Thinking skills can be ranked according to the Bloom's taxonomy into 6 categories of increasing complexity.

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluate

The IB document favours a variation of this (Anderson, Krathwohl 2001).

  1. Remember
  2. Understand
  3. Apply
  4. Analyse
  5. Evaluate
  6. Create

IB diploma courses should develop the higher level skills of analysis and evaluation but to do this students need to have knowledge and understanding of the subject.

It is quite easy to see how any topic in the physics syllabus can be aligned with this framework, it's the way I was taught physics and its the way I have been teaching physics for over 30 years even though for most of that time I had never heard of Bloom and his taxonomy (by the way taxonomy means classification). Let's take an example:

Simple Harmonic motion
Introduce oscillations by showing a pendulum Remember the motion of a pendulum
Define quantities, f, T, A Remember them
Define SHM Remember definition
Show how the forces acting on a pendulum leads to SHM Understand the derivation
Solve problems related to SHM Apply knowledge
By considering forces involved deduce whether oscillating systems are SHM or not. Analyse a novel situations
Perform an experiment with a slinky spring and find out that it's doesn't quite fit the theoretical model Reconsider the assumptions made and evaluate the theoretical model and practical method.
Decide to do an investigation on the vibration of a cantilever. Create a mathematical model and experimental set up

I think it is safe to say that in any unit we would be covering all of these areas, except maybe create which is only applicable to design type labs, investigations and difficult problems.


Reflection is also mentioned in the IB document as a "thinking skill that plays a particularly essential role in learning". There is a lot of reflection in physics teaching (apart from the topic in optics), when solving a problem a students must think back to what they learnt in class so as to apply the knowledge to the problem. When deciding if an oscillating boat is executing SHM they must think back to other examples of SHM. We expect students to think about what they have learnt after class. Giving students access to the main aims of the lesson helps them to reflect over the key points. Giving short tests at the beginning of every class encourages reflection. These are all examples of a very specific, mechanistic sort of reflection but there is another type of refection that is more complex. Let's say a student scored badly on a test. They can either ignore the result or reflect upon it. Why did I do so badly? By reflecting on the learning process they can learn from their mistakes and build on their successes. This is of course far from easy.

I revised for 2 hours
I did all my homework
I attended class
I practiced the quiz questions
I still failed the test

As teachers we are often placed in a position where we have to attempt to advise students on how to improve their performance. The first stage is for the student to honestly reflect and sometimes they need a bit of help.

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