Using Taxonomies in your e-assessments

Cirrus Assessment Support Team -

Working with Taxonomies

What is a taxonomy

A taxonomy is an hierarchical model used to classify your educational learning objectives. In other words: it is a way to order your learning objectives.

A commonly used taxonomy is Bloom's taxonomy or a revised version of this, often with a focus on the cognitive domain. Bloom's is a set of three hierarchical models used to classify educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity. The three lists cover the learning objectives in three domains [source]:

  • Cognitive domain (knowledge-based), 
  • Affective domain (emotive-based) and 
  • Sensory / psychomotor domain (action-based)

Blooms and the revised Bloom's cognitive hierarchy.

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Starting with basic factual knowledge, the categories progress through comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation [see]:

  • Knowledge - Remembering or recalling information.
  • Comprehension - The ability to obtain meaning from information.
  • Application - The ability to use information.
  • Analysis - The ability to break information into parts to understand it better.
  • Synthesis - The ability to put materials together to create something new.
  • Evaluation - The ability to check, judge, and critique materials.

Note that in the revised taxonomy, synthesis and evaluation are switched. Also, verbs are used in place of nouns to imply the action one takes in each level, link:

  • Remember - Using memory to recall facts and definitions.
  • Understand - Constructing meaning from information.
  • Apply - Using procedures to carry out a task.
  • Analyze - Breaking materials into parts to determine structures and relationships.
  • Evaluate - Making jugements based on checking against given criteria.
  • Create - Putting materials together to form a unique product.

The reason for the revision is perhaps more appealing for many (source) for several reasons :

  • It removes the word, knowledge: since all of the cognitive processes listed are versions of knowledge (increasingly sophisticated or expert versions of knowledge we might even say), the revised version seems more accurate.
  • It converts the levels to verbs, which underscores that these levels involve actions, cognitive skills to be demonstrated, rather than states of being.
  • It culminates in creating, moving evaluating down a level. This strikes many disciplinary experts as appropriate. After all, until one can evaluate gaps in existing research, for example, it is difficult to create new knowledge for the field.

Why use taxonomy terms?

Using a taxonomy as a teaching tool helps you to “balance assessment and evaluative questions in class, assignments and texts to ensure all orders of thinking are exercised in student’s learning, including aspects of information searching” (source).

Whichever taxonomy you prefer, there are key verbs for each level you can use when writing cognitive objectives. Many lists to help you with this exist online. For examples see [1] [2] or [3]. However, most probably subject matter experts or item / assessment development experts within your own organisation can help define the right taxonomy to use.

On a more practical note: when creating an assessment using a blueprint in Cirrus all items need to have both a taxonomy term and learning objective set.

How to setup Taxonomy in Cirrus?

You can create Learning Objectives via Admin > Taxonomies.


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