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Capability Verbs in Learning Targets

The key for students to be able to learn is for them to know what is expected from them and then be able to see what success of that look like.

Thus, a good teacher must be able to create and effectually communicate clear defined learning targets. And these must be presented and posted so students can see and understand them. In this way, the student knows what is expected of them and the teacher can refer to that throughout the lesson time.

These need to be written out in clear, measurable ways and uses the right “capability verbs.” Such as, the action verbs from the skill that the students need to be doing and how they will demonstrate it. 

The Basic Ideas of Blooms Taxonomies of Education

Bloom’s Taxonomy consists of mental levels as compared to capability verbs. They define and differentiate different levels of student cognition (thinking, learning, and understanding), affective (emotion and feeling), and psychomotor (physical and kinesthetic). Each of these domains has a classification referred to as “taxonomy.” The listing, first names the mental level and a definition, then a primary list of simple capability verbs. These verbs are used for skill development that can be used to give probing questions to challenge and align the mental level of the student to the lesson. Then the student has the tools for the development of the skill and its deployment.

Bloom’s Taxonomy 

Bloom’s Taxonomy is not grade specific; thus, it does not begin at kindergarten with knowledge and move higher to the eleventh and twelfth grades with synthesis and evaluation. It is about when the student is ready.

Knowledge: This is recall facts and basic concepts, the lower functioning remembering level, like to memorize a poem. It has to be more than know, learn and understand; it needs to incorporate these verbs: defines, describes, duplicate, identifies, memorize, state, sorts, recall.

Comprehension: Means to Understand, to explain new ideas or concepts, like to illustrate the difference between one set to another set. Verbs: Comprehend, converts, classify, locate, report, give examples summarize for Comprehension.

Application: Apply means to solve a problem or use knowledge in a new situation. Verbs: apply, change, demonstrate, execute, implement, construct, discover, solve for application.

Analysis: Analyze means breaking things down, make connections between ideas, critical thinking such as to identify the ‘parts,’ or what are the steps of a process. Verbs: analyze, break down, compare and contrast, diagram, distinguish, differentiate, infer for Analysis.

Synthesis: This means to Create, imagine, plan something out, creative thinking, produce a new original work, or put thing together, such as design a new solution to an ‘old’ problem. Verbs: Categorize, combine, create, compose, modify, rearrange, revise.

Evaluation: This means to, make a judgment regarding an ethical dilemma, or justify a decision. Verbs: appraise, compare, conclude, critique, defend, evaluate and support for. Others add, “List”: Calculate, compare, Create, Decide, Summarize. 

The goal of a teacher or any type of educator using Bloom’s taxonomy of verbs and processing is to encourage students to engage in higher order thinking.

They need to be processed the material by building up from lower to higher level cognitive skills. It is also important that these verbs are consistent with the instruction. You cannot just throw in “capability verbs” and expect it to work unless our planning and learning activities as well as the assessment are aligned to them. Then our teaching and curriculum will be successful.

How Bloom’s Capability Verbs Came About

A bit of the background: Bloom’s Taxonomy was created in 1956 by educational psychologist Dr Benjamin Bloom. And, updated in 2001. His goal was to promote higher forms of thinking in education, such as analyzing and evaluating concepts, processes, procedures, and principles. Instead of just rote learning that went nowhere, because just remembering facts does not create any higher level of thought or promote real educational skill development. Dr. Bloom identified six main levels of thinking, from the “cognitive domain,” from the straightforward lower thinking of recalling or identifying facts, through progressively more complex cognitive development and on to abstract mental, to what he saw as the highest order which is classified as “evaluation.”

I have found that Bloom’s Cognitive Domain of levels of intellectual actions is essential for developing lesson plans and targets that facilitate effectual learning. The goal is to encourage “higher-order thought” in students from building up from lower-level cognitive skills and when they are ready to higher order thinking. Bloom’s taxonomy canbe incorporated into any teachers learning targets at any level from preschool through larger- educational goals.

Dr. Richard Krejcir is an Author, Researcher, seasoned Special Education teacher and the Director of a nonprofit that does educational training in third-world countries. He is also a STEAM teacher and a father of a son with autism.


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