Beyond Bloom’s: Students’ Perception of Bloom’s Taxonomy and its Convolution with Cognitive Load

Jamie Lee Jensen (Brigham Young University)
Andrea J. Phillips (Department of Biology Brigham Young University)
Jace C. Briggs (Department of Biology Brigham Young University)

Article ID: 421



         Bloom’s taxonomy is widely used in educational research to categorize the cognitive skills required to answer exam questions. For this study, we analyzed how students categorize exam questions (high-level question or low-level question,) gathered data as to their rationale for categorization, and compared their categorizations to those of experts. We found that students consistently rank high-level questions incorrectly. We analyzed student reasons for their categorizations, and found that for many of the incorrectly categorized questions the students referred to reasons related to Cognitive Load Theory. This shows that cognitive load prevents students from accurately assessing the cognitive level of an exam question. Thus, extra cognitive load in exam questions may prevent those questions from accurately measuring the skills and knowledge of the student. This points to the need for instructors to eliminate cognitive load from their exams.


Bloom’s taxonomy; Cognitive load theory; Student perception; HOCS; LOCS

Full Text:



[1] Bloom, B. S. (1984). Taxonomy of educational objectives. [M] Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

[2] Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom's taxonomy: An overview. [J] Theory into Practice, 41, 4: 212. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4104_2

[3] Bloom, B., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., Krathwohl, D.R. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain [M]. New York: David McKay.

[4] Crowe, A., Dirks, C., Wenderoth, M. P. (2008). Biology in Bloom: Implementing Bloom's Taxonomy to Enhance Student Learning in Biology. [J] Cbe-Life Sciences Education, 7, 4: 368-381. doi:10.1187/cbe.08-05-0024

[5] Jensen, J. L., McDaniel, M. A., Woodard, S. M., & Kummer, T. A. (2014). Teaching to the Test, or Testing to Teach: Exams Requiring Higher Order Thinking Skills Encourage Greater Conceptual Understanding. [J] Educational Psychology Review, 26, 2: 307-329.

[6] Zoller, U. (1993). Are lecture ad learning compatible? Maybe for LOCS: Unlikely for HOCS [J]. Journal of Chemical Education, 70, 3: 195-197. doi: 10.1021/ed070p195

[7] Lemons, P. P., Lemons, J. D. (2013). Questions for Assessing Higher-Order Cognitive Skills: It's Not Just Bloom's. [J] Cbe-Life Sciences Education, 12, 1: 47-58. doi:10.1187/cbe.12-03-0024

[8] Wyse, A. E., Viger, S. G. (2011). How item writers understand depth of knowledge. [J] Educational Assessment, 16, 4: 185–206. doi: 10.1080/10627197.2011.634286

[9] Knecht, K. T. (2001). Assessing cognitive skills of pharmacy students in a biomedical sciences module using a classification of multiple-choice item categories according to bloom's taxonomy. [J] American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 65, 4: 324-334.

[10] Freeman, S., Parks, J. W. (2010). How accurate is peer grading? [J] CBE Life Sciences Education, 9, 4: 482–488. doi: 10.1187/cbe.10-03-0017

[11] Momsen, J. L., Long, T. M., Wyse, S. A., Ebert-May, D. (2010). Just the Facts? Introductory Undergraduate Biology Courses Focus on Low-Level Cognitive Skills. [J] Cbe-Life Sciences Education, 9, 4: 435-440. doi:10.1187/cbe.10-01-0001

[12] Nurrenbern, S. C., Robinson, W. R. (1998). Conceptual questions and challenge problems. [J] Journal of Chemical Education, 75, 11: 1502. doi: 10.1021/ed075p1502

[13] Lawson, A. E., Alkhoury, S., Benford, R., Clark, B. R., Falconer, K. A. (2000). What kinds of scientific concepts exist? Concept construction and intellectual development in college biology. [J] Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37, 9: 996–1018.<996::AID-TEA8>3.0.CO; 2-J

[14] Armbruster, P., Patel, M., Johnson, E., Weiss, M. (2009). Active Learning and Student-centered Pedagogy Improve Student Attitudes and Performance in Introductory Biology. [J] Cbe-Life Sciences Education, 8, 3: 203-213. doi:10.1187/cbe.09-03-0025

[15] Anderson, L. W. (2002) This issue – Revising Bloom’s taxonomy. [J] Theory Into Practice, 41, 4: 210-211. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4104_1

[16] deJong, T., FergusonHessler, M. G. M. (1996). Types and qualities of knowledge. [J] Educational Psychologist, 31, 2: 105-113. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep3102_2

[17] Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem-solving – effects on learning. [J] Cognitive Science, 12, 2: 257-285. doi:10.1207/s15516709cog1202_4

[18] Nurnberger, J. I., Blehar, M. C., Kaufmann, C. A., Yorkcooler, C., Simpson, S. G., Harkavyfriedman, J., . . . Ritz, A. L. (1994). Diagnostic interview for genetic-studies – rationale, unique features, and training. [J] Archives of General Psychiatry, 51, 11: 849-859. PMID: 7944874

[19] Bell, P., Volckmann, D. (2011). Knowledge Surveys in General Chemistry: Confidence, Overconfidence, and Performance. [J] Journal of Chemical Education, 88, 11: 1469-1476. doi:10.1021/ed100328c


  • There are currently no refbacks.
Copyright © 2019 Andrea J. Phillips, Jace C. Briggs, Jamie Lee Jensen

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.