Blooming Taxonomies


Catching up and refreshing my knowledge about all kinds of educational theory and research–it was inevitable to stumble across Bloom’s Taxonomy again–The University of Iowa ‘s CELT has developed a really nice model. I am still not convinced. But I am supposed to teach it.

So how do you teach something that you consider at best not functional and worst inhibiting and restricting learning and teaching experiences, if not causing damage to both?

The most interesting and challenging part of my work in education is the quest to understand, how we make sense of the world. How does this thinking thing work? Why do some learning strategies work for one student but not another? How do non-neurotypical learners compensate, and sometimes outperform neuro-typical learners?

Learning is identity-negotiation; it is a personal, social, and cognitive process. Learning constantly challenges our place in the world. What we know. How we form our interaction with the environment (social, physical, virtual). Cognition and neurosciences (e.i.: Neisser, 2014, Schäfer, 2005Marcel, 1983) have highlighted that even a simple act of perception is already an interpretation process of the brain. So identifying primary colours is much more than a simple ‘retrieval from long-term memory’ (CETL, 2012as implied in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

What pops into your mind when I say yellow?

The smell of lemon meringue pie, maybe? The texture of lemons? The sun? As drawn by little kids, with timber like beams? A dress your mom wore when young? A rubber ducky? The humongous rubber duck making the round on social media? A company logo? Horrible teeth? Autumn leaves? As we identify yellow, our brain allocates it within associative networks. We already learned that about 18 years ago in educational psychology. [For a really interesting history on neuronal networks check out this paper: Buckner & Krienen, 2013] So I am already stumbling over the very first lowest stepping stone of Bloom’s revised Taxonomy. Because effectively nothing is ‘just’ remembering.

And then of course is the problem of differentiation in vocabulary. Claudia Stanny has gone through some considerable lengths to identify if various institutions actually agree on the verbs (which was the first hurdle she encountered not everyone actually used verbs) and if these verbs then are assigned by different institutions to the same categories. It is almost needless to say: they were not. Surprisingly she found that a majority of verbs were all assigned to the same category. Language is context- and culture-dependent. Would a physicist writing learning objectives define ‘analysis’ the same as a sociologist? Would a bilingual academic?

I have not yet found–so please if you have, post the link into the comments–any research that actually maps cognitive processes to the various verbs, after establishing a strict definition to their meaning, and then links this to real life learning. The Taxonomy is a construct based on knowledge of cognition sciences in the 50s (yes, it was updated but the principles pretty much remained the same). It might be useful to develop an understanding of various forms of thinking, for someone who has not yet engaged with the topic.


Learning does not work in a linear way. Depending on what you are teaching you might want to start with creating. A learner might easily jump straight into so called higher level thinking based on prior experiences. If learning content is not relevant to the learner, e.i.: the learners experiences, their lives, their realities, they might not engage. Then what do you do? Their lack of understanding is not based on the lack of remembering.

So are you trying to keep them going through memory exercises over and over again? This will not actually bring the learner onto the proposed next level, which seems to be implied in the structure of this taxonomy.  It is in this regard a deficit model. If I go strictly by a linear progression model, in terms of asking the learner to prove each of the stages, I might find my learners are not able to provide evidence of each of the levels. I might also become discouraged because a learner who in one task displayed higher level skills, suddenly is back to basics, in a different task covering the same knowledge.

The heuristic spiral of learning, the character of learning as three steps ahead and two steps back, with a little side tap and a twirl, the importance of relevance and context of all learning content all of these are not shown in the model. I do not think any model can actually show this. I tried really hard during my PhD and was told that I came up with a fairly eclectic theoretical model, but this is the nature of trying to understand learning.

The fallacy is maybe not so much in Bloom’s Taxonomy itself–it can be a useful framework to scaffold assessments (and I am not going into performative cultures here), but more in the assumption that using it, provides a comprehensive overview and an applicable way of structuring learning. The fallacy is in an axoimatic way of teaching the model to aspiring teachers, in an almost dogmatic way of this is how we expect you to plan your learning and teaching activities.

Any learning model–particularly linear ones–cannot be but reductionist, over-simplified, and thus flawed from get go. To develop a functioning model that includes all aspects of learning: psychological, cognitive, personal, emotional, cultural, and social is near to impossible. So maybe a more differentiated approach to teaching this model is a way for engagement.

11 ADD (ADHD) Frustrations

photo from within the

With Heart, Mind, and Soul

1 Spills

When you covered half the house in towels to dye your hair
And the dye finds 10 uncovered square inches to drip onto and stain for ever

Why can I not just be clean and tidy? It’s not that difficult! Come on.

2 Bruises

When you ram full force into the edge of a wooden bench adding to innumerable bruises on your legs

Why did I not see that? What’s the problem with me?

3 Time

When you don’t know why it took you 1,5 hours to walk half a mile and what happened.

By the way: time–what’s all that about anyway?!

When you check your watch every two minutes on the way to an important meeting and arrive half an hour early.

