This is the second essay I submitted last year. I maintained my HD results with this essay, though I lost a few marks for late submission after I emailed it to myself instead of my tutor. I’m a genius.
Much of the literature on Critical Thinking (CT) acknowledges that although it is touted as a goal of education systems around the world, definitions are still uncertain, research is ongoing, and educational systems have made varied, and not always successful, efforts to incorporate CT into their curricula (for example, see Mason, 2007, Ennis 1993 & Noddings, 2012). The English Stage 6 Syllabus, governing the HSC English course in NSW, states:
Proficiency in English enables students to take their place as confident, articulate communicators, critical and imaginative thinkers and active participants in society.
(Board of Studies, 2009, p. 6)
In reviewing efforts to define the term, a primary and lasting influence in the latter half of the 20th century has been the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Handbook 1, Cognitive Domain (Bloom, 1956). Developed by a team led by Benjamin Bloom, the Taxonomy, also known as ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’, attempted to define the cognitive processes referred to in educational goal and outcome statements, identify the student behaviours associated with each, and organise them into a hierarchy. While debate and discussion continue on definitions of CT, the influence of the taxonomy on conceptions of critical thinking are evident. Robert Ennis, a prominent theorist in the field of CT, states:
The upper three levels of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) are often offered as a definition of critical thinking. Sometimes the next two levels (comprehension and application) are added. This conception is a good one, but it has problems.
(Ennis R. H., 1993, p. 179)
After examining some definitions and areas of dissent about the concept of CT and its relationship to the Taxonomy, this paper will examine the way in which CT is assessed in an HSC English examination, and the concept of CT that is evident in that process.
The Taxonomy and Critical Thinking: Definitions
The taxonomy, as detailed in Handbook 1, has six levels of cognitive processes arranged in a hierarchy with identified behaviours that demonstrate each level. Appendix 1 offers an original, (though not unique), summary of the key terms, descriptions, associated behaviours and suggested methods of assessment from Handbook 1. The six thinking skills of Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation are intended to be ‘arranged as a hierarchy, that is, each classification within it demands the skills and abilities which are lower in the classification order.’ (Bloom, 1956, p. 120). Krathwohl, a co-author of Handbook 1, says that the items are ‘ordered from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract’ (Krathwohl, 2002, p. 212) It is also important to note the classification of the taxonomic items as ‘skills’, or particular processes of thinking. While Handbook 1 does not explicitly offer its terms as an intended definition of CT, the higher three levels are described as being ‘highly conscious’, implying a more active and self-aware thought process on the part of the student.
In defining the concept of CT, the website of the Foundation for Critical Thinking leads with Michael Scriven and Richard Paul’s 1987 statement that:
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skilfully conceptualizing, applying, analysing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.
(Scriven and Paul, 1987, quoted in Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2011)
Immediately evident in Scriven and Paul’s definition is the use of the terms ‘applying, analysing, synthesizing and evaluating’ as concepts from the original taxonomy, deferring understanding of this definition to a pre-knowledge of Bloom’s original definitions of these as cognitive processes and educational objectives.
A definition from Robert Ennis, which he expands in a number of publications, is:
Critical thinking is reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do.
(Ennis R. H., 1993, p. 180)
Abrami, et al. support this idea and offer a similar definition of CT as ‘the ability to engage in purposeful, self-regulatory judgement’ (2008, p. 1102). In expanding this definition, Ennis identifies the following behaviours that he believes are required to engage in effective CT:
In reasonably and reflectively going about deciding what to believe or do, a person characteristically needs to do most of these things (and do them interdependently):
- Judge the credibility of the sources.
- Identify conclusions, reasons and assumptions.
- Judge the quality of an argument, including the acceptability of its reasons, assumptions, and evidence.
- Develop and defend a position on an issue.
- Ask appropriate clarifying questions.
- Plan experiments and judge experimental designs.
- Define terms in a way appropriate for the context.
- Be open-minded
- Try to be well informed.
- Draw conclusions when warranted, but with caution.
