist to aim for the same claim. We can use it as a prompt for planning, assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of our teaching and learning.

The classification can be used beyond formal learning environments. Do we believe everything we read in the papers – or online or even in traditional books? Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a good reminder to think about and to question information. Google and other search engines provide some answers to the questions that we might ask, but should we always accept the answers that we are given or should we be thinking at higher levels?

Who else should be in an Educational Thinkers’ Hall of Fame? Any suggestions – or volunteers willing to write a short guest blog on someone who influences teaching and learning in adult education?

You can leave a comment on the blog or send me an email at awalker@wea.org.uk if you’re willing to write a guest blog.