Andreas Schleicher, special advisor to the secretary general OCED Paris said not long ago, “The world economy no longer pays you for what you know, Google knows everything. The world economy pays you for what you can do with what you know, “he adds “We see a rapid the decline in the demand for routine cognitive skills in our world and the kind of things that are easy to test and easy to teach are all also the kind of things that are easy to digitise, automate and outsource.
“We know that this is the reality staring at us and already threatening our traditional approach to teaching and learning. For years and years our classrooms are the places where students are given knowledge in disconnected chunks and are expected to reproduce it in the same way, it was received. And they do this; they put hours and hours of effort, concentration and productive time in doing just that and ultimately fail when they have new information to interpret on the basis of their existing knowledge. To add insult to injury our examinations grade them on this disconnected, disjointed pieces of information and those with highest recall abilities score the highest. Thus the data that claims that a huge percentage of modern graduates are unemployable. Because for employment they need to have some skills and skills are built on conceptual knowledge and not rot-learning. A society that relies on imparting just content to its children in the name of education is bound to go downhill as content has almost no shelf -life in this age of new information easily downloadable with one click on the button.
Dr Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist could foresee this in 1950s when in order to promote higher forms of thinking such as analysing and evaluation of concepts rather than just remembering facts created a taxonomy of learning domains. Three domains of educational skills were identified – Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor. In easy terms these were knowledge, skills and attitude as per the table that follows:
In school education, we tend to work more on the cognitive domain as attitude and skills are built upon an in- depth conceptual knowledge, knowledge which is not recall or understanding alone but consists of all the 6 levels (Edward De Bono might have these in mind while giving us the theory of Six Thinking Hats).
Each level must be mastered before progressing to the next. Let’s try to understand it with a real life example.
Imagine you have to relocate to a country you’ve never visited before so to understand how to prepare you’ll try together as much information as possible about its geographical location, the weather, the language, currency and if you’re paranoid like me, about the law and order situation there too, so now you have this knowledge you apply it and prepare accordingly. Once you reach there, though you have remembered your new address by heart but still you navigate through lanes and by-lanes and reach there. you put up there and you see that in spite of best preparation based on all the second-hand knowledge you gathered you still need to make lots of tweaks to your living arrangement so you analyse your needs vs. supplies and you make the required changes, for example – You prefer eating Indian breakfast but you realise that no grocer in your neighbourhood sells wheat flour so rather than greens, you know you have to fill your fridge with jams and spreads to go with bread. Earlier you used to cycle to your workplace and never bothered much about your driving skills but roads in this new country are not bicycle-friendly so you have no option but to drive yourself to work and everywhere every day. Then after living like this for a few weeks or months you evaluate how these changes are helping or hindering your idea of an easy life and as you have gained all the necessary first-hand knowledge of the place and conditions you create a plan for a way of living to your utmost convenience and satisfaction, so if this is how you proceed with your life, you are navigating through your life acting upon Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive skills. Then when some of your friends have to shift to the same country as you, you have so much knowledge to share with them to make this transition even easier for them. That’s what Bloom propounded to be the ideal way of learning.
So the point is that to learn about anything new, we gather information by reading, watching or listening, we remember and understand it to apply it then we analyse how much of it is helping and we make a few modifications and then we create our own way, our own procedure or method as we call it. On the surface this seems like the only way cognition works but if you look at the pyramid figure which is shown to represent the taxonomy of learning graphically it says that most of the people stay at the lowest level of cognitive development, i.e. recall and the number keeps reducing with every step on the ladder and that’s why we have just a few who reach the highest step i.e. creativity. For almost last 65 years since Bloom gave us this taxonomy, our educators have kept believing this to be the only explanation and really sound one of the fact that why there are just a handful of students who reach the top level of academic excellence. This was the fact that made Lorin Anderson, a former student of Bloom, and David Krathwohlrevisit this theory a few years later and make some changes. Let’s have a look at those.
• They changed the names of the six categories from noun to verb forms.
• Re-arranged them as shown below.
• Created processes and levels of knowledge matrix.
This revised taxonomy made itself highly doable by using action words. This feature had the potential to make teacher assessment and student assessment even easier and clearer. There are hundreds of case studies available to prove how these revisions are being used in some progressive
educational institutes really effectively thus making teaching and learning more potent and efficacious. Let me conclude it with a table of the revised cognitive domains to cement our understanding of this theory.
An article by
Mrs Archana Gaba, Director | Principal, Saint Kabir Gurukul, Jalabad, Punjab