(Ennis R. H., 1993, p. 180)
In this list of behaviours we see the verbs Judge (x 3), Identify, Develop and Defend, Ask, Plan, Define, Be, Try (to be), Draw (conclusions). If we accept the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of ‘Judge’ as a verb to mean to ‘form an opinion or conclusion about’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2011), then the last behaviour of Ennis’ list could be counted as a variation of ‘Judge’, giving a clear emphasis on the ability to Judge, which is defined as a procedural part of the taxonomy’s uppermost level of thought, Evaluation.
Lipman, who identifies judgements as the outcome or product of CT, expands the definition further:
A judgement, then, is a determination – of thinking, of speech, of action, or of creation. A gesture, such as a wave of a hand, can be a judgement; a metaphor like “john is a worm” is a judgement; an equation like e=mc2 is a judgement. They are likely to be good judgements if they are the products of skilfully performed acts guided or facilitated by appropriate instruments and procedures.
(Lipman, 1991, p. 116)
Ennis’ list also invokes some qualities of a person as critical thinker, as well as characteristics of CT skills. This idea that the attitudes of a person as critical thinker play an important part in the concept of CT is echoed in a number of places among the literature, as indicated by Mason (2007) in his review of five dominant philosophies of CT:
Each of the philosophers I’ve considered here emphasises a particular feature that he or she defends as the most important aspect of critical thinking. Each tends to emphasize one, perhaps two, of the following:
- The skills of critical reasoning (such as the ability to assess reasons’ properly);
- A disposition, in the sense of;
- A critical attitude(scepticism, the tendency to ask probing questions) and the commitment to give expression to this attitude, or
- A moral orientation which motivates critical thinking;
- Substantial knowledge of particular content, whether of:
- Concepts in critical thinking(such as necessary and sufficient conditions ), or of
- A particular discipline, in which one and is then capable of critical thought
(Mason, 2007, p. 343)
In these various definitions and expansions it is evident that while the definitions of CT have expanded to encompass both the personal and social contexts of CT, the core processes involved – the ‘thinking’ part of CT, if you will – refer either directly to taxonomic thinking skills, the products or objects associated with taxonomic thinking skills, or to undefined ‘skills’ thus invoking existing knowledge of Bloom’s taxonomy in understanding what those skills might be.
The Taxonomy and Critical Thinking: Criticism and Debates
The taxonomy has come under repeated criticism in relation to its effectiveness in defining critical thinking. French & Rhoder (1992) summarise many of these criticisms, including Ennis’ criticism of the vagueness of the concepts in the taxonomy and of its lack of criteria for success, and Paul’s suggestion that the acceptance of different thinking skills in a hierarchal nature may actually hinder CT skills. (French & Rhoder, 1992, p. 195)
This later point, that the strict hierarchy of thinking skills is a false representation, was addressed in 2001 when Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl ( a student of Bloom’s and a co-author of the original taxonomy, respectively) produced a revised version of the taxonomy which made a number of significant changes. The most notable changes are that the various stages were recognised as being more interdependent than the originally stricter hierarchy suggested, and that Synthesis was reframed as (the ability/skill to) ‘Create’, and was placed at the top of the order, with Evaluation being moved to the 5th rank. This acknowledges more recent models of the cognitive process of creativity which requires the ability to effectively evaluate newly generated ideas as in terms of their appropriateness to requirements or context (Csikszentmihalyi, 1988; Starko, 2010; Sweller, 2009)
A second dimension was also introduced, keeping the original dimension of the six cognitive processes, or thinking skills, but adding four differing levels of knowledge (Factual, Conceptual, Procedural, and Metacognitive) relevant to each of the six cognitive items. Krathwohl suggest a 2 dimensional table as a way of mapping the overall complexity of an educational outcome (Krathwohl, 2002, p. 216). The inclusion of ‘Metacognitive knowledge’ as part of the new structure reflects the increasing focus on critical thinkers as ‘reflective’. In their meta-analysis of 117 studies of CT, Abrami, et al. (2008), found that explicit instruction by teachers trained in CT instruction had a significantly positive effect on students development of CT skills (Abrami, et al., 2008, p. 1121) indicating that the metacognitive element has a large role to play in the effective instruction of both teachers and students if the goal of developing critical thinkers is to be achieved.
Another area of contention in the definition of CT is the issue of whether or not it is an independent skill set, or something developed within the context and knowledge of a specific domain. The best example of this debate is evident in the writings of Ennis (1989), a supporter of the idea that CT is more general and transferable, and McPeck (1990) who says instead that CT skills are more domain specific but that some domains are broad in nature and application, and are evident as part of other domain-specific skills, such as ‘counting’.
