Two Big Ideas: Flipping and Doubling Bloom?

Home/21C Skills, Innovation in Education/Two Big Ideas: Flipping and Doubling Bloom?

Two Big Ideas: Flipping and Doubling Bloom?

Shelley Wright’s essay, Flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy is a must read, and a possible game changer.  She argues that if we want to embed Nth C (21C) skills in our curriculum we can and must start with the most important elements of creativity and work up to the derivations of knowledge.  In between she posits a process of student learning through the steps of evaluating, analyzing, applying, understanding, and finally remembering.  This flipping of Bloom is a truly provocative idea that deserves a great deal of consideration.

This idea immediately resonated deeply; I finally understand (I think) how “The Falconer” fits in with Bloom.  They are symbiotic halves. I agree with Shelley that we need to turn Bloom upside down.  I think we also may need to glue on the missing half.

When I think of Bloom’s Taxonomy I think of it as a model for how students learn. It says that students need to acquire lower-level skills, like how to access and apply knowledge, before they can use higher-order skills, like how to manage, synthesize and create with that knowledge.

Bloom would say that students need a series of learning steps to develop those higher-order capabilities.  Wright would agree, but says that the steps need to be inverted in order to promote or allow the creative spark to be at the heart and start of the process.  I agree with Wright in terms of order and I agree that the articulation is correct for the “how” of student learning.

My passion for 30 years has been about why students learn, why some students in some learning environments passionately embrace the process of lifetime learning while others do not.  I have always believed that getting this “why” right will lead to truly successful personal outcomes.  It started when I asked the question “what is the difference between a ho-hum learning experience and a WOW! learning experience?”  This one question forced me to backward engineer from a result that has a single defining characteristic: all of us are capable of creational thinking.

Below is my “Why” pyramid. I retain the pyramid shape since large doses of preparation, effort, skill, work, passion, and iteration following failure need to go in to this process before a student (of any age) will work their way through to actual creational thinking.  If we don’t know and embrace why we should expend this effort, we won’t go through and achieve the end state.  Schools have done a bad job of engaging students in why they should want to expend those resources.  My pyramid gives us that solution.

In very simple terms it is this (for the complete story, see my book, The Falconer; you can read the intro here):


  • Who do I want to be?  If we don’t have a personal stake in the outcome, a model to follow, how do we get engaged in the process?  We have to help students derive their own model for why they should care about what they need to learn in school.
  • How to ask questions.  Students need to develop their own questions.  None of us will put in a huge effort to pursue an end that does provide a challenge to our interests.
  • Who am I?  What is my worldview and what is my relationship to the world around me? If we don’t know that, it is hard to place systems thinking in a manageable context.
  • Systems thinking.  Learning to understand and analyze complex relationships. Without these skills, finding and solving problems is just guesswork.
  • Problem finding.  Students need to find problems that they really want to solve.  It is up to teachers to create environments of dissonance in which students will be eager to find problems.
  • Problem solving.  Synthesizing multiple inputs to solve those problems that we really want to solve. Without all that precedes this step, none of us have a personal stake in problem solving.
  • Dealing with failure because problem solving is hard and inexact, and we learn more from failure than we do from success.
  • Creational thinking.  Discovering those nuggets of elegant new knowledge once you have put in the hard work that makes it all worthwhile.

I have trialed this model in various forms with 4th graders, seniors in high school, and college students. I have stolen and learned big pieces of it from successful friends and heroes for most of my life.  Bo Adams and Jill Gough use it in their pioneering Synergy 8 middle school class. Design thinking is based on most of this pyramid. Unless we rely on pure serendipity, we cannot get true creativity without a foundation, a background, and a process. We can have learning when we address “how” to teach, but we can only have GREAT learning when we also address “why”.

What do you think??

By | 2012-05-16T15:13:28+00:00 May 16th, 2012|21C Skills, Innovation in Education|11 Comments

About the Author: