The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives familiarly known as Bloom’s Taxonomy first published in 1956 and the later revision in 2001  A Taxonomy for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment have provided us with powerful frameworks by which to identify ways in which we think and ways in which we can take thought deeper.

Sudbury Primary School in the London Borough of Brent is one school that has embraced Bloom’s Taxonomy into their ethos and teaching methods. I have had the pleasure of working as a mentor with their languages teacher, Noelia Rivas, for the last 3 years as part of the University of Westminster’s London Schools Excellence Legacy project, so I already knew something of her work in languages and how she links her teaching with the school ethos. Last week I was delighted to observe other teachers in various different classes to find out more about how they do this.

Starting from Early Years, pupils have the chance to develop thought…listening to a story at carpet time, pupils of 4 and 5 years were not only recalling events in the story, but soon analysing the whys and wherefores and even changing the ending, with support from their teacher to explain why they made their choices.

In year 2 pupils were encouraged to reason for themselves as they learned about the function of algorithms in preparation for independent work on laptops. Open questions leading pupils to discover answers rather than telling them the answer characterised this ICT lesson.

In Year 3, the launch of a new topic in History had the pupils creating their own questions using pictures to stimulate their enquiry- for example – who were the people in the picture, why were they there, what else might happen? What a far cry from my experience of History lessons – having to sit passively listening to teacher talk and then being asked to remember everything that has been learned as a list of facts!

Everywhere around the school there are examples of challenge – signs or labels that ask open questions that lead to further thought. From “Do you think using scissors while you stand up is a good or bad thing?” to “How would you feel if you arrived in a new country?”

Yes, there is differentiation – questions can be “mild, spicy or hot” – pupils can choose at which level they wish to engage, but there is a feeling that nothing stands still – pupils don’t just find out about something and leave it there, they have a glass ceiling of opportunity to continue exploring as far as their curiosity takes them.

What kind of people will these pupils become? Certainly, they have been given the chance to think for themselves, to face the unknown with curiosity, to feel empowered to solve things that are hard and to go on asking questions instead of taking things on face value alone.

What impact does this have on language learning? It is a fact that we cannot avoid the necessity for the lowest order thinking skill – remembering – in language learning. But the scope for noticing patterns, for solving puzzles, for analysing “why”, for developing language further and creating one’s own sentences is, of course, not missed at this school. The language specialist, Noelia Rivas is particularly good at giving pupils the chance to work independently, using group and pair work to help pupils support each other when creating sentences using cards, working out the solution to a word puzzle, or composing some written work to be performed to the class. She also links her language lessons to the school topic and other areas of the curriculum, giving yet more scope for deeper questioning and thought. More about this in my next blog…..

I have seen huge changes in the way we view learning and in pedagogical styles over my professional working life, none so inspiring and engaging as teaching of this kind. My grateful thanks to the staff and pupils of Sudbury Primary School for letting me visit and for sharing their ideas so freely with me. And of course thanks must go to Benjamin Bloom and his collaborators for opening up the potential for such a brave new world of teaching and learning.

Author: Pippa Jacobs