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1. Wanting Students to Know

We have already made a distinction between learning as a process and learning as a product or learning understood in terms of the outcome the learning process. In this section we are concerned with learning as a product. More specifically, we're concerned with the various components of the cognitive domain. Cognition in its broadest sense refers to the process of knowing and to the product of such a process;. This means that cognition is not just to do with knowing or with having knowledge. Cognition also involves what have been considered to be higher order cognitive skills such as understanding or evaluating.

Personally, I find the cognitive domain easier to understand if I think in terms of what we want our students to know and to be able to do by the time they finish the course. Let's start off in a fairly straightforward way and say that there is some sense in which we want our students to have acquired knowledge by the time that they leave us.

  • In the medical and health sciences we might want our students to know what a normal heart beat sounds like.
  • We might want them to know what an abnormal heart beat sounds like.
  • We might also want out students to have acquired sufficient knowledge to be able to carry out a diagnosis of a patient on the basis of a case presented to them.
  • Turning to a different discipline - economics - we might want our students to be able to define supply and demand.
  • Further, we might want students in economics to be able to carry out a cost-benefit analysis.
  • In English literature we might want our students to know that William Makepeace Thackeray wrote 'Vanity Fair.'
  • We might also want our students to be able to comment critically on the literary merits(or otherwise) of 'Vanity Fair".

One can begin to see that students can know different sorts of things - facts, definitions, the beat of a normal heart, a diagnostic procedure, the rules for literary criticism - and that there is a difference between knowing that something is the case and knowing how to do something (Smith, 1999). For example, one knows that Thackeray wrote 'Vanity Fair' whilst one knows how to carry out a diagnosis on a patient. One can see too that knowing how to do something requires knowing that certain things are the case. For example, knowing how to carry out a diagnosis requires that one have factual knowledge concerning e.g. symptoms, diseases, medications.

2. From Data to Wisdom

One way to bring a degree of conceptual clarity to the area of knowledge in learning is to define some terms that are related to the question of knowledge. Bellinger and Castro (Bellinger, G., Castro, D., & Mills, A., 2004) explain the difference between data, information, knowledge and understanding in the following way.

Data: Data is raw. It simply exists and has no significance beyond its existence (in and of itself).

Information: Information is data that has been given meaning by way of relational connection, e.g in a report.

Knowledge: Knowledge is the appropriate collection of information, such that it's intent is to be useful. Knowledge is a deterministic process. When someone "memorizes" information (as less-aspiring test-bound students often do), then they have amassed knowledge. This knowledge has useful meaning to them, but it does not provide for, in and of itself, integration such as would lead to further knowledge.

Understanding: Understanding is an interpolative and probabilistic process. It is cognitive and analytical. It is the process by which I can take knowledge and synthesize new knowledge from the previously held knowledge. The difference between understanding and knowledge is the difference between "learning" and "memorizing". People who have understanding can undertake useful actions because they can synthesize new knowledge, or in some cases, at least new information, from what is previously known (and understood). That is, understanding can build upon currently held information, knowledge and understanding itself.

Wisdom... wisdom is an extrapolative and non-deterministic, non-probabilistic process. It calls upon all the previous levels of consciousness, and specifically upon special types of human programming (moral, ethical codes, etc.). It beckons to give us understanding about which there has previously been no understanding, and in doing so, goes far beyond understanding itself. It is the essence of philosophical probing. Unlike the previous four levels, it asks questions to which there is no (easily-achievable) answer, and in some cases, to which there can be no humanly-known answer period. Wisdom is therefore, the process by which we also discern, or judge, between right and wrong, good and bad. I personally believe that computers do not have, and will never have the ability to posses wisdom. Wisdom is a uniquely human state, or as I see it, wisdom requires one to have a soul, for it resides as much in the heart as in the mind. And a soul is something machines will never possess (or perhaps I should reword that to say, a soul is something that, in general, will never possess a machine).

2.1 Do We Really Want to Produce Wise Students?

The inclusion of wisdom in the process of learning might strike some educators as a little odd, but as Bruner pointed out in "The Process of Education", education is about more than learning. It is about producing a certain sort of individual ready to take their place in society (Bruner, 1997, p.1). Thus, we could do a lot worse than engage our students in a process of learning that aimed at inculcating wisdom. Here we would understand wisdom as knowledge of the most appropriate means to the best end. That sentence appears relatively innocuous until one gives the sentence one's full attention. A significant part of the difficulty in determining to produce students who are wise lies in determining the best end. If we had to tell our students what to aim for in life, what would we say? If we could identify the best end in life, what advice would we give our students on how to set about getting there?

