Blooms Taxonomy Verbs

Paul Main

How can teachers utilise the infamous Bloom's Taxonomy learning verb list?

What are the Bloom's Taxonomy Verbs?

Bloom's Taxonomy verbs are a well-known concept for understanding and framing learning intentions which dates back to 1956. It has become a common structure used in schools and universities to teach and assess students. The structure uses a tier of verbs to clarify educational objectives, these are typically aligned constructively to assessments. A recent analysis was carried out on Bloom's Taxonomy throughout UK Higher Education Institutions to measure if there was consensus. The research eventually narrowed down forty-seven verb lists. The verb lists had very little agreement but it still remains one of the most popular ways to conceptualise knowledge and learning.

The learning outcomes originated from Bloom's Taxonomy verbs in 1956 (Bloom et al.). The concept was later revised by Krathwohl 2002. Taxonomy was invented to define the learning process and assessment in a manner that can be observed and measured. In this article, we will explore how the infamous blooms taxonomy list of learning verbs can be put into action and provide some of examples of verbs being used to achieve deeper learning experiences. We will also introduce a new thinking framework designed to enhance learning tasks. As well as this, we will touch upon another framework for promoting 21st-century learning skills.


Origins of Blooms Taxonomy Verbs

Creating learning objectives involves using verbs that can be measured and assessed. For example, when learning involves a subject, let's say history. The research could be focused on listing the main research methods in history instead of analysing the main research methods in history. The taxonomy dictates that a learner will undergo the following steps: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. As a result, students should be able to evaluate a specific research method and test a hypothesis.

The revised taxonomy by Anderson 1999 was created to aid teachers in assessment marking, such as in scoring rubrics.

Bloom's Taxonomy power verbs have not been widely accepted without criticism. In 1973 Stedman published criticism against Bloom's Taxonomy verbs. The criticism basis was the Orwell 1974 thinking and learning order. The view was that taxonomy was too blunt and straightforward to match a higher-order learning structure.

However, the structure is problematic even at the primary level. According to the revised taxonomy, understanding comes first, then analysis, followed by application. It can also make sense that understanding concepts comes from analysis and application. The original taxonomy assumes that students will pass assessments that focus on the taxonomy lower tier. At the same time, professions indicate less ability to integrate Bloom's Taxonomy verbs on exam questions, including if the taxonomy is divided into three (Dempster and Kirby, 2018, Karpen et al., 2017).

Bloom and co were able to detect such problems, which were later regarded as criticisms. For example, Bloom identified overlapping between different classifications since two students may have arrived at the same behaviour using different methods, types, and levels of learning. For example, different students understand differently in a mathematics class under the calculus topic. After a teacher has taught their students, there are different ways that students may use techniques to solve the problems. Some students may solve from memory. Such students may have the same methods of understanding. Another student who is new to the topic may be encountering the problem for the first time in their life. The students may use general principles to solve the calculus questions. In such a situation, you cannot distinguish the students using performance but rather by understanding the students' exposure to the topic and the problem.

The taxonomy criticisms may be justified; however, the Blooms taxonomy is still very much embedded across many global classrooms, although it's just a simplified version of the original 216 pages.

Most schools have a triangle image representing the hierarchical taxonomy. There is also a Learning outcomes guide. The taxonomy varies and includes a list of verbs that follow in line with every step of the hierarchy. The verbs are attained from both the original and revised taxonomy tiers. The verbs are aligned in two, the higher end and lower end. The verbs that will appear at the lower end are used to assess factual knowledge, including identifying, describing, and listing. The verbs at the high-end focus on higher-order thinking assessments. An example of such verbs is to include evaluate or appraise.

Organised learning verbs
Organised learning verbs

Putting the blooms verbs into practice

Many schools and colleges are using the learning outcomes taxonomy to frame their learning and assessment more accurately. In a search of Bloom's Taxonomy verbs in the USA across 30 educational websites, the verb lists seemed to have little agreement. Some verbs were located front and centre on educational websites whilst others didn't get a mention.

Based on the search, the was not a verb that appeared on the same tier across the 30 lists. In Stanny, 2016, there are three verbs in all different tiers: select, relate and choose. Various inconsistencies appear in Bloom's Taxonomy verbs, and pragmatic philosophy and research methods have been used to try and solve the problem.

Pragmatic research focuses on research (Feilzer, 2010) and settling on the best research method to answer the question (Creswell, 2003). Pragmatic research seems to push knowledge that solves global problems (Duram, 2010). The methods give priority to epistemological position in a research process.

Lists of Action Verbs
Lists of Action Verbs


Improving teaching instruction using Blooms verbs

This pragmatic approach of communicating the knowledge dimension is supposed to help teachers develop valuable information when writing Learning Outcomes. It goes without saying that Bloom, 1956  is probably the most popular hierarchy of learning objectives. The educational benchmarks in this approach use passive words and nouns. Since the system works on a hierarchical basis, the high levels are met upon attaining the lower-level skills.

Rethinking the cognitive tiers

The tiers composed in the cognitive model include knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.


Knowledge sets the foundation for all the other levels. In attaining knowledge, one can differentiate between one item and another. For example: Name three types of trains.


Comprehension is the point of understanding the information given: Summarizing and defining the characteristics of electric trains and Diesel locomotive trains.


