Education Corner 20 - More on the Cognitive Domain

Last EC was a little bit academic in that it was about psychologists like Benjamin Bloom
from the 1950’s and kinds of learning, types of learning or areas of learning. We used the
phrase domain. We said there were the Cognitive Domain, the Affective Domain and the
Psycho-Motor Domains. We might call these simply the Thinking Domain; the Feeling
Domain and the Coordination Domains. All of that was really more to show readers what
teachers must do to answer the important teaching question: How do I know my students
have learned what was taught? It was about measuring evidence of learning that teachers
must gather to see students are learning the standards and benchmarks required by NDOE
or State DOE’s. Think in terms of students demonstrating verbs as defining, naming,
recalling and such verbs where students study and more memorize facts in isolation more
for test taking than anything else. One more thing however—teachers must measure depth
of learning and measuring depth of learning is a little complicated but not too complex
that parents and the community cannot understand the idea. Here is an example of learning
depth.


Last week we noted a fact that all students usually should learn-Magellan landed in Guam
in 1521. O.K., history is about dates and we all recognize certain important dates. Dates
can be very important historical/cultural markers. 1521 is important to Micronesians
because it was the first landing by Europeans in Micronesia. Much has changed beginning
in 1521 for Micronesians. The rest of the world usually learns 1519-1522 the first
circumnavigation of the Earth. That is the first time someone actually sailed around our
planet, Earth. It settled the question that the Earth was round by demonstration. We learn
too that Magellan later was killed in the Philippines and that only one of his five (5) ships
actually made it all the way around the world. We are always taught about the hardships the
sailors endured. These are a few things students learn besides just the date-1521 Magellan
lands in Micronesia. To get some evidence on a Magellan lesson the teacher might ask
simple questions as-When did Magellan land in Guam? What happened to Magellan in the
Philippines? How many ships began the voyage and how many finished the voyage? What
are two hardships Magellan’s sailors endured? What is the word that means to “go around”
(circumnavigate). We would call this evidence rather “low level” learning. It would be a
little higher if the teacher asked “Please write down three reasons why Magellan’s voyage
was important.” These are more facts and can be memorized. They do this for the quiz or
test they will have. And not too much actual deeper thinking is required. But we all know
that 1521 marked forever how Micronesia was to change. It is a critical date and important
enough to require critical thinking. Critical thinking is higher level thinking. This involves
the how’s and why’s not just the who’s, what’s and where’s. If we are to be more specific
we remember February of 1669, the Colegio de San Juan de Letran was opened for a
few Chamorro children. Certainly the introduction of Christianity to Micronesia is an
important historical/cultural marker for all Micronesians. But Christianity is not a matter
of dates, or persons it is a matter for deeper thinking. A student must think critically when
asked about the impact Christianity has had in all islands.
Continuing in this Cognitive Domain the students learn about various explorers. For sure
Captain Cook and his three (3) voyages to the Pacific are always studied. For reference
Cook comes along 250 years after Magellan. Cook’s first voyage took place during 1768-
1771. While Cook is associated with Polynesia sailing and discovering and mapping the
Pacific Ocean is always studied in the islands of Micronesian, Polynesian and Melanesia.
We learn about the hardships, the encounters with the native peoples found, the goods
and trade items found. We learn slowly about reasons for European Colonialization. This
concept of Colonialization is very complex and requires deeper thinking and learning. But
first we learn quite a few bits of lower level facts and information. Giving evidence that
one understands this far reaching subject requires higher level critical thinking. So once
students can recall, name, and define things about voyages the teacher must ask more of
them. The teacher can now ask students to demonstrate learning by citing similarities
and differences between Magellan’s and Cook’s voyages. Comparing and contrasting
shows a higher level thinking and learning than just defining or recalling some facts. Still
higher would be answering why each voyage was important and higher still would be a
question as “Choosing either Magellan or Cook, which of the two explorers left us the
most important contributions and why did you make this choice? This would be using
the idea of evaluating information, analyzing it and using critical thinking to evaluate and
make decisions.
Finally, this Bloom’s Cognitive Domain is the where the teachers and students spend most
of the teaching/learning day. Teachers are teaching and students are learning and giving
their evidence on quizzes, tests and major examinations. While much time is spent on
lower level learning these become the necessary building blocks for higher level thinking
and learning. Teachers measure low level learning as the students progress along in school
but this is so the students can use this to move on up and think critically. Critical thinking
is required to make good decisions and students who make good decisions develop one of
life’s most valuable skills.