H. Jurgen Combs
Bloom’s taxonomy - Bloom offers a continuum of questions, ranging from the easy to the difficult. It is important to remember to ask a variety of questions during your class. Research shows that many teachers only ask questions at the lower cognitive level. Additionally, please be aware that we tend to ask lower level questions of lower SES students. One way to motivate lower SES students is to ask more challenging questions than to simply rely on the recall types of questions.

Certainly, there are times when lower level questions are needed; this is particularly true at the start of units or lessons, when students have a limited knowledge of the content.  However, the concern that we have with the use of lower level questions is when they are used extensively.  Unfortunately, some research done in classrooms suggests in many cases more than half of the questions asked are of the lower cognitive levels.



The extensive use of lower cognitive levels of questions leads to some problems: *

  1. When students are asked to simply recall information, they are not actively involved in the learning process; much of the work consists of memorization.
  2. Most lower level questions have one specific answer; this does not lead to the kinds of discussions that should take place in the classrooms.
  3. The students' ability to express themselves verbally is not enhanced when there is too much reliance on one or two word responses.

* Orlich, Harder, Callahan, Gibson. Teaching Strategies: A Guide to Better Instruction. Boston: Houghton   Mifflin, Co. 1998. p. 80.


recognizing and recalling facts, matching, listing

list, define, describe, label, outline, match, select, recite, state, recall, what did the book say about, list examples of..., reproduce, restate the major... The student will be able to list the 4 major causes of World War I.

Given a map of the US, the student will correctly label the states with 80% accuracy.

Specific facts

Who was the President during the Civil War?

Terminology or definitions What does primary source mean?
Rules What items must be put on a title page for a report?


understanding, ability to state in own words

defend, explain, predict, summarize, explain, generalize, matching, listing, conclude which, use your own words to ..., give reasons or evidence why ... By the end of the first semester, the student will be able to summarize the major foreign policy accomplishments of FDR.

The student will be able to list the differences between socialists and communists.


What are the differences between Junior High Schools and Middle Schools?
Translation In your own words, explain Wilson's 14 points.
Examples Find two other examples of pure democracies world history.
Definitions Using your own words, explain what an objective is in your lesson plans.


using learning in a new situation

compute, use, solve, organize, modify, develop, perform, solve, demonstrate, what other reasons ..., suppose that ..., what might they do with .... Given a list of causes and events and persons related to the Vietnam war, the students will correctly organize the events and persons.

breaking down into parts and understanding their relationship to the whole

infer, outline, distinguish, differentiate, diagram, compare, contrast, what is another purpose in ..., fact vs. opinion, what do you need to know to...., how does A relate to B? After listening to the President's speech, students will be able to distinguish fact from opinion in the speech.

The students will be able to outline the major differences in the economic policies of the Democrats and Republicans.

Identify issues

Explain the major components of a well written objective.

State implications

What are the reasons why many teacher education programs emphasize the research on effective teaching?
SYNTHESIS (creating)

putting parts together to form a new whole

compose, design, create, can you develop a new way to ..., Can you make up ..., what would you do if ... Given the causes of the Viet-nam war, what would you have done had you been Lyndon Johnson?
Uniqueness Write a lesson plan which includes questions from each cognitive level.
Plans for operation Develop and teach a lesson about how to write effective questions from each cognitive level.
Abstractions After observing at least five classes, develop at least five procedures to improve classroom management.


judging learning against criteria

rate, weigh, appraise, justify the actions of ..., compare and contrast ...., provide arguments to support .... Compare and contrast the causes of World War I with those of World War II.

Compare and contrast the foreign policies of John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

Should teachers be allowed to hit students who misbehave?*

Establish Criteria on which to base judgment

* using this example, students would need to figure out what roles parents, schools and the state play.

Use the criteria to justify statement

The response to the question will depend on the person's view of the role of the parents, school, and state.

In addition to being concerned about the cognitive levels of your questions, your planning also needs to consider the varying learning styles of your students. Gardner's research on multiple intelligences suggests at least 7 intelligences. Good lesson plans will address more than one intelligence during your class; over the span of a unit, be sure to include activities to appeal to all intelligences.



read, write, tell stories memorization of facts and dates, places hearing, seeing words, speaking


do experiments, figure things out, work with numbers, ask questions math, logic and reasoning classifying, categorizing; works well with abstract patterns and relationships
Spatial create things, play with machines, build, draw, design things puzzles, reading maps and charts, can imagine things visualizing, working with colors and pictures, use of maps
Musical listen to music, hum tunes, play an instrument, respond to music, sing remembers tunes and can pick up sounds, notices change in pitch, keeps time melody, music
Bodily/kinesthetic uses body language, touch and talks, moves around a lot any type of physical activities - sports, dancing, crafts processes knowledge well through bodily sensations - touching, feeling, manipulating
Interpersonal likes to join groups, talks to people, likes having lots of friends understands people, organizing, communicating, conflict resolution cooperative groups, sharing and comparing
Intrapersonal pursues own interests, likes to work alone understands self, follows instincts, is very original works alone, likes to do individual projects at self determined pace, likes to have own space

* based on Howard Gardner's Frames of Mind

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last updated on 27 May 2008
H. Jurgen Combs