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Designing Higher-Level Thinking Objectives - School of Teacher Education

Designing Higher-Level Thinking Objectives

Most educators use the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001) to determine the thinking level of objectives, assessment, and instruction. The key to creating higher-level objectives, instruction, and assessment is first understanding the Cognitive Processes that students experience when they are interacting with the content or curriculum. Do not be overly impressed with the glitz of technology in student work. When determining the level of thinking, look at how students are interacting with the content, not the technology.

There are 19 Cognitive processes associated with the 6 levels of the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. The six levels are as follows:

Lower-Level Thinking

1. Remember

2. Understand

3. Apply


Higher-Level Thinking

4. Analyze

5. Evaluate

6. Create

Below are the 19 Cognitive processes associated with these six levels of the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, a definition, and examples of each. The sample activities in the last column are associated with the authentic topic Oceans for grades 6-8.

Revised Bloom’s Levels

Cognitive Processes (Alternate Names)

Definitions and Examples

Activity or Assessment Question (All activities/assessments are directed at the students or pupils in your class.)

1.  Remember: Retrieve relevant knowledge from long-term memory

1.1 Recognizing (Identifying)

Location of knowledge in long-term memory that is consistent with presented material (e.g., Recognize the dates of important events in U.S. history)

  • True or False: Mississippi is an ocean.
  • The United States touches which two oceans: Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean

1.2 Recalling (Retrieving)

Retrieving relevant knowledge from long-term memory (e.g., Recall the dates of important events in U.S. history)

  • List the major oceans and seas of the world.
  • Name two oceans that the United States touches.

2. Understand: Construct meaning from instructional messages, including oral, written, and graphic communication

2.1 Interpreting (Clarifying, Paraphrasing, Representing, Translating)

Changing from one form of representation (e.g., numerical) to another (e.g., verbal) (e.g., Paraphrase important speeches and documents)

  • Paraphrase the short story about Pablo’s trip on the ocean.

2.2 Exemplifying (Illustrating, Instantiating)

Finding a specific example or illustration of a concept or principle (e.g., Give examples of various artistic painting styles)

  • Which of the following pictures illustrates corrosion of the ocean floor?


2.3 Classifying (Categorizing,


Determining that something belongs to a category (e.g., Classify observed or described cases of mental disorders)

  • Review the pictures of animals. Group them into three categories: land animals, deep ocean animals, shallow ocean animals.

2.4 Summarizing (Abstracting,


Abstracting a general theme or major point(s) (e.g., Write a short summary of events portrayed on a videotape)

  • Click on the link about Seals and Walruses. Summarize the paragraph titled, “What are pinnipeds?”

2.5 Inferring (Concluding, Extrapolation, Interpolating, Predicting)

Drawing a logical conclusion from presented information (e.g., In learning a foreign language, infer grammatical principles from examples)

  • Describe the principle of hot water and cold water movement in the ocean. How does it affect the ocean and land?

2.6 Comparing (Contrasting, Mapping, Matching)

Detecting correspondences between two ideas, objects, and the like (e.g., Compare and contrast historical events to contemporary situations)

  • Compare each of the following ocean-related terms and tell how they are related: continental slope, currents, tides, ocean floor, coast, waves, swells and salinity. Use http://creately.com/Draw-Venn-Diagrams-Online to create Venn Diagrams online
  • Compare/contrast an ocean with a lake, a sea and a river.  Use a Venn Diagram to help you record the similarities and differences.

2.7 Explaining (Construction)

Construction a cause-and-effect model of a system (e.g., Determine how change, compromise, and culture affected the journey of your chosen explorer; Explain the causes of important 18th-century events in France)

  • Explain the causes of a tsunami.
  • Explain how waves are formed.

3.  Apply: Carry out or use a procedure in a given situation

3.1 Executing (Carrying out)

Apply a procedure to a familiar task (e.g., When serving as the cashier in the classroom store, count back change to the customers when they pay you; When studying about alcohol abuse, determine the difference in a man’s or woman’s blood alcohol levels at three different weights and three different amounts of alcohol consumed in one hour; Divide one whole number by another whole number, both with multiple digits)

  • Use goldfish crackers as manipulatives for the children to make up word problems; e.g., 3 goldfish were swimming and they saw 2 beautiful goldfish swimming nearby.  The 3 goldfish asked the 2 goldfish to swim with them.  Now how many goldfish are swimming together?  Have the children record their equations.

3.2 Implementing (Using)

Applying a procedure to an unfamiliar task (e.g., Use persuasion techniques to create a multimedia presentation to convince your principal to implement your recycling plan; Use Newton’s Second Law in situations in which it is appropriate)

  • After studying about how submarines travel, you will simulate the rise and fall of a submarine using eyedropper, tall glass, water, 2-liter plastic bottle with top, and scissors. You will apply the submarine travel procedures with the supplies. (Answer: Fill the eyedropper and the glass with water. Slowly squeeze the bulb of the eyedropper until the dropper just barely floats vertically; the top half-inch of the bulb should bob above the surface. Remove the label from the 2-liter bottle and fill it with water. Without squeezing the bulb, carefully transfer the eyedropper from the glass to the bottle, pointed end down. Add water to the bottle until it overflows. Then tightly screw on the cap. Gently squeeze the bottle. The dropper should dive like a sub when you squeeze and rise to the surface when you release the sides of the bottle.)
  • Is it easier to swim or float in salt water than in fresh water? You will have two large glasses, salt, water, two eggs. Use the scientific method to experiment and discover in which water the egg will float and how much salt it takes. Write each step of the scientific method during their experiment to answer the question.


