Thirsty for Strong Instructional Practice?
Do you notice the energy and motivation your students bring to class discussions and activities wane when it’s time for them to write an assignment? Do you get bored reading the same thing from student to student and even semester to semester? Using an assignment menu can reinvigorate both you and your students.
Take a SIP of this: Assignment Menus Based on Bloom’s Taxonomy*
Providing a menu of assignments for students to choose from allows them to pursue their learning in ways that interests them and highlight their skills. The result is an increase in motivation, students spending more time on assignments, and a sense that they are respected by their professor, among other things. One way to create a menu of assignments is to divide tasks based on the level of thinking they require. Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a framework for organizing learner skills and abilities along a continuum from lower to higher level thinking.
To create an assignment menu based on Bloom’s Taxonomy:
Begin by determining your instructional objective(s). What tasks will support their ability to meet your goals for their learning?
Identify a few tasks that will allow the students to engage with the content based on levels of cognitive processes from lower order thinking skills to higher order thinking skills. The graphic below can help. Here are some examples:
Knowledge: recalling information
- List the concepts
- Match the concepts with their descriptions
- Create a quiz on the concepts, with an answer sheet
Comprehension: understanding concepts
- Describe the concepts
- Find clip art or other images that represent each of the concepts
- Give examples of each of the concepts
Application: using concepts in a new context
- Create a plan for the possible implementation of a concept
- Apply the concept and describe the outcome
- Identify the possible costs and benefits of applying the concept
Analysis: tease apart the various elements of a concept
- Make a table illustrating the similarities and differences of each concept
- Simplify each concept into its most basic elements
- Describe the most important features of each concept
Synthesis: assemble the parts of the concept in a new way, integrating new information
- Create a model using the concepts
- Blend two concepts to form a new one
- Design a real-world application for the concept
Evaluation: determine and justify opinions on the concept
- Debate the effectiveness of the application of the concept
- Defend the use of the concept with support
- Evaluate the costs and benefits of the application of the concept
There are a couple of ways you can use an assignment menu. First, you can assign a certain number of points to each task and allow students to select their assignments requiring that their choices add up to a predetermined number of points. Tasks that require higher level thinking are worth more points than lower level thinking. Tasks requiring more time should be worth more than those requiring less time.
Alternatively, you can have students choose one task from each level of thinking, so that everyone begins the exploration of a concept at the knowledge and comprehension levels and then works their way up to analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
This process can be daunting, so it is reasonable to begin by identifying possible options and adding to them over the course of several semesters. Alternatively, you can use just a few of the learning levels as appropriate for the content. Often, students will come to you with their own suggestions. You can add these suggestions to your list of possible tasks so the options in your list will grow each semester.
Still Thirsty? Take another SIP of Assignment Menus Based on Thinking Skills
Iowa State Center for Excellence for Learning and Teaching has a super interactive media tool on applying Bloom’s Taxonomy in assignment design.
Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching: Bloom’s Taxonomy has a super explanation of the taxonomy.
*Bloom’s Taxonomy has been revised. The original version is presented here intentionally as the author believes it is more applicable to teaching and learning in higher education.