Theorist: Benjamin Bloom

THEORIST: Benjamin Bloom Benjamin S. Bloom was a Jewish-American educational psychologist; he was born in Lansford, Pennsylvania on 21st February, 1913. Benjamin Bloom attended the Pennsylvania State University where he obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1935. He then moved to the University of Chicago and completed a Ph. D. in education in 1942, and served as a member of the Board of Examinations from 1940 – 1943. In 1944 he was appointed as the Instructor of Educational Psychology; he remained at the University for the next thirty years during which time he was appointed Charles H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor (1970).

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Benjamin also served as an educational advisor to the governments of Israel, India and many other nations. Benjamin Bloom died at the age of eighty six at his home in Chicago on 13th September 1999. He was survived by his wife Sophie, and his two sons David and Jonathan. Benjamin Bloom made great contributions in the area of education. A great deal of his research focused on the study of educational objectives. Together with a group of cognitive psychologists at the University of Chicago, Bloom developed his theory on taxonomy and his book Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain was published in 1956.

His theory on taxonomy is his most significant work; it promoted the concept that any given task favors one of three psychological domains: Cognitive, affective, or psychomotor. The cognitive domain deals with the ability to process and utilize (as a measure) information in a meaningful way. The affective domain is concerned with the attitudes and feelings that result from the learning process. Lastly, the psychomotor domain involves manipulative or physical skills (New World Encyclopedia).

Like Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, Bloom believed that in each of his psychological domains there are levels of learning, and an individual must be able to perform at the lower level before they can proceed to a higher level. In the affective domain there are five levels of learning, beginning with receiving which is the lowest level. At this level student passively pays attention; no learning can occur without this level. Next there is responding where students actively participate in the learning process. Valuing is when the student attaches a value to an object, phenomenon, or piece of information.

Next come organizing; the student can put together different values, information, and ideas and accommodate them within his/her own schema; comparing, relating, and elaborating on what has been learned. Finally there is characterizing which is when a particular value or belief influences the behavior of the student in such a way that it can now be labeled as a characteristic (New World Encyclopedia). The sub-categories for skills in the psychomotor domain were not actually written by Bloom or his colleagues, but by someone by the name of Harrow.

The categories he listed were reflex movements- automatic and involuntary reaction to a stimulus; fundamental movements such as walking or grasping; perception, which is a response to a stimuli. Then physical abilities such as strength and agility are developed when stamina has been developed. Skilled movements such as sports or acting are learned at this time. The no discursive communication is the last category in this domain, and it is where body language such as facial expressions and gestures are developed (New World Encyclopedia).

Bloom’s cognitive domain was based on the belief that cognitive operations can be organized into six progressively more intricate levels. The first level, knowledge, is defined as the remembering of previously learned material. Bloom held that knowledge is the lowest level of learning outcomes in this domain. Next there is comprehension, the ability to grasp the meaning of material and goes just beyond the knowledge level. Comprehension is the lowest level of understanding. Comprehension is followed by application, which basically is the ability to take prior knowledge and apply it in new, concrete principles and theories.

In analysis, the next area of the taxonomy, the learning outcomes require an understanding of both the content and the structural form of material. The next level is synthesis, the ability to put parts together to make a new whole; creative behaviour is learned on this level. Evaluation is all about the ability to ascertain the value of material for a specified purpose using definite criteria. Learning outcomes in this area are the highest in the cognitive hierarchy because they incorporate or contain elements of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, and synthesis.

In addition, they contain conscious value judgments based on clearly defined criteria. The activity of inventing encourages the four highest levels of learning–application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation–in addition to knowledge and comprehension (Mary Bellis). Another one of Benjamin Bloom’s contribution to education is his theory on Mastery Learning. Given the opportunity, Bloom believed that all learners can succeed. His method of Mastery Learning called for the breaking down of skills into subskills and only proceeding to the next skill upon mastery of the previous skill.

He believed that Mastery Learning can be achieved this way with additional strategies such as tutoring, small group work, programmed instruction, games, and audiovisual materials (Taxonomy of Educational Objectives). The concept of mastery learning is attributed to the behaviorism principles of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning states that behaviours change in frequency and duration due to consequences. The focus of mastery learning is on explicit or obvious behaviours that can be observed and measured. Teachers of mastery learning need to organize smaller lessons that are tactful and discreet, so that it makes sense to the students.

In general, mastery learning programs have been shown to lead to higher achievement in all students as compared to more traditional forms of teaching (Anderson, 2000; Gusky & Gates, 1986). Despite the empirical evidence, many mastery programs in schools have been replaced by more traditional forms of instruction due to the level of commitment required by the teacher and the difficulty in managing the classroom when each student is following an individual course of learning (Anderson, 2000; Grittner, 1975. (Ask). Benjamin Bloom’s contribution to education was quite extensive.

His work led to an upsurge of interest in early childhood education, and was instrumental in promoting the ‘Head Start’ program where the main theme was education for everyone. Bloom was instrumental in shifting the instructional emphasis from teaching facts to teaching students how to use the knowledge they had learned. He revolutionized education through his thinking that, backed by significant research evidence, that what any person can learn, all can learn, except perhaps for the lowest one or two percent of students (New World Encyclopedia).

Bloom was very instrumental in creating the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). His work in this institution impacted significantly on efforts to improve students’ learning in several countries. Bloom also developed the MESA (Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistical Analysis) program which was designed to prepare scholars to design genuinely informative and educationally useful evaluation practices (New World Encyclopedia). Bloom’s contribution to education as well as the effect it has on the lives of students and teachers alike is of great significance.

His contributions will always be remembered. Word count – 1185 Works cited New World Encyclopedia: Organizing knowledge for happiness, prosperity and world piece. Benjamin Bloom, April 2008. • www. newworldencyclopedia. org/entry/Benjamin_Bloom Bellis, Mary. Benjamin Bloom – Critical Thinking Skills: About. com:inventors. 2010 www. inventors. about. com/library/lessons/bl_benjamin_bloom. htm Benjamin Bloom Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Instructional Development Timeline. www. my-ecoach. com/idtimeline/theory/bloom. html Mastery Learning. Ask. www. ask. com/wiki/Benjamin_Bloom? qsrc=3044


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