Taxonomy-aligned multiple choice questions

Taxonomy of Educational Objectives cover
My well-read paperback Taxonomy

 Today I’ll show you three multiple choice question sets for testing students’ knowledge of correct punctuation rules.  To create the questions, I used a sample question in 1956 Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives from a different subject for my pattern. I think you’ll see that the definition of knowledge as used in the Taxonomy means a far deeper understanding than simply being able to choose a correct answer.

If you use these questions with students, they may get some answers right by guessing, by they won’t get many right by guessing. To get all 11 answers correct, they have to understand the meanings of the terms in which the rules are expressed.

Knowledge is popularly believed to be the “easiest” of Bloom’s six types of learning, even though the authors specifically say that is not the case. Learning at the knowledge level is difficult for students because they typically have very little context for information they learn at that level. Learning at the higher levels may come much more easily because the students have far more context for understanding it.

Enough theory.  Take a look at multiple choice questions about basic punctuation rules.

A five-question set

For the five numbered items below,  indicate by letter whether the rules for the use of possessive apostrophes are:
(a) correctly applied, or
(b) incorrectly applied, or if
(c) from the information, it can’t be determined whether the rules are correctly applied.

_____1. The dog’s dish is empty.
_____2. My cars’ front and rear fenders are both dented.
_____3. He owes three month’s back rent.
_____4. The sounds of childrens’ voices carried across the street.
_____5. Jody’s sunglasses are on the table beside the door.

A second five-question set

Look at the numbered sentences below and indicate by letter whether the sentence is :
(a) correctly punctuated because the information set off by commas is non-essential (i.e., not restrictive),
(b) incorrectly punctuated because the information set off by commas is essential (i.e., restrictive),
(c) incorrectly punctuated because there are no commas to set off non-essential (i.e., non-restrictive) information.

_____6. The day, rainy and dark, was ideal for reading a good book.
_____7. I was late, having gotten caught in traffic.
_____8. The bridge, for example, is a tourist attraction.
_____9. After that dinner I am ready to burst my buttons.
____10. He plans to work this summer, and save for college.

One single question

11. Look carefully at this statement:

Bartz’ and Norton’s horses got out when the stable door was accidentally left unlatched.

To determine whether the possessive apostrophes are correctly used in that sentence, what do you need to know? Put an X in the blank before your answer.
____(a) The general rule that most words form their plural by adding -s.
____(b) The rule for forming the plural of words that end with an -s or an -s sound.
____(c) Whether Bartz and Norton are joint owners of the horses.
____(d) Both a and b.
____(e) Both a and c.

Use the results as formative assessment

You should use items like this as a formative assessment. Unless all your students are getting at least 8 of the answers correct, you need to keep reteaching the material in other ways until they do achieve that level. Don’t devote whole class sessions the reteaching: Give five or seven-minute lessons every few class periods. If you do that and you’re lucky, each time you give a lesson a few more students will catch on to what you’re talking about.

The answers

1-c,  2-b,  3-b,  4-b,  5-a,  6-a,  7-a,  8-a.  9-c.  10-b,  11-e.

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Flip the Bloomin’ straw man

When students write about a novel based on having seen the movie, teachers are dismayed.

AP exam topic work viewed, not read

What about when teachers review a scholarly work based solely on the abstract?

Is it acceptable to write for teachers to write critical analysis based on something they heard about a book?

Would it be legitimate for teachers to pan a work if their information about it were from an education course for which they paid tuition?

These are not hypothetical questions for me. I discovered last week a subcontractor was not reading the documents for which she was writing annotations. She said she didn’t have time to read the sources. I didn’t find that an acceptable excuse. I expect my students and my employees to read the works they critique.

Perhaps my expectations of acceptable educator standards are out of date.  I certainly feel out of step when I read education blogs.

One of the most popular education blog posts in the past couple weeks is Shelley Wright’s blog about flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy.

wrightsroom tweets her blog

Response to the post ranged from favorable to gushing.

post one of best ever

In her post, Wright has this to say:

The presentation of the Taxonomy (in boththe original and revised versions) as a pyramid suggests that one cannot effectively begin to address higher levels of thinking until those below them have been thoroughly addressed. Consequently (at least in the view of many teachers who learned the taxonomy as part of their college training) Blooms becomes a “step pyramid” that one must arduously try to climb with your learners. Only the most academically adept are likely to reach the pinnacle. That’s the way I was taught it. [emphasis added]

Shelley Wright is probably a superb teacher. Her lessons are interesting and engaging. However, what she flips is not the taxonomy, but a straw man.

Wright thinks the taxonomy is wrong because her experience doesn’t square with the way she was taught.  The step pyramid she describes doesn’t square with my experience either. However, I know the step pyramid that Wright flips does not appear anywhere in the taxonomy—not in the original 1956 handbook or the 2001 revision.

I own (and have read more than once) both the 1956 The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Handbook I Cognitive Domain, edited by Bloom, and the 2001 A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, edited by Anderson and Krathwohl.

To understand either taxonomy, one must understand how the authors define terms,  since a taxonomy is a device for defining characteristics so we can sort items.  The process Wright describes using in her classes does not begin with creativity as the revised taxonomy defines it.

In her example of the advertisement, the class begins roughly at the application level, rearranging given elements in the form of an advertisement. It’s a great lesson, but it’s not one that creates as the revised taxonomy defines that term.  In the revised taxonomy, to create involves producing something that includes more than the materials the student started with.

Run through Wright’s other examples.

None begins with having students create.

Where Wright messed up was in not using primary sources.  The link Wright provides in the segment quoted above, does not go to a primary source. Granted the primary sources are expensive, but David R. Krathwohl’s 2002 article  in Theory into Practice about the revised taxonomy is was free to download online.  Just reading it would have disabused Wright of the idea that the taxonomy is lays out an educational program that must be followed sequentially.

As educators, let’s do what we want our students to do: Read the primary documents.

[Krathwohl’s article, which was available for download when this post was written, is no longer available. Link deleted 04-02-2014]