A Biological Bloom’s Taxonomy

Last week I read a really incredible paper published as OA in Nature titled, The global landscape of cognition: hierarchical aggregation as an organizational principle of human cortical networks and functions. In addition to breaking some terrific new methodological ground, the paper provides a first glimpse at what we might call a “Biological Bloom’s Taxonomy.”

The elements in the cognitive domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy are listed in an order that goes from simplest (e.g., remembering facts) to most difficult (e.g., creative synthesis). There are theoretical reasons to believe that the ordering of elements in the taxonomy is appropriate. However, there is room for argument about the ordering of elements in the taxonomy (not to mention its composition), as we saw when Anderson and Krathwohl published a revised version of the taxonomy in the early 2000s.

By a “Biological Bloom’s Taxonomy” I mean that Taylor et al. have taken a strong first step toward creating a taxonomy of cognitive elements where the simple to complex ordering is not derived from theory, but is derived instead from biological measures of which elements in the taxonomy require the deepest thought. I use “depth” here on purpose. Give the article a read and watch for Figure 6, but don’t just jump directly to Figure 6 without reading the article because you won’t understand what it’s saying.

This represents some exciting new territory and represents the rare – almost mythical – circumstance when work in neurobiology seems to have direct implications for education. For example, I see clear biological grounds here for asking students to engage in more reflection and pondering of abstract concepts. I’m still unpacking the implications of the article for instructional design, but I find the whole line of work suggested by the article extremely exciting.

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