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SAGE Musings: Using Bloom's Taxonomy to Boost Student Metacognition

Jenny McFarland, Edmonds Community College
published Sep 27, 2017

The use of Bloom's taxonomy in teaching and learning can help us become more student centered, as it allows us to be more precise about what we want students to know and be able to do. There is a growing body of evidence for teaching and learning practices that explicitly address these cognitive skill levels and they can be used during one-on-one student faculty interactions in office hours, advising, or review sessions, as well as in class.

I use Bloom's-based Learning Activities for Students (the "BLASt" tool from Crowe et al., 2008) during office hours to help students assess and expand their learning strategies to practice higher order cognitive skills. When students come to my office it is usually because they have not done well on an exam. When they arrive, I give them a copy of Table 3 from Crowe et al. (2008) and a highlighter. I give the students 2-5 minutes to highlight the study activities they have used so far in the course, while I do busy work at my desk. This allows students some time to read through the activities and reflect on the higher and lower order cognitive study skills. Most students have experience using lower order study skills: e.g., reading, highlighting, defining, using flashcards, etc. We use the student's BLASt inventory to help the student assess their study skills, evaluate the Bloom's level of exam questions, and compare study habits to exam performance. Finally, I give the student a different color highlighter and ask the student to highlight 2-3 higher order study activities that they will use in the next week. I make an electronic note in my student roster to follow up with the student in a week to ask what they did to implement a higher order study activity and ask if they have any questions or need help with this.

Students learn through repeated practice with feedback, and I utilize the 'testing effect' by providing students with the opportunity to answer formative assessment questions in class, usually 12-30 in a 2-hour period (Roediger and Karpicke, 2006). Many of these are in a think-pair share format, some are part of small group cases, and others are part of individual and group quizzes. I typically ask students to "Identify the level of Bloom's Taxonomy for each of these questions" to build their metacognitive practice and help them be able to differentiate between a knowledge level question and a question that requires analysis or synthesis. A surprising and happy consequence is that students, given this repeated practice, rarely say that a question is "tricky"; instead, they more often recognize that questions that do not merely address their knowledge and comprehension are not meant to "trick" them but instead ask them to use higher order cognitive skills than recall.


Crowe, A., Dirks, C., and Wenderoth, M.P. (2008) Biology in Bloom: Implementing Bloom's Taxonomy to Enhance Student Learning in Biology. CBE – Life Sciences Education 7(4):368-381. Available online at

Roediger, H.L. and Karpicke, J.D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17:249-255. Available online at

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