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Designing a Framework for Critical Thinking with Bloom's Taxonomy as a Guide

Guest Contributor: Jason Lancaster, M.Ed, Instructional Designer, Cengage Learning

Regardless of the subject you're covering, one goal is usually to get your students to a point that they not only understand facts and ideas, but can then think critically about what they're learning and employ higher-order thinking skills. Here, Instructional Designer Jason Lancaster discusses higher-order thinking, leveraging Bloom's Taxonomy, and what to remember when designing with critical thinking in mind.

A common goal in the education field is to get students to think critically about what they're studying. You might find motivated students are inclined to do this with little intervention from the instructor, but all students can be guided by activities appropriately designed to provide a framework for critical thinking.

Whether you teach or design courses, you likely have run across Bloom's Taxonomy. It provides a method for categorizing cognitive domains, many of which require a combination of cognitive approaches and skills. The complexity increases as you move toward the "evaluate" and "create" items (on the revised taxonomy), which we refer to as higher-order thinking skills.

Usually higher-order thinking is associated with abstractness; however, while abstract thinking requires complexity, keep in mind that complexity often involves using several factual pieces of information and expounding on their relationships, causes, and effects. Even though Bloom's generally represents a linear progression to cognitive complexity, it does not mean any one domain is more abstract then the previous one on the taxonomy.

Instructors can leverage Bloom's when writing learning objectives to better align performance expectations and activities. These activities can be designed to elicit knowledge and skills aligned with specific cognitive domains, which can help students digest complex subject material more effectively.

A few things to remember when designing for critical thinking:

Jason Lancaster, M.Ed., is an instructional designer of digital content at Cengage Learning.