Bloom’s Taxonomy & Learning Retention


What does Bloom’s Taxonomy have to do with how much content our students remember? Benjamin Bloom, an educational researcher, can help us with delivering higher-level learning. He built a 6-tier learning scaffold (taxonomy) that ascends from basic knowledge to complex higher order thinking:

  1. The bottom rung is knowledge. The learner is presented with pieces of information.
  2. The second rung is comprehension or understanding. The learner is given opportunity to connect facts or pieces of information into simple concepts.
  3. The third rung is application or applying. The learner is provided opportunity to actually apply their learning to a simulated or real situation.
  4. The forth rung is analysis or analyzing. The learner must analyze or assess content application.
  5. The fifth rung is synthesis or evaluation. The learner must take new information and apply it to a new simulated or real situation, and then evaluate the outcomes.
  6. The sixth rung is creating or evaluating. This is the highest level of learning, where previous content informs the creation of entirely new information or new ways of doing things.

These rungs ascend from lower order thinking to higher order thinking. Learning well requires learning at all the levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Clearly, the top 4 levels – application, analysis, synthesis, and creation – should be our goal when designing learning. Effective application of Bloom’s Taxonomy in the classroom results in a very active, noisy classroom where application and innovation are the norm.

It’s tempting to stick with lectures and power point presentations, but research shows this is not the best teaching strategy. Let’s look at the pyramid of learning for more insight. According to the pyramid, students remember about 5% of a lecture, on average. When they read something, they remember about 10% of the content. Watching audio-visual content results in about 20% retention. This increases to 30% when students watch a demonstration of something. Listening, reading, and watching are passive learning methods. We would expect active learning strategies to increase retention, and this turns out to be the case. When learners discuss content, retention increases sharply to 70%. When learners practice something by doing it, they retain 80% of new content. However, the best way to retain new learning is to teach others.  Students retain an incredible 95% of content when they teach someone else.

Clearly, sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture is not the best way to teach our students if our intention is to have them retain their learning. Based on this research, we should be providing lots of opportunities for students to work together and be active in the learning process.


Sharon Aka is the Associate Director of the Adventist Learning Community & Associate Director for the North American Division Office of Education. In her role she supports content development and training for pastors, teachers, ministries, administrators, and believers and seekers. She has worked for the Seventh-day Adventist Church for 3 years, and continues to be excited about combining her faith and profession. Sharon is a Registered Nurse by trade, with 16 years experience as Surgical Nurse and Nurse Educator at The Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. She also has 11 years experience as a Professor of Nursing and Professional Development Specialist for faculty at Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning in Toronto, Ontario. Sharon is a PhD student at Andrews University, USA.

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