Applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to Online Assessment

3 students sitting at laptops at a desk

Developing high-quality online assessments that both challenge students appropriately and are aligned with standards is top of mind for educators. By using traditional thinking and questioning techniques, such as those in the framework of Bloom’s Taxonomy, educators can build assessments that meet students at their level and provide large sets of valuable data for teachers to act on. 

Although the framework is traditional and has withstood the test of time, implementing it into online assessment tests is a relatively new approach. With the advancements in online testing software and technology, teachers and test developers can do more than just ask multiple-choice questions, they can assess students and see how they are able to implement their learning in novel situations. For example, Portable Custom Interactions, or PCIs, enable game-like interactions where students show mastery of standards in context. This learning and assessment in context give educators a more complete picture of what their students know and are able to do.  

While the medium of technology and online assessment tests may be new, the concepts and questions that Bloom’s Taxonomy poses are not. Learn more about Bloom’s Taxonomy and how it can be used in online assessment, below. 

Understanding The Basics of Bloom’s Taxonomy 

Bloom’s Taxonomy is named after educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom and it is a hierarchy that explains 6 cognitive levels that show a student’s relationship to the material that they are learning. The levels are as follows (starting with the simple and moving to the complex): 

  • Remember – students are able to recall or recite the content. 
  • Understand – students can explain concepts and how they work. 
  • Apply – students can take what they have learned and use it in a new scenario. 
  • Analyze – students can consider similarities and differences and connections to previous learning. 
  • Evaluate – students can justify, argue, and assess the value of ideas using their learning. 
  • Create – students can produce original pieces of work or creation of new solutions to problems using learning from a lesson or unit. 

In practice, Bloom’s Taxonomy is applied in order from remembering to creating as students need substantially more information, knowledge, and understanding to create a complex, original piece of work. For teachers, it means that assessments, in the beginning, should be more based on checking in on knowledge to determine if students are ready to move forward, as with formative assessment. Assessments given later in a unit should typically involve creating or evaluating as students begin to use their knowledge in real-world scenarios.  

How Can Bloom’s Taxonomy be Applied to Assessment?

Applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to online assessment tests all starts with aligning test questions or lesson objectives with Bloom’s Taxonomy. By going through and determining where each test question or assessment item falls on the hierarchy, teachers can get a better view of how accurately their assessment is measuring student learning. 

For teachers, it is important to keep the hierarchy in mind when developing an assessment or unit plan. This means that lower-level cognitive skills should be taught early on and slowly progress to higher-level skills. A common misconception for teachers is that they should simply skip the lower-level skill and have students begin higher on the hierarchy. This is a mistake because students need lower-level information to successfully perform higher-level tasks. Introducing higher-level skills slowly is the key. 

After completing an exam or assessment it is important for teachers to re-adjust their teaching and even assessment items based on what the assessment data is showing. With online testing platforms, like those offered through Tao Testing, educators can tag assessment items for easy analysis of large data sets. This enables them to see just where in the hierarchy students are succeeding or struggling. 

To get a complete view of student progress it is important to include different question types throughout the assessment and unit. Here are some examples of different question types based on a biology lesson on cells. 

Examples of assessment item types

  • Name 5 parts of the cell
  • Explain how the cell parts work together to keep a cell alive
  • If the mitochondria were missing what would happen to the cell and why? 
  • Compare a cell with a city, how are they similar and different?  
  • Should stem cell research be allowed to continue? 
  • Create your own metaphor for the parts of a cell. 

What are the benefits of applying this framework?

There are many benefits to implementing Bloom’s Taxonomy in assessment design. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that it ensures that students are cognitively ready to move on to a new level of understanding before doing so by creating a hierarchy of learning. 

Bloom’s Taxonomy is also extremely helpful for teachers when thinking about what to assess when and what learning objectives or intentions they need to develop for a particular lesson. It can serve as a guide for developing new units or curricula as well by showing teachers where they need to move towards by the end. 


Although creating engaging and high-quality assessment items can be a challenge, there are online learning and testing platforms designed to make the process easy for teachers and school districts while enabling these stakeholders to leverage large amounts of student test data to improve learning outcomes.

Through Open Assessment Technologies teachers, school principals, and district administrators can improve student learning and test scores while reducing the overall workload on teachers. To learn more about how OAT can do this for you, click here