Using Bloom’s Taxonomy in Inquiry-Based Learning

child researching


Bloom’s Taxonomy has guided teachers for decades, generally following the structure of:

  • remembering
  • understanding
  • applying
  • analyzing
  • evaluating
  • creating

But Bloom’s Taxonomy is just one framework available. It provides a way for teachers to use to structure units, lessons, and expectations. It is helpful for thinking about student learning and the specific goals they need to achieve.

Traditional Methods

One thing that makes inquiry-based learning different from traditional methods is its relationship between questions and learning processes. The outcome of asking rich, meaningful questions isn’t determined ahead of time by the teacher. Instead, students are in charge of directing their learning journey and also what their learning will result in.

For anyone new to inquiry-based learning, planning lessons and assessment opportunities while meeting curriculum objectives can be challenging. However, weaving Bloom’s Taxonomy into inquiry objectives and activities can be done in a simple, yet powerful way.

The stages of inquiry are highlighted in colours alongside the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy

Remember/Essential questions:

In this stage of the inquiry process, students recall information they know about a topic or idea. They draw on their own experiences, books they’ve read, movies they’ve watched, or conversations they’ve had. Ideally, teachers provide students with a way of writing down their stored information. They may also create an authentic learning provocation – this could include an observation window, wonder wall, or an invitation to play. In this stage, students remember what they know about a topic or question, and extracting related information to help them figure out what information they might be missing or might like to find out.

Understand/Proposal and planning:

Students now begin to classify their questions and hone in on their essential question. Using a q-matrix is a great way to help students narrow down the scope of their topic and generate high-quality inquiry questions.

In addition, students are ready to begin hunting for information. This is a great time to take students to the library or provide them with laptops or computers to do some research. It is important that students know the basics of web browsing and how to search effectively using a search engine like Google. A good resource for helpful tips and access to a kid-safe search engine can be found here.

Apply/Explore and research:

In the apply level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, students need to be able to apply the skills learned in the previous levels. Prior to beginning this next step, check to make sure your students:

  • Have remembered important advice about safe searching
  • Know what an ad looks like
  • Understand how to identify helpful and unhelpful articles online

This level can be tricky for students. At this level they need to organize their research and determine what their next steps are. Using a colour-coded system may be helpful to organize their notes by subtopic.

Students may find that they need a return library visit, or another computer session. Most importantly, the information they found needs to answer their original inquiry question!

Analyze Information:

In this stage, students need to analyze the information they’ve collected. In addition, they need to determine if their information is pertinent or relevant. A simple chart like the one below, modeled first by the teacher, would be perfect for this stage.

Evaluate/Sort information:

This level can also be tricky for students to navigate; they are not usually asked to evaluate research at such depth. However, teachers can be effective in this area by asking students questions like:

  • What realizations does this information make you have?
  • What new questions do you have?
  • How is this new information relevant to your understanding of the topic?
  • How is this new information relevant to your life, or the life of your family and friends?
  • What might other people learn from this?
  • Are there any misconceptions you had?
  • Why were your perceptions different?
  • How has your life experience affected your perceptions?
  • What will you do with this new information moving forward?
  • What is the best vessel for sharing your new knowledge?

Allow students time to compare and contrast their information using graphic organizers. Guide them by modeling the process so they understand.

This level acts as the link between the information they’ve gathered and analyzed and what their final product might be.

Create/reflect:

This is the stage of Bloom’s Taxonomy that students love. They have finally made it to the point where they can start to create! They can finally showcase all their hard work in a creative way.

By this point, students will have figured out the best vessel through which to showcase their information. However, creating something that demonstrates a culmination of a students’ work is only the first part of the final process. It is imperative for learners to make connections between their work and the “real world

  • Is their project raising awareness for an important issue?
  • Does their campaign include practical ways for change to occur moving forward?
  • Have they added value to someone or something?
  • Were they able to make connections between the past and present?
  • Has their project inspired others in any way?

Perhaps their project doesn’t involve any of the above statements – and this is okay! A well-done inquiry project isn’t judged on the final product. Instead, the process that the student went through and the skills they learned along the way are more important.


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