Abrami, et al. also quote a ‘high profile definition’ from 1990, developed by an American Philosophical Association Delphi panel of 46 experts (including Ennis), which identifies not only characteristics of Critical Thinking, but also characteristics of the ‘ideal critical thinker’. (2008, p. 1103) They also identify the product of a psychological perspective on critical thinking that ‘requires gaining mastery of a series of discrete skills or mental operations’ that can be applied across different contexts and state that ‘no one would argue that CT is applicable across a range of disciplinary areas’ but recognise the uncertainty over the nature and mechanism of CT’s transferability across domains. (Abrami, et al., 2008, p. 1105)
In light of these propositions, it could be considered that the study of the HSC English course either engages ‘general’ CT skills that exist independently of subject content or that it involves CT skills from a range of different domains that converge at key points in the course to produce a CT approach to English literature studies. In exploring the effective assessment of CT in schools it must be acknowledged that some domain specific knowledge is required for students to engage in any form of CT activity; least of all students must have a grasp of both their subject areas and the language in which the test in administered. It is not the purpose of this paper to attempt to navigate this debate; however, to address this area of contention in relation to this evaluation of assessment in the study of English, it is suggested that the subject is inherently based around an understanding of the English language and its use. Unlike a subject such as Mathematics or Physics, where the language of instruction is arguably a vehicle for delivery and discussion of course content and not an inherent part of the subject, thus requiring secondary use of appropriate thinking skills, for English studies it is argued that the most likely inter-domain skills are largely contained within the field of the subject itself, and as such effectively remove this conflict as a necessary area of consideration from this papers exploration of CT skills in HSC English examinations.
After looking at definitions and debates of CT and the relationship of Bloom’s Taxonomy, it appears that while the focus has expanded into the more philosophical concepts of the motivation, function and value of CT and critical thinkers, the 6 cognitive processes of the original Taxonomy are still evident as the dominant descriptions of the thinking skills a person engages in when thinking critically. The expression of these processes as thinking skills and student behaviours plays a large part in the understanding of what a student must do to effectively engage in CT, especially in a learning environment, and so we now look to the ways of identifying and assessing those processes through the products of their application.
Exploration of the Assessment of Critical Thinking in HSC English
The representative exam for the purposes of this exploration will be the HSC Exam of the ‘Area of Study’ (AoS) unit that is part of the Standard and Advanced English courses in NSW curriculum. The reasons for this focus are:
- The stated purpose of developing critical thinking within the English course
- The fact that the same AoS Examination is administered to students in both the Standard and Advanced courses, and in a modified form to ESL students.
- English is the only compulsory subject in the HSC, meaning that the overwhelming majority of HSC students must sit this particular examination
The first factor for consideration is the form of the Examination. Students are given approx. 40 minutes to write an extended critical response (nominally an essay) in response to a previously unseen question and/or stimulus. Their response is required to draw on their study throughout the previous year, which incorporates a prescribed text from a list (usually selected by the teacher/school) as well as a number of other texts of different forms, related to the prescribed text through thematic concerns.
The 2010 HSC Examination instructions for this topic were:
‘An individual’s interaction with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their experience of belonging.’
Discuss this view with detailed reference to your prescribed text and ONE other related text of your own choosing. (Board of Studies NSW, 2011, p. 9)
Immediately the connection to the original taxonomy is clear, as the task requires effective synthesis of knowledge into the creation of a ‘unique communication’. While Synthesis is originally ranked below Evaluation, Bloom advises that the quality of a product of synthesis may also be judged by its “‘goodness of fit’ to the requirements of the problem” (Bloom, 1956, p. 176), or appropriateness to the task and its context. This is evidence of the interdependence of Synthesis and Evaluation, even if not acknowledged directly in the original separation of ideas within the hierarchy of the Taxonomy.
Its’ relevance here is that regardless of how the concepts are defined and separated, the form of the examination requires effective use of the highest cognitive processes of the Taxonomy. Ennis also defends the essay test as the one of the most effective methods of assessing critical thinking, (Ennis R. H., 1993, p. 182), and this essay test is an example of what he refers to as an ‘open ended’ test with ‘minimal structure’, requiring students to engage their CT skills to effectively produce a response.
