Bloom, Fink and going SOLO in a BYOD world

Taxonomy of learning in knowledge networks

inmap (1)

A map of my LinkedIn Professional Learning Network


I am science trained and know that in the study of the sciences, taxonomies are not set in stone. The way we classify organisms  has changed since I was a Biology student. Back then we also had nine planets in our Solar System, whereas now we have eight because the way we categorise planets has changed. These changes are a great lesson in how knowledge changes over time. Our world views change.

I am keeping this in mind as I explore the learning taxonomies that have played a major role in education, including those shown below in Figure 1.

Are these taxonomies relevant in 21st Century classrooms?

What is a learning taxonomy anyway? According to O’Neill (2010): “Learning
 are commonly
 develop.” The following image (Figure 1) shows some Taxonomies along with their dates of publication.


Figure 1 : Educational Taxonomies : Sourced from O’Neill & Murphy (2010)

These taxonomies have assisted many educators in describing student learning. So whilst engaging with Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (Anderson 2001) we learn to describe student learning in terms of listing, memorising, reciting, classifying, reading, rewriting, finding…to perhaps show they have stored prescribed knowledge in their heads. For your interest read Biggs and Collis (1982) to help develop an understanding of SOLO.

However, educators such as Steve Wheeler (2012) are now making sense of new world views where knowledge is more widely distributed and sits outside of the learner. As Weinberger (2011) says: “Our skulls and our institutions are simply not big enough to contain knowledge. Knowledge is now a property of the network….”

Should we, in light of the connected world we now live in and the knowledge networks that our students can draw on change the  ways we view and describe student behaviour and learning outcomes.  After all, we are now just a node amongst many. Things have changed. The information ecology that we now exist in has changed.

Just for interest, the social graph at the top of this post illustrates my LinkedIn network. This can be seen as a good example of a knowledge network.

Another observation is that these taxonomies describe the individual and do not reflect a connected digital world where learning is becoming “increasingly a networked phenomenon”. (O’Connell 2014)


Educators are now discussing connectivism (Siemens, 2004) which is proving to be a good lens through which to explore 21st Century Learning. Louise Starkey (2010) does this with clarity.  She argues that 21st century educators will be “limited in their ability to teach the upcoming generation to be active participants in a digitally enhanced society without understanding how to apply theories of learning that are relevant to a digital age into their practice.”

As a simple activity, try Googling “Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy’ using Google images. The colourful search result that appears on my screen suggests that we are struggling to  fit an old tool to a new purpose. Maybe also, we are trying to fit new digital tools into old taxonomies. Steve Wheeler (2012 June 26) talks of “Bloom reheated”. What are your thoughts on this?

As explored by Bawden (2012) “technology does not change the ways of dealing with information” but information ecologies have changed particularly with the advent of social media technologies. In this new information ecology, should we continue to refer to Bloom’s (revised) taxonomy whilst reflecting on lesson plans and pedagogy. Or should we, you perhaps, refer to a new tool through which you would reflect on your teaching?

Computational thinking might provide new guiding language/taxonomies.

Starkey (2011) argues that the connections that a student makes are an  important part of learning in the digital age and “it is through these connections that knowledge is created and critiqued”. This is an extremely important concept that is well worth exploring, particularly if we want to taxonomise such learning while acknowledging collaboration, connections, creation of knowledge and the sharing of this knowledge.


Alongside a group of CSU students scattered through Australia and overseas, I am currently learning to:

  • think critically
  • learn through connections
  • create and share knowledge

Some of the knowledge we are aggregating, curating, tagging, creating and critiquing is shared knowledge as it is stored in and accessible via our knowledge networks. How would Bloom, Fink and Biggs have structured their learning taxonomies to describe the learning that I am participating in?


Bawden, D. & Robinson, l. (2012). Information behaviour. In Introduction to information science (pp. 187 – 210). London: facet.

Biggs, J. B. and Collis, K. (1982) Evaluating the Quality of Learning: the SOLO taxonomy. New York, Academic Press

O’Neill, G. and Murphy, F. (2010) Guide to Taxonomies of Learning. Retrieved from UCD website

O’Connell, S. (2014) Knowledge Networks – Connected communities, open access, and connected learning [INF530 Module 3]. Retrieved March 29, 2014 from Charles Sturt University website:

Weinberger, D. (2011) Too Big To Know. New York. Basic Books

Wheeler, S. (2012 June 26) Bloom reheated. [Web log] Steve Wheeler Blogspot. Retrieved from

Wheeler, S. (2012 Oct 26th) Theories for the digital age: Connectivism. [Web log] Steve Wheeler Blogspot. Retrieved from


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  1. I love your finishing question Simon. You raise some interesting considerations that appeal to me, The image growing in my mind as a result of our course is The Great Dividing Range – what I observe in classrooms and what I have seen in effectively integrated ICT learning environments is so separate. Taxonomies like Blooms still seem to indicate that a teacher is a separate entity from the learners. I believe teachers a critical to the process but not in the old hierarchical manner that still reigns in so many classrooms.

