Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Introducing Bloom's Taxonomy

 Many writers in the legal education reform movement use Bloom's Taxonomy as the basis of their suggested reforms.  Carol Tyler Fox has written a clear introduction to its concepts here.

"'Bloom’s Taxonomy' was first published in 1956 as the result of an effort (headed by Benjamin Bloom at the University of Chicago) to establish standard terminology through which educators could discuss and clarify teaching objectives; design tests to measure achievement of the target objectives; and assess whether tests did actually measure such achievement."  Bloom found that "mid-twentieth-century testing from primary through post-secondary American schools tended to rely heavily on recall of factual material." "Bloom’s Taxonomy has fueled efforts among educators and curriculum designers to increase emphasis on more complex objectives, called 'higher order thinking skills.'"

Fox writes that "Bloom’s Taxonomy articulates six levels of cognition for teachers’ attention: 1) recall; 2) understanding;  3) application; 4) analysis; 5) synthesis; 6) evaluation."    Fox discusses how she uses Bloom's Taxonomy in detail here.

My main concern based on Bloom's Taxonomy is that law classes do not generally teach all six elements.  Most doctrinal classes use 1 and 2, but they often leave 3-6 to be learned by students on their own, if at all.  As I've said before, to be practice ready, students must be able to apply what they have learned to facts (problem solving).  They also need to know how to synthesis the law and what they have learned to be effective lawyers.  Finally, evaluation is an important skills for law students.  They need to evaluate their analysis, not just accept the first answer.  They need to think about what the opposing counsel will argue.  They need to be able to evaluate what they have learned to know if they are ready to be a lawyer.  Finally, they need to know how to evaluate how they learn so they can be life long-learners.

In sum, Bloom's Taxonomy helps us see the deficiencies in legal education and avenues for reform.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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