Bloom’s Taxonomy and The ERWC Arc

In the previous post, I discussed creating a list of easily-remembered words that could help facilitate the transfer of the stages of the ERWC arc to other texts and rhetorical situations that the student might encounter in the future.  As part of another discussion, I found a link to an excellent blog post on the revised version of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  It occurred to me to try mapping the ERWC terms onto the taxonomy.  The chart below is the result.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Compared to the ERWC Arc

The congruences and gaps are interesting.  Although the “Apply” cell in the chart is blank for ERWC, I would say that ERWC modules generally provide a lot of activities that allow students to apply concepts and language from the texts before they begin to question them.  Application permeates an ERWC module and happens in every stage.  ERWC also includes revision, which is not part of Bloom’s Taxonomy, at least in this expression of it.  Bloom’s Taxonomy was often applied in designing individual activities in modules, but it is interesting that it also applies at this sort of macro level.

One thought on “Bloom’s Taxonomy and The ERWC Arc

  1. I have taken to commenting on my own posts because, while I often receive feedback, it is hard to get people to comment on the site! Many thanks to those who have!

    A couple of people pointed out that the ERWC arc is a process that unfolds in time, while Bloom’s Taxonomy is a hierarchy of cognitive tasks. Mary Adler pointed out that a simplistic interpretation of the taxonomy can lead to the impression that learning is a step-by-step task, but that a more sophisticated view is that all of the stages are present in any learning experience. My alignment of a process with a hierarchy encourages this simplistic view.

    Mary quotes Marzano arguing that the designers of the taxonomy were aware of this limitation. He writes “Although evaluation is placed last in the cognitive domain because it is regarded as requiring to some extent all the other categories of behavior, it is not necessarily the last step in thinking or problem solving. It is quite possible that the evaluation process will in some cases be the prelude to the acquisition of new knowledge, a new attempt at comprehension or application, or a new analysis and synthesis” (185).

    Mary notes, “if we think about Bloom’s this way, where each level helps the reader/writer to develop prior skills and knowledge further (and to anticipate learning to come), then the ERWC alignment works even better, because it shows that in writing about a text, the writer comes to understand that text much more thoroughly (and, as research has shown, the writer also remembers it better).”

    My own take on this is that like most charts, mnemonics, acronyms, and proverbs, Bloom’s Taxonomy is perhaps a useful oversimplification, but not entirely true. But I think my chart is useful anyway because it connects the arc to something that teachers probably know, while at the same time showing that it is a little more complicated than it looks.

    Kenneth Burke, in discussing his rhetorical pentad–act, agent, agency, scene, and purpose–notes that these terms are like fingers on a hand; ultimately they all merge together and are part of the same unit. Each term is a perspective, a place from which to view the phenomenon under study. The same is true of Aristotle’s appeals; we can potentially view the same part of a text as functioning to construct an ethos, to create an emotional effect, or to serve as a premise in a logical argument. Such terms have a momentary limiting effect. They focus the attention on a certain aspect of the object of study.

    The term’s of Bloom’s Taxonomy have a similar function. If a student cannot do the task we are asking them to do, perhaps it is because they need to work on a less challenging task first. The taxonomy helps us think about this. This sort of teacherly thinking goes back even to Quintilian.

    The ERWC arc helps us structure our assignments so that students have always at least attempted the necessary work that is the foundation of the next task. It advises students to examine a text, make predictions about it and think about what they already know before they attempt to read it for understanding. It reminds them not to move to critique too early, but not to be afraid to question either. It helps them use their responses, notes and annotations to take a stance toward the text and its ideas so that they can use the words, strategies, ideas, and information in the text for their own purposes. It helps them write a draft to get their ideas down on paper and to think about potential readers in revising that draft.

    However, like any process, the student can start over, return to a previous task, multitask, do steps in a different order, etc. As Mary Adler said to me, each stage is a potential “Bloom’s microcosm.”

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