This is just embarrassing.

4 Forgetting

When you just forget TICK to moisturize, check your emails, that apple in your bag, where your coffee cup…

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Forgetting to check Outlook Sub-Folders

banner of top of armadillo building

This semester is all about keeping head above water with better organization strategies–and this not just for my students. So last semester I thought: ‘If I set up more rules for incoming messages I will have better control of the onslaught of information coming through each day.’

So Happy Dance for

Outlook Rules

My colleague explains how to set them up. In case you are a bit of a technophobe.

Nice thought … if you actually check them!

Now setting up rules is easy–remembering to check them when your brain runs on the attention span of a squirrel that ate fermented berries (long story it was before the time of smart phones) is not.

But I found really easy instruction on how to do this

Direct Link Folders in Outlook to Desktop

The only problem I had was the last step. It all worked fine until ‘Inbox’ but it would not take the actual sub-folder. So I renamed the sub-folder into a one-word term and it worked.

Once it is set up you can rename the folder into anything you find useful. Thank you provider of the information: Hail to thy helpfulness!




Experimenting with OERs for my Students

Made with Padlet

I am using Padlet to create a pinwall with online resources and articles about reading academic text. I also used Pinterest, the issue there is that one cannot add documents.

Bullet Journaling

Get Organized–Get Things Done

One of my aims for this year was to become better organized to find a system.

And Heureka! Whoohoo! Happy Dance! I have found it.

From beginning:

I have a myriad of journals which I write for different purposes and with varying consistency. One for projects, for meetings, for messy ideas, for tidy ideas, for professional reflection, for MindMaps, for taking notes when reading et cetera et infinitum … However, most advice I found on organizing notes suggests to have it all in one place. I am using Evernote daily. They teamed up with Get Things Done and created a digital system that works

… well kind of sort of …

I do my thinking in handwriting, often on the white board in my office or in one of my journals; pacing up and down, listening to music, audio-books, running some 90s TV show in the background–you get the picture. Additionally aesthetics (as in αἴσθησις: aísthēsis) is one of the most important aspects for me to work successfully. So the texture of my notebook, the way my fountain pen runs over the paper, the colours of my Stabilo pens, the wide arm-movements drawing MindMaps on the whiteboard. All this is actually thinking.

Nevertheless, the thinking things needed some sorting.

The Solution? Bullet Journal.

My colleague @GU_SLS_Writing who runs our Writing Centre suggested to try out a Bullet Journal. The brief introductory video explains the system really well. It is indeed:

One journal to rule them all

If you are someone who enjoys the satisfaction of ticking things off a list, in its most simple form, using the bullet journal as a To Do List Diary, with monthly, weekly, daily tasks, and some collections for long term planning is great. However, you can do so much more! Here is my way of approaching the bullet journal:

First Step: Create an Index

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Left hand side: Cross references to other journals
Right hand side: Index Symbols for Bullet-points, Marks, Fills, Colours, and Highlights

No the bullet journal did not get rid of ALL my other journals but it significantly reduced the numbers.

Second Step: Monthly Plan

I created a monthly plan for 6 months, and then a monthly overview for the current month. You can check the Pinterest Board above for ideas on how to do it.

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Third Step: Go Wild!

You can create collections, To Do Lists for projects etc seriously have a look in Pinterest there are so many ideas (and yes I copied some of the styles, too). One blog about getting organized suggested to first write everything down, every single idea, project, piece of writing etc that is floating in your mind, then categorize, prioritize etc … So I set up a space in my Bullet Journal for Everything!


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I sorted the Everything things into various collections. The suggestion for regular tasks and ten minute tasks is really helpful, particularly when trying to establish routines.

Step 4: Tips

I found a variety for helpful tips online and I also added some notes to myself.

There are some Problems:

The bullet journal wouldn’t work in meetings as it would fill up too quickly and it would make the sorting and indexing very messy. My colleague suggested to simply transfer the action points from meetings into the journal.

While I am using it for project management, ‘thinking things through’ and MindMaps have no space in this journal. But the action points, deadlines, monthly, weekly, daily tasks and goals do fit in well. Therefore, the cross-referencing to other journals. So I am down to 4 journals now. One of which is a massive scrapbook I am using for MindMaps.

I propose to you to rebel.


I have been making some headway catching up with literature on education, educational theories and helpful instructional books for emerging teachers in higher education. There is a lot of ‘because I say so’ writing. As Erziehungswissenschaftler (educational scientist) this is rather a nuisance. It makes we want to rebel:

I am not saying that we shouldn’t familiarise ourself with constructive alignment, intended learning outcomes, assessment criteria and the whole lot. But what I would really, really like us to do is to become wholly and fully the best version of ourselves we can be, for our students. Just be who we are. And if we really want to, if this is a risk we think we can face, we can always work on becoming the teacher we wished we had when we were a student. It doesn’t matter here that everyone (all the 3,5 people) who reads this will have a completely different picture of that most awesome, inspiring teacher. Because being an educator, learning—together with our students—is messy, it is challenging, it is risky, is puts us on the spot, it puts our identity in the crossfire of curious, excited, disengaged, highly motivated, luke-warmly interested, cleverer than us, struggling, or sailing through students. Ultimately, the whole range of humanity we will encounter in this enclosure that is our lecturer hall, seminar room, or office. This is why there is no educational theory to rule them all. There is no one teacher who is the perfect teacher.

