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Skills and Knowledge – The Foundations for learning

This is Bloom’s Taxonomy. It’s a fundamental way that we represent learning, and there’s a problem with it.

Whilst taxonomies don’t need to denote hierarchy, this one is designed in a way that implies that remembering is inferior to understanding, and evaluating is inferior to creating.

It’s an easy mistake to make because yes, it is harder to understand than it is to remember, but how much can you understand American history if you can’t remember any of its key events?

Learning is the interplay between knowledge and skills. It is through the application of skills to knowledge that we can pass exams, get through school and learn a foreign language.

There can’t be a hierarchy because each level of ‘higher-order’ thinking is predicated, and dependant, on ‘lower-order’ thinking. You will only be able to create once you learn to remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate and create.

So these are the steps through which we need to take all students, at all levels, if we want them to create a piece of writing or a present mathematical solution. It’s incredible to think that young children operate on all these levels all day long.

For example, to solve a column addition sum an 8-year old will need to:

  • remember the method
  • understand how it works
  • apply it to the numbers given
  • analyse the answer to see if makes sense
  • evaluate the process to see if mistakes have been made
  • create an answer

It can be particularly helpful if you can isolate specific areas of weakness (eg. evaluate the process) where you can support your student and therefore improve on the final outcome.

It’s theoretical, but it’s powerful.

Extra Credit Question: does Google render remembering unnecessary?

Julia Silver
Passionate about unlocking learning, Julia launched Qualified Tutor to enable tutors to improve outcomes for all our students. Julia is Senior Leader in a primary school in London, has been tutoring for fifteen years and has children ranging in age from 4 to 14.