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November 30, 2016
Bloomin’ Marvellous: Taking my hat off to Bloom by Lauren Atkins
Questioning a student prompts thought, it allows them to pick apart elements of History in order for them to investigate why events happened, what their impact was and also what would the world look like if these events did not take place.
After six weeks of teaching, it became apparent that my lessons were not as challenging for higher achievers as I had hoped; back to the drawing board it was. From writing about Bloom’s taxonomy in two of my assignments, I thought this would be a good place to start. Bloom’s theory follows a linear format, ideal for students studying History. I found that, in theory, if the taxonomy was incorporated within my lessons that I would be able to challenge my higher achieving students. Bloom stipulates that students need to start by recalling information and through questioning they are guided to the evaluation stage. In my lessons, I found that some students arrived with prior-knowledge and so, beginning with the ‘knowledge’ and ‘comprehension’ stages hindered their progress. I then looked at activities that would help to challenge the higher attaining students in the class. After research, I found De Bono’s ‘Thinking Hats’ as this activity allows for students to begin at various levels. However, as Bloom’s theory applies to History so well I thought it was important that this form of questioning was incorporated. I combined the ‘Thinking Hats’ activity with Bloom’s questioning. Students were then given a colour, representative of the stage they should begin at, in their book, they then had to complete three sections. This task immediately challenged higher ability students whilst differentiating for those who need additional support. Students utilised their historical skill set and analysed the information they were given before synthesising and evaluation. I found that because I was researching the theory at the same time as applying it, I could tailor it to meet the needs of my higher attaining students within lessons.
There is one potential problem here though, in History it is important for students to empathise with a source to evaluate it. This is a skill that I am currently developing with my Year 7 groups through questioning, for example, ‘why do you think the Black Death was portrayed in this way?’ ‘How does it reflect people’s fears at the time?’ Through this ‘high-order’ questioning students can empathise with the source which inevitably aids their ability to evaluate it. By understanding why a source has been published, students are able to then evaluate why it is representative of the time. To combat this, I placed great emphasis on ‘empathy’ within the ‘synthesis’ stage. Bloom instructs that this stage is reserved for inference and imagination; both concepts which link to empathy. Students, through questioning are asked what can they infer from the source? From this we can then ask them to imagine they are living during that period, ‘what might their key concerns about the Black Death be?’ ‘What were people’s fears about the Black Death?’ This allows higher attaining students to reach the top stages of Bloom’s taxonomy thus extending their knowledge and challenging them appropriately in lessons.