In 1956, Benjamin Bloom developed a classification of different levels of behavior in learning. The six levels of learning that he identified are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. These levels are designed to show how a person can take information and use it or process it to a different level. The goal in education is to not only teach a child what to think, but also how to think. Critical thinking is a skill that needs to be taught and learned and exercised by students.
Starting with the foundation of knowledge, we can build thinking skills as demonstrated by the following description of each level of learning.
Knowledge is the ability to identify, list, label, and name things. The student who has memorized vocabulary words, dates, places on a map etc. has acquired knowledge, which is the basic foundation for the other levels.
Comprehension is the ability to associate, explain, estimate, and extend the knowledge that has been acquired. The child who associates bad behavior with punishment has comprehended.
Application is the ability of a person to apply, use, construct, and act on the knowledge in a beneficial and useful way. The person who determines the unit price of an item to get the best buy has taken his math knowledge to the level of application.
Analysis is the ability to order, prioritize, separate, and classify knowledge. The business owner who sees patterns or cycles that develop in his business and effectively prioritizes these in his business plan has reached the level of analysis.
Synthesis is the ability to devise, design, invent, and adapt the knowledge that has been obtained. The inventor who takes the concept of many machines and integrates them into an entirely new invention has demonstrated the skill of synthesis.
The last level, evaluation, is the ability to assess, judge, justify, and explain the knowledge acquired. The student who can state his convictions and give a reasoned defense for his beliefs is a person who has evaluated.
Education develops thought processes that will stick with a person for life. It is important that we encourage critical thinking—thinking that goes beyond memorization of facts to actual usefulness through application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
As parents and teachers we should periodically consider whether or not our students are “blooming” (as in, using the higher level thinking skills described by Benjamin Bloom). Scripture clearly teaches that the ability to evaluate “fruits” is essential in identifying truth and falsehood, so that a person can live in the light and escape the darkness.
Another angle to take on this is the biblical terminology “knowledge,” “understanding,” and “wisdom.” The concept of wisdom as described in scripture emphasizes that a person is not proven wise just by what they know, and understand, but by how they act, what they do, and how they live. Are we truly pushing our students beyond knowledge and understanding to wisdom which truly impacts, forms, and changes their lives? With the efforts of the home, the school, and the church, I am confident that SMS students can “bloom!”
– Lyle Musser, administrator