3 Lest We Become Idealistic

4. Cognitive Domain

Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives for the cognitive domain was first published in 1956. The taxonomy or classification was devised as a framework for classifying what educators intended students to learn at the end of the process of instruction. The original taxonomy consisted of six cognitive dimensions ordered from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract. (Krathwohl, 2002). Mastery of the preceding category was conceived of as a pre-requisite for progressing to the subsequent category. For example, a student would have to acquire knowledge before being able to comprehend and comprehension would be required before knowledge could be applied.

The six cognitive categories are represented diagrammatically (Atherton, 2009) below with the sub-categories presented below the diagram (Krathwohl, 2002).


1.0 Knowledge: Recall data or information.
1.10 Knowledge of specifics
1.11 Knowledge of terminology
1.12 Knowledge of specific facts
1.20 Knowledge of ways and means of dealing with specifics
1.21 Knowledge of conventions
1.22 Knowledge of trends and sequences
1.23 Knowledge of classifications and categories
1.24 Knowledge of criteria
1.25 Knowledge of methodology
1.30 Knowledge of universals and abstractions in afield
1.31 Knowledge of principles and generalizations
1.32 Knowledge of theories and structures

2.0 Comprehension: Understand the meaning, translation, interpolation, and interpretation of instructions and problems. State a problem in one's own words.
2.1 Translation
2.2 Interpretation
2.3 Extrapolation

3.0 Application: Use a concept in a new situation or unprompted use of an abstraction. Applies what was learned in the classroom into novel situations in the work place.

4.0 Analysis: Separates material or concepts into component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood. Distinguishes between facts and inferences.
4.1 Analysis of elements
4.2 Analysis of relationships
4.3 Analysis of organizational principles

5.0 Synthesis: Builds a structure or pattern from diverse elements. Put parts together to form a whole, with emphasis on creating a new meaning or structure.
5.1 Production of a unique communication
5.2 Production of a plan, or proposed set of operations
5.3 Derivation of a set of abstract relations

6.0 Evaluation: Make judgments about the value of ideas or materials.
6.1 Evaluation in terms of internal evidence
6.2 Judgments in terms of external criteria

5. Why is the Domain Useful?

When we see the knowledge domain broken down in this way it begins to make a little more sense to us. In planning at a curriculum level we can use the domain to create a curriculum that ensures that students learn everything from basic facts to how to evaluate the facts with which they are presented (Krathwohl, 2002). At a course level, the framework allow us to write learning outcomes for basic knowledge through to critical analysis. At a curriculum and a course level we can see the "whole" or everything that we want to teach and we can use the framework to structure the whole whilst also breaking the whole down in to manageable parts. The framework also provides us with an objective means of comparing what we are doing with what others are doing in the same subject area. Finally, through seeing just what it is that we wish to achieve with our students we can begin to see that the sorts of learning activities that we will have to design in order to ensure that our students reach the desired learning outcomes. It is, for example, unrealistic to expect students to make judgments about what they have learned if we have no taught them to make such judgements.

6. Cognitive Domain Revised

6.1 Reasons for Revising the Taxonomy

There are two reasons why the original taxonomy was revised.

  1. The first reason is that teachers criticized the original domain because the categories did not correspond to the way in which they framed their learning objectives or their learning outcomes. Essentially learning objectives are written with a verb form indicating what students are expected to be able to do in order to demonstrate that they have learned. Bloom's first framework did not make use of the verb form in the cognitive domain.
  2. The second reason for changing the categories concerned advances that had been made in cognitive psychology since the the publication of the first version of the taxonomy. For example, the importance of meta-cognitive abilities was realized and we now know that meta-cognitive capacity is one of the capacities that differentiates the expert from the novice (Bransford, 1999 Ch.7). The expert is able to reflect on their own learning in order to correct a mistaken approach to learning or in order to reflect on reasons why adequate learning is not taking place.

6.2 The Knowledge Domain

Knowledge is not represented in the revised framework. The knowledge dimension now sits outside the framework and contains four rather than three categories with each category broken down into sub-categories. For example:

A. Factual Knowledge: The basic elements that students must know to be acquainted with a discipline or solve problems in it.
Aa. Knowledge of terminology
Ab. Knowledge of specific details and elements

D. Meta-cognitive Knowledge: Knowledge of cognition in general as well as awareness and knowledge of one’s own cognition.
Da. Strategic knowledge
Db. Knowledge about cognitive tasks, including appropriate contextual and conditional knowledge
Dc. Self-knowledge

6.3 The Cognitive Processes

In the revised taxonomy we see that the first two cognitive process dimensions have been renamed to "remembering" and "understanding". The verb form has been applied throughout the domain with the third and fourth categories renamed so that they have become "applying" and "analyzing". Evaluating now takes fifth place . Synthesis has been replaced by creating at the top of the pyramid (Atherton, 2009).

