In brief, Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) provides a framework for promoting higher order thinking skills. Using this hierarchy of 6 levels of thinking, an instructor is able to design performance tasks, draft questions that promote critical thinking and make learning more explicit to the student.
The 6 levels are defined below along with some action verbs that correspond to that level of thinking. A more complete list of action words for each level of Bloom’s taxonomy is available here.
Knowledge: Recalling previously learned information such as facts, terminology, and rules. Basic memorization.
Action verbs: define, list, name, recall
Comprehension: Ability to comprehend the meaning of material. Answers must be in the student’s own words while still using terminology appropriate to the course material.
Action verbs: explain, summarize, distinguish between, restate
Application: Requires recognizing, identifying, or applying a concept or principle in a new situation or solving a new problem. May require identifying or generating examples not found in assigned materials.
Action verbs: demonstrate, arrange, relate, adapt
Analysis: Ability to break material down into its component parts and to understand its underlying structure.
Action verbs: differentiate, estimate, infer, diagram
Synthesis: Ability to combine parts to form a new whole; to synthesize a variety of elements into an original and significant whole. Produce something unique or original; Solve some unfamiliar problem in a unique way.
Action verbs: combine, create, formulate, construct
Evaluation: Ability to evaluate a total situation, to judge the value of material for a certain purpose, combining elements of all the other categories and also value judgments based on defined, fixed criteria. The most important part of the answer is the justification and rationale for the conclusion.
Action verbs: judge, critique, justify, discriminate
Use action verbs drawn from Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Use action verbs that are clear and observable.
Source: Bloom, B. S., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives, Handbook I: The cognitive domain. NY: David McKay Co. Inc.