4. Analyze: Break material into its constituent parts and determine how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose

Remember: If a student can “google” a question or prompt to find the answer OR if it only takes a few minutes to answer a prompt, it is not higher-level thinking at the Analyze, Evaluate, or Create level.

4.1 Differentiation (Discriminating, Distinguishing, Focusing, Selecting)


Distinguishing relevant from irrelevant parts or important parts of presented material; Differentiating is different from the cognitive processes associated with Understand because it involves structural organization and, in particular, determining how the parts fit into the overall structure or whole. (e.g., Research at least ten different methods of protecting crops from insect pests. Distinguish which are chemical or not and select the two best methods to use in organic farming in Kentucky. Justify your answer.)

  • After an experiment demonstrating that ocean currents are caused by the rising and sinking of warmer and colder water, distinguish the most important concepts that cause the formation of ocean waves and list the concepts and illustrations/pictures in a Prezi presentation.

4.2 Organizing (Finding coherence, Integrating, Outlining, Parsing, Structuring)

Determine how elements fit or function within a structure; Builds systematic and coherent connections among pieces of relevant information; Occurs in conjunction with Differentiating since the student first identifies the relevant or important elements and then determines or imposes an overall structure, configuration, or arrangement on the content. (e.g., After studying about how to farm tilapia fish and how to grow plants in water, determine how the elements of these two systems can fit or function within one system to mutually benefit both the fish and the plants; Structure evidence from the recent presidential election into evidence to determine which political party will probably win the next presidential election in four years)

  • Defend or refute this statement: All the water on land eventually reaches the ocean.  Explain your response in terms of water sources for the ocean.
  • Create a blog that outlines the evidence that your geographic area does or does not contribute to the environmental quality of the ocean.

4.3 Attributing (Deconstructing)

Determine a point of view, a bias, values, or intent underlying presented material (e.g., Determine the point of view of the author of an essay in terms of his or her political perspective.)

  • How can we save the endangered species, the Blue Whale? Create a digital story from the Blue Whale’s point of view describing how he feels about why he is endangered, how he can be saved, and what a day is like in his life. Use appropriate pictures and music, original narration, and title captions.

5. Evaluate: Make judgments based on criteria and standards

5.1 Checking (Coordinating, Detecting, Monitoring, Testing)

Detecting inconsistencies or fallacies within a process or product; determining whether a process or product has external consistency; determining the effectiveness of a procedure as it is being implemented (e.g., Determine if a scientist’s conclusions follow from the raw data; Evaluate another group’s business plan to determine whether the productive resources (natural, human, and capital) were used in the most effective manner and whether their product reflects consumer demands.)

  • Use a spreadsheet to present the inconsistencies of costs in three methods of marine animal conservation efforts.

5.2 Critiquing (Judging)

Determining inconsistencies between a product and external criteria; determining whether a product has external consistency (e.g., Judge which of two methods is the best way to solve a problem given a set of external criteria; Create a blog to present the inconsistencies of the debate on whether or not organic food is better for people and the environment. Use the USDA’s criteria for organic food classification as a basis for your response. Give your personal conclusion and justification.)

  • There is great controversy surrounding the endangered species list related to when a species should be considered endangered, when should the species be removed from the list, whether governments can take land to protect habitats from development, and loopholes to the protection laws. Placing a species on the endangered list often causes the value to soar for poachers and collectors and makes the poaching worse. Using the IUCN’s criteria for “endangered animal classification” and reasons for saving some endangered animal species, create a wiki that points out the inconsistencies in the reasons for poaching and the reasons to save endangered animals.

6. Create: Put elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganize elements into a new pattern or structure

6.1 Generating (Hypothesizing)

Coming up with alternative hypotheses based on criteria (e.g., Generate as many hypotheses as you can to explain why some businesses might not have been a success in our town; Generate hypotheses to account for an observed phenomenon)

  • Debate whether more money should be spent to explore the ocean floor. Create a video to pose two or more original alternative reasons for or against exploring the deep ocean floor.
  • The United Nations has established the Law of the Sea. Hypothesize how this policy supports the idea that the ocean remains sustainable for the society, culture, and environment of a particular area.

Some proponents of the UN Law of the Sea believe that the treaty will establish a system of property rights for mineral extraction in deep sea beds, making the investment in such ventures more attractive. Hypothesize how this type of drilling and mineral extraction will affect the economy, energy sources, and the animal life in the immediate location.

6.2 Planning (Designing)

Devising a detailed procedure for accomplishing some task (e.g., Submit a business plan for your proposed business including cover sheet, table of contents, executive summary, business context, business profile, marketing analysis, challenges and responses, marketing plan, financials, time table, summary of needed capital.)

  • Design an original procedure to explore the ocean more than 3 miles deep.
  • Plan a deep-sea research study to test mineral extraction in three different locations in the world. Create a proposal to a large mineral organization using spreadsheets to determine costs, equipment/staff needed, etc. Use desktop publishing software to create a brochure about your proposal.

6.3 Producing (Constructing)

Inventing a product (e.g., Build a habitat for an original animal you created.)

  • Invent a deep-water exploration vehicle that includes all research equipment, living quarters, etc. needed to sustain the researchers for at least a month. Use CAD software to create the architectural plans.
  • Invent an original drill that will extract minerals from the ocean floor that is more than 3 miles deep that will not disturb plant life and minimal damage to the ocean floor. Use CAD software to create the equipment plans.

Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., et al (Eds..) (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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 Last Modified 9/11/18