This test format also aligns with Bloom’s recommendations for testing Synthesis, in that the test is based on material that students have had previous access to, allowing them to engage in required analysis to reach conclusions and build knowledge, which is then applied in the act of synthesis. This does, however, also presents a potential trap in that students may bring knowledge to the exam that they memorised from another source, rather than having engaged in their own CT regarding the material, making it effectively impossible to judge that knowledge as evidence of a process of effective CT.
This brings the focus to the instructions given to students in terms of the criteria for the task and for assessment that they are given, as well as the criteria for assessment that are used in evaluating it (appendix 2 contains the marking rubric for evaluation of these exams responses). If the knowledge incorporated into this essay task cannot be trusted as evidence of the students’ own CT processes, then emphasis must be placed on their production of the essay, which is, as has been demonstrated, the product of the highest-order thinking skills. It is also for this reason that concerns of CT as a moral process, or the qualities of an effective critical thinker are not really considered in this assessment. As the parameters of the task are strictly defined in the context of the examination, the ‘moral’ nature of a students’ thinking does not come into play except, perhaps, as a measure of appropriateness to the question. Likewise, the inherent motivation, open-mindedness, and effective questioning abilities of an individual would have been applied during the study period prior to the examination, ultimately manifesting as the knowledge brought to the exam to be used in the synthesis, and as has already been shown, it is only the use of that knowledge in producing the essay, rather than the knowledge itself, that can be assessed. The marking criteria seem to support this view by focussing on the terms ‘skilful’, ‘well integrated’ and ‘well-chosen’ as the defining characteristics of the highest quality products.
In the Notes from the Marking Centre (Board of Studies NSW, 2011) in which general feedback is given on the characteristics of responses to the question and what defined a ‘successful’ attempt, the following description is given for ‘highly developed’ responses:
The skilful integration of the analysis of both texts into the conceptual framework of their response was a distinguishing feature of highly developed responses. These responses were also marked by clear and purposeful control of language, with a judicious use of related material.
Note that the first characteristic is the ‘skilful integration of the analysis’, placing the focus on the skill of construction (Synthesis) and treating analysis as an object that is not possessing of any measureable quality. The term ‘judicious’, inferring judgement, likewise invokes the process of evaluation in selecting appropriate related material. In these criteria we see the evaluation of the characteristics of the product of the essay in terms of the students’ ability to skilfully synthesise and evaluate the appropriateness of their material.
As a comparison, the same document characterises ‘weaker responses’ in the following way
Weaker responses were often colloquial, conversational and segmented, demonstrating a varying control of language, and displaying an elementary knowledge of the concept and the texts studied.
In this passage, the first sentence speaks to the inappropriate use of language, implying a poor knowledge, comprehension and application of appropriate language to the task. As identified earlier, this knowledge is expected to be the product of effective CT processes during the period of study prior to the examination. In this way it could be seen as a method of assessing the motivation and self-direction of the student in engaging in CT processes, however, as it is possible for the use of language to be brought into an exam as knowledge that is memorised and understood as a result of memory as much as from individual CT efforts, it would appear that this examination process is only effectively to judge these other elements of CT by their absence, rather than by their presence or any sense of quality, and so the focus remains on the product of the essay as an example of a students’ ability to Synthesise and Evaluate as the only, however limited, available measure of their Critical Thinking abilities.
While the HSC English syllabus states the goal of developing students into critical thinkers, the methods of assessment, at least in the limited context of this example, seem limited to a concept of critical thinking that does not expand much beyond the definition of ‘the top three levels of Bloom’s taxonomy’. However, as much as Bloom’s Taxonomy helped to define the concept of critical thinking, it has also potentially limited its effective instruction. As Airasian (1994) identifies in his review of the impact of Bloom’s taxonomy on teaching and assessing, high-stakes, state mandated testing such as the HSC, that use externally determined standards rather than locally developed ones have ‘sought to reverse the traditional relationship among classroom objectives, instruction, and evaluation’ (Airasian, 1994, p. 95) where tests dictate the goals and nature of educational instruction, rather than learning outcomes defining methods of instruction and assessment. As has been shown in this example of HSC examination, while developing critical thinkers is a stated goal, the examination process only allows for a very narrow concept of critical thinking, thus falling somewhat short of its stated goal when considered in light of contemporary understanding of the term.