  2. This is really interesting to think about Blooms as separating the teacher from the students – I’d never seen it that way before but it does seem to fit now it’s been pointed out. Going to go and read Bloom reheated now…

  3. Let me know what your reaction was to that article Matt.
    Blooms does help me to describe some of my kids learning but I am not sure it a tool that should be used to direct pedagogy.

    • Hmm, I’m not sure there is much to go on here. It’s clear that Blooms requires a relook and that Anderson’s revised model may not have gone far enough but this article seems to be only really pointing that out and not going much further.

      What I have found interesting though is in the comments below the references to whether Connectivism can be classed as a theory – “many argue it is too ill-defined and not really a theory.”

      This has led me down another ‘rabbit hole’ into the discussions around this. Have a look at this (I’m only half way through but it’s an interesting read):

  4. A great to go on global record as a great example of a student thrashing out ideas as he engages with his network. What you highlight for me is not only the evolving nature of the theories and constructs, but the urgent need to research the emerging context/s. It’s all very well to just revise and present a new ‘take’ on a model such as Blooms (we see this all the time in graphics related to ipad apps as an example). But twisting and turning ideas also needs deep investigation and evidence of the changes. I long to see more work in this area – and maybe graduates of this course will one day be lead researchers in this field! Steve Wheeler is a great catalyst for thinking – love his work too. Information behaviour and cognitive engagement in new digital environments – what models do we really need? New or transformed? I don’t know the answer.

  5. You are right Matt. There is not a lot to go on there [ Wheeler, S. (2012 June 26)] but I read this within the context of writing the above post so it made me think I wasn’t going down a silly path in my meanderings. I, like the way Wheeler writes. Uncomplicated and to the point…thus all he wanted to say was that perhaps Bloom’s taxonomy had seen it days.
    Thanks for the link. i think I saw this paper in my wanderings but will have another think on it. Do let me know what you get out of it.

  6. Hi Simon,

    Thanks for your analysis of taxonomies of learning in knowledge networks. I notice that the linkedIn Professional Learning Network is a great way to represent this idea visually for readers to get a quick grasp of the complicated nature of things. You have also included the O’Neill and Murphy diagram that helped to demonstrate more about the history of taxonomies and their development too. It is difficult to predict the result of recent changes in digital learning environments on the implementation of taxonomies that are used in such class rooms. One possible example is that of assessment marking criteria that often structure the wording of awarded marks in de/ ascending order according to associated knowledge and or skills from Bloom’s taxonomy. It was great to read Wheeler’s blogs. The information is written well.
    An important aspect of the need to develop taxonomies properly was evident in O’Neill and Murphy (2010) where they describe the taxonomies in their University College of Dublin as being ‘affective’ and that subsequently an expected outcome of college graduates from the University is that they are able to respond to the world with a highly developed value system. If curricula is to develop in the right direction for the future then the stakeholders must consider digital learners not only as part of a network but as human beings with personal, cultural and social values and ideas.
    An important area of recent radical development that can hopefully assist with the importance of getting taxonomies right is the Neurosciences. Psychologists are using Neurobiology to understand the brain and how it works. Taxonomies are some ways quite similar to the brain in the way that certain functions are scaffolded. A good example of this is the area of the brain that relates to literacy. The Broca and Wernicke reading areas both need to be developed before the writing area in the parietal lobe can ‘click into place’ and start writing. Hopefully the balance between developing new knowledge and skills efficiently can be achieved while also providing an affective structure for social values and ideas.
    After searching google images for Blooms digital taxonomy it was clear that there are an increasing range of new contexts for learning processes to live with. It was interesting to see how some people categorise certain ‘Apps’ into the hierarchy of Bloom’s Taxonomy. It was a new and useful way to view Apps in relation to their implementation in certain learning activities, thanks. Ben Williamson has outlined a range of important social aspects related to the marketing of digital education resources in ‘The Future of the Curriculum’. It is well worth a read. Good luck.

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