Driving learning via criterion-referenced assessment using Bloom’s Taxonomy

Raymond Lister


In this paper we describe our use of the criterion-referenced approach to assessment, where the criteria are based upon Bloom’s taxonomy. In our Bloom-based assessments scheme, all students in the class must satisfactorily complete a set of assessment tasks designed to demonstrate competence at the Knowledge and Comprehension levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Any student who is content with the minimal passing grade need not complete any more assessment items. Other students, who elect to seek a higher grade, must also complete assessment tasks at the Application and Analysis levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Student’s who satisfactorily complete these tasks, and stop at this point, attain one of the two middle passing grades. Finally, students who elect to seek the highest grade must go on to satisfactorily complete further assessment tasks, at the “Synthesis” and “Evaluation” levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Each student is free to decide for him/herself what grade they will try to achieve. They are also free to approach the lecturer for advice, but in practise few do so.

We have applied this assessment system in seven semesters of teaching, five semesters of teaching introductory programming, and two semesters of teaching introductory databases. After we had used this assessment system for a single semester, to teach introductory programming, we published descriptions of this assessment approach (Lister and Leaney 2003a, 2003b). This paper differs from those earlier papers in two ways. First, the earlier papers were aimed at members of the information technology community, and those teaching programming in particular, whereas this paper summarises the broad structure of the assessment scheme in way that is accessible to academics in non-computing disciplines. Second, this paper benefits from six more semesters of experience with this approach to assessment.

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