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Abrami, P. C., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Surkes, M. A., Tamin, R., et al. (2008, December Vol 78, no 4). Instructional Interventions Affecting Critical Thinking Skills and Dispositions: A Stage 1 Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, pp. 1102-1134.
This meta-analysis examines 117 empirical studies of Critical Thinking, and provides a statistical analysis of the collective results, showing the impact of various factors on the effective instruction of Critical Thinking in learning environments.
Airasian, P. W. (1994). The impact of the Taxonomy on Testing and Evaluation. In L. W. Anderson, & L. A. Sosniak, Bloom’s Taxonomy: A Forty-Year Retrospective (pp. 82-102). Chicago: The National Society for the Study of Education.
An overview of the changes in educational policy and practice, before, during and after the introduction of Bloom’s Taxonomy; It tracks the changing trends in instruction, curriculum development, and assessment, particularly in reference to the growth of state mandated testing.
Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Handbook 1, Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay Company, Inc.
It provides descriptions of cognitive processes that make up the items of the taxonomy, as well as strategies for identifying and testing effective application of those processes.
Board of Studies NSW. (2009). English Stage 6 Syllabus. Board of Studies NSW.
Board of Studies NSW. (2009, August 05). A Glossary of Key Words. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from Board of Studies: http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/syllabus_hsc/glossary_keywords.html
Board of Studies NSW. (2011, March 7). 2010 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre — English Standard and Advanced. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from Board of Studies: http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/hsc_exams/hsc2010exams/notes/english-standard-advanced.html
Board of Studies NSW (a). (2011, September 16). English Paper 1, Notes from the marking Centre. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from NSW Higher School Certificate (HSC) Examination Papers 2010: http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/hsc_exams/hsc2010exams/
Board of Studies NSW (b). (2011, September 16). English, Standard and Advanced, Examination Paper 1. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from NSW Higher School Certificate (HSC) Examination Papers 2010: http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/hsc_exams/hsc2010exams/
Board of Studies NSW (c). (2011, September 16). Marking Guidelines English (Standard) and English (Advanced) Paper 1. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from Board of Studies: http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/hsc_exams/hsc2010exams/pdf_doc/english-std-adv-p1-marking-guide-10.pdf
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1988). Society, culture, and person: a systems view of creativity. In R. J. Sternberg, The Nature of Creativity (pp. 325-339). Cambridge: Cabridge University Press.
Outlines the ‘systems model’ of creativity that positions Creativity among the interactions of the individual, the field, and the domain, and the role of evaluation and transmission in the valuing and retention of creative ideas.
Ennis, R. H. (1989, April Vol. 18, No.3). Critical Thinking and Subject Specificity: Clarification and Needed Research. Educational Researcher, pp. 4-10.
Ennis, R. H. (1993, Summer Vol. 32, No. 3). Critical Thinking Assessment. Theory into Practice, pp. 179-186.
Outlines effective methods of assessing Critical Thinking, and provides a list of American published examinations categorized into their effective areas of assessment.
Foundation for Critical Thinking. (2011). Defining Critical Thinking. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from The Critical Thinking Community: http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766
French, J. N., & Rhoder, C. (1992). Teaching Thinking Skills: Theory and Practice. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.
Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview. Theory into Practice, vol 41, No 4, Revising Bloom’s Taxonomy, 212-218.
This article provides a summary of the changes made to Bloom’s Taxonomy in the 2011 publication by Anderson and Krathwohl, and includes strategies for using the new taxonomy to evaluate learning objectives.
Lipman, M. (1991). Thinking in Education. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Mason, M. (2007, August Vol 39, Issue 4). Critical Thinking and Learning. Educational Philosophy and Theory, pp. 339-349.
This literature review offers a comparison of five prominent definitions and philosophies of the concept of Critical Thinking. It provides an insight into the similarities and differences, as well as the history of development of contemporary theories, and highlights key areas of debate in the field. It particularly helpful for those new to the literature in identifying direction for further research.
McPeck, J. E. (1990, May Vol 19, No. 4). Critical Thinking and Subject Specificity: A Reply to Ennis. Educational Researcher, pp. 10-12.
