EW Eisner, a former student of Bloom at the University of Chicago, noted that Bloom’s lack of imposing physical qualities in no way diminished his stature. His personality and intelligence commanded the attention of all in the room. And of course, his contribution to education is well known and immeasurable (Eisner 2000).
Anyone involved in teaching and learning is familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, conceived in 1956 by a committee of several educators headed by Bloom, but still used widely in learning institutions today as a guide to the classification, formulation and assessment of learning objectives.
This ground-breaking work marked a departure from simply regurgitating facts, to the promotion of higher order thinking skills. It enabled a more reliable procedure for student assessment and the outcomes of educational practice. It represented a move away from the century old practice of measuring and describing academic achievement based on an anticipated normal distribution; a normal distribution which results in a comparison of student performance, where fewer mistakes are awarded with better grades – an incessant race wherein the fastest wins and is rewarded, while the others are left in the cold. Bloom believed that students are individuals and that goal attainment rather than student comparison is important. His taxonomy enabled the clarification and assessment of those goals.
Although Bloom’s Taxonomy has been revised and improved by subsequent cognitive psychologists, there are many institutions still using the original Bloom’s Taxonomy to guide their teaching and learning practices. I personally subscribe to the newer taxonomy of Roberto Marzano. But more of that in another blog.
Bloom did however have several other approaches to education that were ahead of their time, which I support wholeheartedly and have incorporated into the design of FaceBoard:
He supported the idea that education is a process which should be designed to realise human potential – in fact to make potential possible. To him, education was an exercise in optimism.
He said: I am confident that virtually all people have enormous potential for something. The problem is to find some way of unearthing what that is and to make it possible for them to excel in the things they find most interesting. (Nieto-Cruz 2010)
His teaching style was interactive and experiential – something not common at that time (Eisner 2000)
Individual differences among students should be accommodated to promote learning at his/her own pace with the expectation of success
He believed that the environment has a profound influence on performance and that assessment results had to be viewed and evaluated in context
He supported cooperative learning, where students are encouraged to help and learn from each other.
There is no question that Benjamin Bloom, only 1.65m tall, is justified the lofty standing he continues to hold in education circles more than 5 decades later.
Bloom B, EnglehartM, Furst E, Hill W & Krathwohl D, 1956. Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green
Eisner EW, 2000. Benjamin Bloom 1913 – 1999. Prospects: quarterly review of comparative education. Paris, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education, vol: XXX, 3; 2000 1 / 124. http://www.ibe.unesco.org/sites/default/files/resources/prospects-115_eng.pdf
Nieto-Cruz A, 2010. Benjamin S. Bloom. http://edci6304anc.pbworks.com/w/page/32195900/Benjamin%20Bloom