Cognitive learning models: Bloom’s taxonomy

Bloom’s[1] taxonomy provides a hierarchical structure with which to think about the cognitive levels of the learning activities that we ask students to undertake. In order for deep learning to take place, it is argued that all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy should be followed.


A pyramidal diagram illustrates how lower order skills such as remembering and understanding, underpin higher order skills such as evaluating information and creating new meaning.
Bloom’s (1956) taxonomy

How does this relate to current IL thinking?

There is a historic tendency in IL teaching to concentrate on functional and other low cognitive demand skills. Increasingly frameworks and curricula such as the SCONUL Seven Pillars of Information Literacy (pdf) are using the language of higher cognitive domains.

Some implications of Kolb and Bloom’s approach in IL teaching

  • More focus on reviewing previous knowledge – e.g. quizzing, audits, journals.
  • Less time is given over to functional skills – maybe moving them online or using the flipped classroom approach.
  • Consider implementing more novel approaches which require higher order thinking and engagement from the outset – inquiry, problem or case-based based learning.
  • Integration becomes more important as students need to practise these skills in context.
  • Sessions are more student-centred and more engaging.

Potential problems

  • Works best when integrated into a course, i.e. assessed. Difficult to set work for students to do if not integrated.
  • Experiential based sessions take longer and are more demanding in terms of time-management so require more rigorous planning than a lecture style workshop.
  • Student preconceptions can be hard to manage – they tend to expect handouts and for the teacher to lead, based on their previous experiences. Cultural differences can also play a role here.


The next section addresses the need to achieve constructive alignment of your information literacy teaching with the learning objectives that have been set, and looks in this context at the theory of Biggs and Tang.


References for this page

[1] Anderson, L.W. (Ed.), Krathwohl, D.R. (Ed.), Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E., Pintrich, P.R., Raths, J., & Wittrock, M.C. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Complete edition). New York: Longman.