Yes, there are patterns, there are things that will work better than others. However, this can be circumstantial. That something worked incredibly well with one cohort, does not necessarily mean it will work exactly, or exactly as well, with another cohort—or the same cohort at a different time for that matter, or with another teacher.

When studying educational sciences in Germany, we studied neuro- and cognition sciences, developmental psychology, philosophy, didactics (as in instructional methods), education etc … because learning is a mixture of physiological conditions (synaptic plasticity for instance, or the different brain processes when having dyslexia), learning is identity negotiation (we constantly negotiate who we are, where our place in the world is (Weltaneignung)), and sometimes our students identify themselves by their ability to perform in a subject, and if this performance does not meet expectations, we are met with their anxiety, stress, disengagement, or over-engagement and burnout. Learning is social (think peer support or peer pressure, think sharing notes and study buddies). Sometimes I think no matter how many more conceptual suggestions we come up with, that explain learning, that explain how we make sense of the world, how we negotiate our environment and our-selves, ultimately they are just adding to the educational multiverse: they are all somehow true at the same time.

Therefore, I am writing this Note-to-self: Be brave. Be yourself. Take risks. Be authentic. See your students. Hear your students. And first and foremost commit to your students, because they know, and this commitment reflects their engagement.*


* Yes we have the data to prove it, dissemination forthcoming…


Auf Deutsch

Teil der Erkenntnis die mich letzte Woche befiel war, dass Deutsch für akademisches Schreiben die wesentlich zufriedenstellendere Sprache für mich ist. (Auch wenn Google mir gerade sagt, dass ‘zufriedenstellendere’ ganz bestimmt nicht richtig geschrieben ist, und mir Zweifel ob der nicht mehr ganz so neuen Rechtschreibung kommen.) Aber nun ein Mal von vorn:


Alles began mit diesem Photo. Auf dem nach Hause Weg lief ich durch einen Teil unseres Campus, der von den Botanikern gepflegt und erhalten wird. Während ich versuchte mit meinem Handy ein Bild von den Nachtblüten zu machen, kam mir die Erkenntnis.

Eigentlich hasse ich akademisches Schreiben gar nicht. Ich habe nur eine starke Aversion entwickelt seit ich in Englisch schreiben muss.

Zu Begin dachte ich es lag daran, dass mein English rudimentär, unbeholfen und grammatisch gräulich war. Aber 11 Jahre später, mit Englischkenntnissen die mich mittlerer Weile als bilingual auszeichnen, finde ich akademisches Schreiben immer noch, anstrengend. Wenn ich einen Forschungsplan erstelle, über Projekte nachdenke, mit Enthusiasmus meine Mindmaps zeichne, geschieht das fast ausschließlich auf Deutsch. Mir ist das zunächst nicht ein Mal bewusst geworden, bis mich ein Freund fragte warum denn die Mindmap für mein Buch hauptsächlich Deutsch sei. Und ich in Schwierigkeiten geriet bei der Erklärung, dass man in Englisch einfach so nicht denken kann. Glücklicher Weise scheine ich damit nicht allein zu sein.

English just doesn’t have the vocabulary.

War wohl mein Hauptargument. Viele der Wörter, die ich im erziehungswissenschaftlichen Fachbereich nehme, gibt es im Englischen einfach nicht. Das liegt meines Erachtens daran, dass wir im Deutschen häufig Substantive verwenden, welche mehr oder weniger Konzepte sind. Wörter haben Dimensionen und Tiefe, welche man im Englischen so nicht findet, wie zum Beispiel: Bildung, Weltaneignung, Erfahrungshorizonte. Eine Phrase welche die Grundlage meiner hochschulpädagogischen Herangehensweise beschreibt ist:

Denken im Prinzip, Anwenden im Gegenstand.

Diese Herangehensweise ist für mich grundlegend um akademisches Arbeiten fachübergreifend zu vermitteln. Nur mit der Übersetzung, hängt es. Sinngebung fällt mir demnach schwer und ich finde, dass ich ständig am Kern meiner eigentlichen Aussagen vorbeischreibe. Daher die Frustration. Selbst nach 11 Jahren, fühle ich mich immer noch als würde ich mit einer ungeschärften Axt versuchen einen Baum zu fällen, und das trotz positiver Bestätigungen meiner Kollegen.

Interessanter Weise, liebe ich es jedoch im Englischen Geschichten zu erzählen, kreativ zu schreiben und zu dichten. Nur die akademische Dimension der Sprache finde ich nicht zufriedenstellend.

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