This point focuses on using knowledge. This step is critical to the knowledge of the subject and the ability to transfer knowledge into practice. For example, Are trains a more effective means of transport?


The analysis involves further identifying the relationships between the subject in question. For example, compare and contrast the difference between diesel locomotives and electric trains and compare the benefits.


The step involves using relevant information to create new information. For example, discuss an electric train's benefits over a diesel locomotive. Argue on the benefits of using one over the other.


This step involves critically evaluating all the relevant information to make a judgment. Knowledge of theories, knowledge of principles, and knowledge of classification may influence this step. For example, which is the best train that will help minimize cost.

Integrating the six cognitive tiers in your classroom


Knowledge forms the foundation and is located the first in the cognitive model pyramid. The knowledge dimension varies depending on the source. The foundation of knowledge dictates all the other steps. For example, in reading, through experience, or another person. Knowledge is divided into four sections.

Factual knowledge: Factual knowledge is based on specific skills and terminology.

Conceptual knowledge: Conceptual knowledge is based on structures, principles, categories, and theories. For example, in mathematics, we have the Pythagoras theorem.

Procedural knowledge: Procedural knowledge aligns more with methods, skills, techniques, and algorithms. For example, there is a specific method of how you can bake a cake.

Metacognitive knowledge: Metacognitive knowledge is based on our understanding of our own minds. Metacognitive knowledge involves using a combination of cognitive skills and self-knowledge.


Comprehension forms the basis of using any information. Comprehension is being able to understand the meaning. It may include understanding words or numbers through estimating, explaining, summarizing, or prediction. Comprehension is an extra step of learning outcomes whereby it goes beyond just remembering.

General instructional objectives - The person can justify a method or procedure used, translate any statement into a mathematical formula, interpret visual presentations such as graphs, and interpret verbal information.

Illustrative verbs-  focuses on specific leading outcomes, predicts, paraphrases infer, rewrites, estimates, explains, and distinguishes


The application involves the use of knowledge in a constructive manner. This step focuses on the transfer of knowledge into practical use. The application involves the implementation of principles, theories, methods, rules, concepts, and laws. In this step, the learning outcome needs one to know the subject.

Instructional objectives - The person can construct visual presentations such as graphs and charts, effectively follow through with a procedure, solve mathematical questions, and use theories to solve practical problems.

Verbs - Focuses on specific learning outcomes such as producing, discovering, modifying, manipulating, demonstrating, computing and changes.


Analysis transforms an organizational structure into an easy-to-understand material. The analysis considers the organization's principles, the relationship between different parts, and parts identification. The learning outcomes in analysis go beyond the comprehension and application level. Users of this information need to understand the material's structural and content aspects of the material.

General illustrative instructional objectives -  Generates analysis for the organizational structure, evaluates data, distinguishes facts from inferences, and recognizes logical fallacies and unstated assumptions.

Illustrative verbs narrow down on specific learning outcomes; distinguish, subdivide, select, separate, outline, illustrate, discriminate, point out, and relate.


Synthesis involves joining different parts to form one. Synthesis may involve various processes such as research proposal, speech, or classification of information scheme. Learning outcomes on synthesis focus on generating new structures and patterns.

Illustrative general objectives - plan proposals, Schemes formulation, speech writing, integrate different sources of knowledge to create solutions and issue an informative speech.

Creative Verbs - compiles, summarizes, writes, requires, reconstructs, relates, explains, designs, devises, organizes, tells, categorizes.

Knowledge organises for promoting synthesis
Knowledge organises for promoting synthesis


Evaluation involves checking on a material thoroughly and being able to judge its value. Judgments should be made based on criteria. Criteria include internal and external. Internal criteria focus on the organization, while external criteria focus on the purpose and relevance. A student may be given the specific criteria to follow when making evaluations or given the freedom to choose any. Learning outcomes from the evaluation are considered the more informative based on the cognitive hierarchy. This includes different categories, elements, and value judgments. It requires a higher level of understanding.

Instructional objectives - Judges; the presented data and the adequacy of meeting conclusions, information consistency, and value.

Specific learning outcomes using illustrative verbs - supports, explains, concludes, appraises, describes, justifies, relates, summarizes, interprets, and compares.

Promoting metacognitive knowledge
Promoting metacognitive knowledge


Moving beyond the Blooms Verb List

Having a list of action verbs along with an intellectual taxonomy should be a useful addition to any classroom. One of the problems that we have seen is the rush to the top of Blooms triangle, or in other words, the premium that's placed upon those higher-order thinking skills (sometimes at the expense of developing a robust knowledge of subject material). Alternatively, the Universal Thinking Framework enables classroom teachers to carefully think through the cognitive steps in a learning task. It enables educators to think about the critical building blocks of knowledge and then extends this to higher levels of thinking. The process itself promotes the development of both knowledge of cognition and knowledge of the subject.

Having a comprehensive understanding of cognitive learning skills is an integral part of becoming a lifelong learner. This child-friendly framework puts less of an emphasis on cognitive skill levels, partially because of the ambiguity involved. The insightful verbs organised in the taxonomy provide teachers and students with the thinking skills they need to take on any classroom challenge. You can download a copy from our dedicated webpage.