We can still conceive of the categories as moving from the simple through to the complex, For example, remembering a fact is a more basic cognitive activity than making a judgement about the truth or the worth of the fact in question.


The revised domains can be explained as follows (Krathwohl, 2002). Each of the cognitive processes contained sub-categories. For example:

1.0 Remember – Retrieving relevant knowledge from long-term memory.
1.1 Recognizing
1.2 Recalling

2.0 Understand – Determining the meaning of instructional messages, including oral, written, and graphic communication.
2.1 Interpreting
2.2 Exemplifying
2.3 Classifying
2.4 Summarizing
2.5 Inferring
2.6 Comparing
2.7 Explaining

3.0 Apply – Carrying out or using a procedure in a given situation.
3.1 Executing
3.2 Implementing

4.0 Analyze – Breaking material into its constituent parts and detecting how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose.
4.1 Differentiating
4.2 Organizing
4.3 Attributing

5.0 Evaluate – Making judgments based on criteria and standards.
5.1 Checking
5.2 Critiquing

6.0 Create – Putting elements together to form a novel, coherent whole or make an original product.
6.1 Generating
6.2 Planning
6.3 Producing

6.4 The Knowledge Dimension and the Cognitive Processes

In the revised taxonomy, any learning objective could be expressed in one of two dimensions. For example, in terms of the knowledge dimension an educator might specify a learning outcome in terms of knowledge of the basic elements that students must know to be acquainted with a discipline or to solve problems in a discipline. This is factual knowledge and might consist of knowledge of terminology in a particular subject. However, it is equally clear that a learning objective might be expressed in terms of one or more cognitive processes. For example, an educator might state the learning objective as, "The student will be able to remember the basic terminology for this subject."

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThe Cognitive Process Dimension
The Knowledge Dimension
1. Remember
2. Understand

3. Apply

4. Analyze

5. Evaluate

6. Create

A. Factual Knowledge
Objective One

Objective Three
B. Conceptual Knowledge

Objective Two

Objective Four
Objective Three
C. Procedural Knowledge

D. Meta-cognitive Knowledge

(Krathwohl, 2002)

7. References

image_delete_48.pngAckoff, R. L., "From Data to Wisdom", Journal of Applies Systems Analysis, Volume 16, 1989 p 3-9.
books.gifAnderson, L. W., & Krathwhohl, D. R. (Eds.). (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.
image_add_48.pngAtherton, J. S. (2005). Approaches to Study "Deep and Surface". 2008.

image_add_48.pngBellinger, G., Castro, D., & Mills, A. (2004). Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom. Retrieved September 10th, 2008, from

image_delete_48.pngBiggs, J. (1993). What do inventories of students' learning process really measure? A theoretical review and clarification. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 3-19.

books.gifBloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, the classification of educational goals – Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay.

image_add_48.pngBransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., Cocking, R. R., & Educational Resources Information Center (U.S.) (1999). How people learn: brain, mind, experience, and school, Available from

books.gifBruner, J.S. The Process of Education. The Process of Education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1977.

image_add_48.pngClark, D. (2009). Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains - The Three Types of Learning. Retrieved 28th September, 2009.

image_warning_48.pngDoherty, I., Blake, A., & Cooper, P. (2009). Staff Development Workshops: Web 2.0 for Teaching and Learning. Paper presented at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education 20th International Conference, Charleston, South Carolina, USA.

image_warning_48.pngDunlap, J. C., Sobel, D., & Sands, D. I. (2007). Designing for Deep and Meaningful Student-to-Content Interactions. Tech Trends, 51(4), 20-31,

books.gifEntwistle, N. (1981). Styles of Learning and Teaching; an integrated outline of educational psychology for students, teachers and lecturers. Chichester: John Wiley.

image_add_48.pngKrathwohl, David R. (2002). A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 21-218.
books.gifKrathwohl, D. R., Bloom, B. S., & Masia, B. B. (1973). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, the Classification of Educational Goals. Handbook II: Affective Domain. New York: David McKay Co., Inc.

image_delete_48.pngMarton, F., & Saljo. (1976). On Qualitative Differences in Learning. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, 4-11.

books.gifRamsden, P. (1992). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. London: Routledge.