In the 1950s, Benjamin Bloom, along with several other educators, developed a taxonomy to define the levels of cognitive skills from the simplest to the most complex. His purpose in developing this taxonomy was to encourage educators to foster higher level thinking skills in their students. The taxonomy, sometimes referred to as Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Domain, deals specifically with the levels upon which we think or interact with material that is learned. Around the turn of the millennium, one of Bloom’s students—Anderson—and a former colleague—Krathwohl—collaborated to revise the taxonomy, based on further studies and reactions to Bloom’s original model and addressing some of the pitfalls, Bloom himself acknowledged. The new taxonomy does not in any way revoke the point Bloom and the original team was trying o make about understanding the levels of cognitive investment in each form of thinking. The most obvious changes are the move from nouns to verbs in naming each level, the renaming of the synthesis level to create level, and the switch of the two higher levels. These changes will be reflected in this explanation of the taxonomy and its import in the MAST process. It is important to remember that these changes were made, not to oppose Bloom, but to express continued learning and to update what Bloom so carefully expressed in the 1950’s. It is also significant to understand that the educators who put forth this new model had worked previously with Bloom and hold him in high respect. Finally, the switch of the two higher levels, reflects an awareness that before synthesis (or creation) takes place, some evaluation must have already occurred. Often evaluation takes place after synthesis as well. But it will always occur before a learner is able to create.
This taxonomy is often represented by a triangle, with six different levels (shown in varying colors.) The levels are as follows, with the lowest level shown at the bottom of the triangle.
Remember: thinking to recall facts, data, and basic concepts.
Understand: thinking to explain, restate or summarize ideas or concepts.
Apply: Thinking to use new information in a different situation.
Analyze: thinking to develop connections and to organize, compare or contrast with prior learning; breaking down the parts of a whole in order to understand the whole better.
Evaluate: thinking to judge the value of information, its application, usefulness and component parts.
Create: thinking to develop something new or original—using parts or the whole of previous learning to make something new.
Before we discuss the taxonomy further it is important to define the differences between the terms difficult and complex. The taxonomy deals with degrees of complexity, not difficulty. It is typically true that a more complex task is more difficult but it is not always true that a more difficult task is more complex. Let’s define these two words in terms of education:
difficult: requiring much effort or skill to accomplish.
complex: requiring thinking at multiples levels to connect personal understanding and ideas with presented facts.
The degree of difficulty can increase without the complexity increasing. For example a student can memorize all the states and capitals in America. This has a certain level of difficulty to it. But that difficulty is obviously increased if the student has to know where to place them on the map and spell them correctly. Yet complexity has not increased. The student is still operating with facts and material that he is given. Complexity occurs when the student is asked to explain the impact each capitol has had on the economy of its state, and whether he thinks the impact has been good or bad. Now he is being asked to bring in thinking from multiple levels, and present answers that incorporate his own understanding as well as thoughts and opinions. Yes, the process has also become more difficult. But the important factor is that it has become more complex.
Why does complexity trump difficulty?
This takes us back to Bloom’s taxonomy. The overall goal of the taxonomy is to challenge learners with more complex thinking, because tasks that are merely more difficult do not necessarily result in better or more long-term retention of essential material. Additionally, if one does not interact with the material on a personal level, the value of that knowledge is left untapped. For knowledge to impact the learner it must be interacted with at a higher level on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Finally, complex thinking is necessary for the development of new ideas, new models, new creations. Without complex thinking nothing new will ever be invited. No new method of using old inventions will ever occur. In essence growth in learning would stop. Complex thinking is what propels growth in the individual and in the society as a whole.
The idea in education is not to require thinking at only a create level, but to develop the learner’s thinking by progressing through each level on the taxonomy. The same is true for MAST translators. It is essential that we provide the structure for them to progress through these levels of thinking in order to be capable of creating. And that is exactly what the eight steps of MAST do.
Let’s take a look:
Consume requires primarily the lowest level thinking skill—remember. they are asked to read or listen to the material simply with the goal of remembering what they read (or heard).
Verbalize requires a bit more understanding that merely remember. But the two are working in unison. The translator remembers from the consume step and is able to demonstrate understanding by summarizing what he read in his own mother tongue.
Chunking requires thinking at the analyze level, as the translator is asked to break down the component parts of the passage. Even though this is a more complex thinking skill, it is not usually a difficult one, because our brain naturally chunks information in order to understand. So this step is merely a cognitive outworking of what has happened on a subconscious level.
Blind Draft requires thinking at an apply level because the translator is taking the information he has learned from the first three steps and applying his knowledge of his mother tongue to write that information a new way. It could also be argued that he is thinking at the create level here, because in reality he is in the beginning step of creating something completely new from two different bodies of knowledge that he possesses. This may be true, but the create process is going to take several steps that rely on other levels of thinking in Bloom’s taxonomy.
Self-Edit requires thinking at the evaluate level, because the translator has to compare his work to the source text and judge whether or not what he has done is sufficient.
Peer-edit also requires the translator to think at the evaluate level, for the same reason as self-edit.
Key-word check requires the translators to work at the evaluate level as well, but sometimes they will advance to the create level as they develop their own words or word-phrases for key words that might be absent from their mother tongue.
Verse-by-verse check requires the translators to think at the evaluate level as the text is compared to the source text and other resources to confirm accuracy.
Clearly this process require a movement through the levels of complexity expressed in Bloom’s taxonomy. And the end result is create as translators have a brand new portion of Scripture in their language.
Bloom’s taxonomy also provides a framework for developing better checking of the translated Scripture. What kinds of comprehension questions do we want to encourage translators to ask as they “try out” their new passages of Scripture on fresh ears? If all they ever ask as questions of the lowest level of complexity, will they ever know if the deeper truths of Scripture are evident in their translation? Will they be confident that the flow and expression convey meaning? Will they be able to affirm the overall integrity of the Scripture?