Noddings, N. (2012). Philosophy of Education , 3rd edition (Kindle Edition). Boulder: Westbiew Press.
Oxford Dictionaries. (2011). Judge. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from Oxford Dictionaries: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/judge
Starko, A. J. (2010). What is Creativity? In A. J. Starko, Creativity in the Classroom. New York: Routledge.
Sweller, J. (2009). Cognitive Bases of Human Creativity. Educational Psychology Review(21), 11-19.
Appendix 1: Summary of Bloom’s Taxonomy from Handbook 1.
- The recall of specific bits of information
i. Knowledge of terminology
ii. Knowledge of specific facts
- Knowledge of the ways of organising, studying, judging and criticizing ideas and phenomena
i. Knowledge of conventions
ii. Knowledge of trends and sequences
iii. Knowledge of classifications and categories
iv. Knowledge of criteria
v. Knowledge of methodology
- Knowledge of the universals and abstractions in a field
i. Knowledge of principles and generalisations
ii. Knowledge of theories and structures
Major behaviour tested in knowledge is whether or not the student can remember and either cite or recognise accurate statements in response to particular questions.
- Objectives, behaviours, or responses which represent an understanding of the literal message contained in a communication. Three types of comprehension behaviour are considered:
i. Translation – can be tested through activities requiring recall of related terms, or through simplification of present items into known terms.
ii. Interpretation – can be tested though essay tasks requiring a student to identify/compare/contrast meaning one or more given texts
iii. Extrapolation – can be tested in conjunction with Interpretation in essay tasks by requiring students to go beyond the limits of the data provided.
- The ability to apply correct abstractions to a problem without having to be prompted as to which abstraction to use. Is similar in many regards to comprehension, but the following distinction is provided:
“A Demonstration of “Comprehension” shows that the student can use the abstraction when its use is specified. A demonstration of “Application” shows that he will use it correctly, given an appropriate situation in which no mode of solution is specified” (Bloom, 1956, p. 120)
Testing for application can be undertaken in a variety of way, but effective testing requires situations new to the student, or containing new elements to which they can apply appropriate knowledge.
Identified as being ‘At a somewhat more advanced level than the skills of comprehension and application’ (Bloom, 1956, p. 144)
- The breakdown of the material into its constituent parts and detection of the relationships of the parts and of the way they are organised.
i. Analysis of elements
ii. Analysis of relationships
iii. Analysis of organisational principles
Can be tested through presentation to students of either new material or material with which they may be familiar, and asked to answer questions about it. In this aspect, it is identified that presenting students in an exam situation with previously unseen material is likely to lead to a more effective demonstration of analytical abilities as they will be unable to recall previously discussed analytical comments of the material. (Bloom, 1956, p. 149)
Defined as the putting together of elements and parts to form a whole… in such a way as to constitute a pattern or structure not clearly seen there before. (Bloom, 1956, p. 162)
- Production of a unique communication
- Production of a plan or proposed set of operations
- Derivation of a set of abstract relations.
Synthesis is most often and effectively tested by engaging students in the act of creating something in response to restricted field of information or within a specific field.
In discussing testing of synthesis, the importance of providing favourable conditions for creative work is emphasised, including ‘freedom from excessive tension and from pressures to adopt a particular viewpoint’ (Bloom, 1956, p. 173) Time is also identified as an important factor, as creative tasks often require time for the student to familiarise themselves with the task and the required information. As a solution, an essay task is suggested in which students have access to the related materials well in advance of the examination to allow time for analysis and familiarity (Bloom, 1956, p. 173)
The making of judgements about the value of ideas, works, materials, etc., in relation to a purpose. Judgements are distinguished from opinions as being those which are formed with ‘distinct criteria in mind’ and which are ‘highly conscious and ordinarily are based on a relatively adequate comprehension and analysis of the phenomena to be appraised’ (Bloom, 1956, p. 186)
- Judgements in terms of internal evidence
- Judgements in terms of external criteria
Can be identified by an individual’s ability to, when given a new work, identify errors within it, or to determine that it is internally consistent. The individual may be required to cite specific points to justify their judgement. (Bloom, 1956, p. 193)
Appendix 2: Marking rubric for Area of Studies Critical Writing task