The Levels of Thinking

The Levels of Thinking

Photo by Jesse Bowser
Photo by Jesse Bowser

Back in the 1950s, Bloom developed a taxonomy of thinking ability for educators and exam writers. They revised it in 2001. It has 6 levels, with a style of thinking (of using the mind and intellect) and a capability that results.

1) Remember: this is rote learning and memorization.
Capability: Regurgitate

2) Understand: rather than memorizing, we study to comprehend.
Capability: Explain

3) Apply: we can apply the understanding to solve simple problems, like using a formula.
Capability: Simple problem solving

The next levels are higher order and require more work, so are less commonly developed.

4) Analyze: we can compare and contrast our understandings in more complex ways. This allows strategic planning.
Capability: Comparison

5) Evaluate: we can judge, justify, and rank importance.
Capability: Prioritize
(This is as far as testing goes.)

6) Create: we can synthesize and identify gaps in knowledge.
Capability: Hypothesize

The key is in how we use the intellect with the mind.

It might appear that the best way to develop these skills is to work your way up. However, we can also start higher and loop down, if we have the clarity.

Leaning heart-side, there are similar values of intuition, especially with levels 5 and 6. Lateral thinking has the potential to take us beyond level 6 with intuitive leaps, but has to be paired with a grounded intellect to be effective.

And finally, we have ritam and cognition, where the intellect shifts from working with the mind to working with Self. Here, mind processes afterwards, so we’ve gone beyond levels of thinking.

Average rating 4.9 / 5. Vote count: 13

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.


  1. George Robinson, Ed.D.

    Wanna hear something funny? I have penned at least 9 responses to this post (as a doctorate-level educator), and every single time I end up asking myself, “who am I saying this to, why am I saying this, what’s the benefit or good in what I’m saying, and a string of other such thoughts. Then, seeing I have no positive, productive, informative answers to any of these question, I just end up deleting the whole thing and letting it go. What’s wrong with me, D? You are a blessing…even if you turn the spotlight of examination inward, which is not always pleasant to see. JGD.

    1. Nothing wrong with you George, you’re just recognizing an old pattern. And you did something of an inquiry on it.

      The post was of course not meant to be a trigger, but at the right time, triggers can make things conscious. What is the feeling or sensation that is behind the trigger? And what is driving that? Just like that, we can step back into things we’re still holding on to.

      (and Congrats – a PhD is a major accomplishment, even if we question the content now.)

      For me, the article was just an interesting musing on the mind and intellect and ways to model it. Skipping level 1, we could probably build a similar model of intuition.

      Also, it was interesting to have this more conscious as this progression of expectation wasn’t clear as a student. 🙂

  2. Tim Owens

    Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive outcomes was the guiding light of my career as a high school English teacher. One of the key elements of the model that you alluded to is that each level subsumes all the lower levels, a version of the Russian nested dolls analogy. If someone reasons analytically very well, they must necessarily have developed facility with the previous levels. At the end of his career I believe Bloom said he wished he had been able to develop a taxonomy for emotional outcomes. So why not one for intuitive outcomes?

    1. Thanks, TO.
      And interesting. We have capabilities for emotions but emotions themselves don’t have capabilities. (Fine feelings like love and compassion do, however.)
      Emotional outcomes don’t align with our actions as there are so many dynamics in play. Like we finish a test. We may feel relief and elation that it’s over. Or we may feel panic as we’re dubious we did well. Or bored. Or checked out emotionally. Etc. Wonder what he was thinking.

      Intuitive is more aligned as it’s the same level as the intellect but from a different perspective.

  3. Fascinating breakdown, and it’s helping me understand things about myself. I read the pingback to cognition and am seeing re-cognition more and more in the people around me. So amazing. I’m wondering – last year on my mat I sat cross legged with my left leg intuitively in front, and the sentence ‘lead with the feminine support with the masculine’ came to mind, and I *knew* it to be true. Is this mind working with Self? I’m now wondering if my orientation with mind/intellect/Self has been slightly skewed all along… thanks David 🙂

    1. Hi Jenifer
      I’d say it’s more Self moving through intuition, which the mind then gives language to. If ego is not so invested in managing the narrative, then those signals can get through, and mind just names, it doesn’t distort.

      It’s not so much that your orientation was skewed but that it’s evolving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest