Comparison of Learning Taxonomies

This post is purely a result of my own curiosity. I was reading a book and it mentioned the SOLO Taxonomy, which got me to wondering exactly how many taxonomies were out there! I found a total of… 5? So, I just wanted to get to know  a bit about each of them. Feel free to read on or wait until next week for a new post!

SOLO Taxonomy (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome)


What is it?

The SOLO Taxonomy is a learning taxonomy that classifies learner outcomes in terms of complexity.

The four levels of complexity are:

unistructural – the learner has acquired one or a few aspects of the task

multistructural – the learner has required several unrelated aspects of the task

relational – the learner is able to generalize the whole task to untaught applications

extended abstract – untaught application of the task



SOLO Taxonomy is intended to work with constructive alignment, the instructional process of starting with intended learning outcomes and aligns teaching and assessment to those outcomes. This taxonomy is often used to set high expectations and increase student motivation when they realize that there is a real point  to what is being taught and assessed.


  • complements Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • offers guidance on how to move from stage to stage


  • may seem too complex and unwieldy for most teachers to attempt
  • “The Sinister 16”: verbs that are passive, internal and otherwise unobservable

Implementation Tips

  1. To move from “prestructural” to “unistructural” – address misconceptions.
  2. To move from “unistructural” to “multistructural” – over-learn facts to automaticity.
  3. To move from “multistructural” to “relational” – practice investigating connections.
  4. To move from “relational” to “extended abstract” – practice with synthesis and evaluation.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

What is it?

Bloom’s Taxonomy was developed in 1956 to promote higher forms of thinking in education. It lists three domains (or taxonomies) of learning: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. It classifies six major categories of cognitive processes:

  1. knowledge
  2. comprehension
  3. application
  4. analysis
  5. synthesis
  6. evaluation



to promote higher forms of thinking in education


  • has been more thoroughly developed and revised over time
  • Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy reflects a more active form of thinking by replacing the names of the six categories (nouns to verbs)
  • Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy incorporates a cognitive and knowledge matrix
  • targets learning objectives by seeking to increase knowledge, develop skills, or develop emotional aptitude and/or balance
  • provides a basis for developing sub-goals and assessment methodology to meet these goals



  • simplistic at first draft
  • becoming increasingly complex and unwieldy

Implementation Tips

(see charts below)


Webb’s Depth of Knowledge

What is it?

a learning taxonomy that reflects the complexity of the cognitive processes demanded by a task


Level One: Recall and Reproduction

Level Two: Skills and Concepts

Level Three: Strategic Thinking

Level Four: Extended Thinking


to analyze the cognitive expectation demanded by standards, curricular activities, and assessment tasks


  • complements Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom’s determines the cognition or thinking and Webb’s designates the context – the scenario, setting and situation)


  • that darn DOK wheel simplifies this taxonomy too much
  • alignment between Bloom’s and Webb’s might be better described by the Cognitive Rigor Matrix/Hess Matrix

Implementation Tips

(see chart below)

Webbs DOK

Cognitive Rigor Matrix/Hess Matrix

(best explained in chart – see below)

Cognitive Rigor Matrix

Marzano’s New Taxonomy

What is it?

a new taxonomy of educational objectives

made up of three systems and the Knowledge Domain

  • Self-System: decides whether to continue current behavior or engage in new activity
  • Metacognitive System: sets goals and keeps track of progress
  • Cognitive System: processes all necessary information
  • Knowledge Domain provides content


developed in response to shortcomings of Bloom’s Taxonomy


not enough known


not enough known

Implementation Tips

see learning goals and scales

Marzanos New Taxonomy

A Visual Comparison

See you next week!Taxonomy Comparison


Second Place

The first place that anyone typically sees of a school is its office. Most schools take really good care to ensure that their front offices exude a warm and welcoming atmosphere. (Those that don’t are probably not the best-attended schools enrollment-wise).

However, we rarely stop to think about the second place people tend to see as they enter our schools. Before I launch into this fairly esoteric topic, allow me to digress to my initial visit to my current church.

I have only been a member of two churches in all of my thirty-some-odd years on this planet and one of them is where I’ve spent 99% of my “church time” since childhood.

So, I’ve been a member at my new church for a little over a year now. This church is huge (physical size and membership) – just the type of church I shy away from! But as soon as I entered (almost), I knew I wanted this place to be my church home. It was made for me. I won’t go into all the details here as this is an educational blog and not a spiritual one. (But if you have questions, send them this way!)

I keep my nieces and nephew fairly often because I am just a kid person – don’t think I could live without them. My oldest niece, a pre-teen who is in her experimentation and rebellion stages, attended church with me (hesitantly)a couple of Sundays in a row. On the first visit, she asked if she could step out of the service to use the restroom. (Again, this is a huge church and I really wanted to say no, but…) I gave her permission.

The service lasted about an hour and a half and during that time, my niece never returned to the inner sanctuary. I was really worried about her and asked my oldest daughter, a teenager, to go check on her toward the end of the service. My daughter came back and reported that my niece was sitting in the restroom.

“In the restroom?!?!?!?!” I inquired in disbelief. “Is she sick? Vomiting?”

“No, she’s just in there on her phone,” was my daughter’s response.

On the ride home, I asked my niece why she spent the entire service in the restroom. She replied that she was still deciding on whether or not there was a god and did not really feel comfortable being in church. I asked whether she had felt comfortable in the restroom, of all places.

She replied, “It’s like a palace – it smells good, it has couches, and it was quiet!”

And so when I signed up for a ministry in my church, I joined the Refresh Team. We clean the restrooms after each of our three services and re-stock supplies, ensuring that the restroom is a warm and welcome place for all visitors to our church.

Our restrooms are typically the second place visitors see when they visit our schools. For many students, restrooms offer more sanctuary than our classrooms and offices. They are places where students can scream and cry in frustration, grief and excitement and even contemplate the larger questions in life.

Keep your restrooms clean! You never know who may need that space. You never know – YOU may need that space!

office restroom

Who Are You?

RafikiWhoAreYouOK. Obviously, I could not resist. Disney films have a way of being so profound and yet so simple. Primple? Or simfound? I guess I won’t try to coin any new terms today. But have you ever really, thoroughly considered this question: Who are you?

Reflection is a tool that allows you to continually mold and shape your response to this question. Although not always done formally or in writing, reflection has played a large part in many aspects of my life: academic, personal/familial, and professionally. That is precisely why I feel that there is SO MUCH to learn and SO LITTLE time!

If you have not yet begun to engage in self-reflection or do not do so on a regular basis, I hope this post provides you with the impetus for doing so immediately!

As you continue your professional path, begin a new school year, or seek to implement a new idea, consider these questions (Collaborative Leadership: Six influences that matter most):

  • Who are you?
  • What are your aspirations and values?
  • Who do you want to be to the educational field?
  • What do you know and what can you teach that is different from the masses?
  • How will your voice speak to a need in the field?
  • What will you do if you have hesitations about standing out and being yourself?
  • How will you know you are ready?

We cannot teach or lead others until we fully understand ourselves and our purpose. Reflect on these questions. It is okay (even preferable) if your responses change over time. This change is what will help you to lead effectively and positively impact your school community. Find your voice. And then… ROAR!!!

“Happy Teachers = Happy Students”

two algae covered turtles

While reading through a text for my own personal development, I paused on the quote “happy employees have happy customers” (Herb Kelleher, former CEO Southwest Airlines). It immediately called to mind a meme I see often on Facebook, Instagram, and all the other social media sites: Happy wife, happy life. (I’m not sure who to credit with that particular statement, but I can assure you that wives all over the world ensure that it is, in fact, a true statement 100% of the time!)

While it is easy to view this maxim as true through the lenses of business and home life, is this necessarily true for education? Can schools be seen and function as places of business, teachers as employees of these public “Fortune 500 companies,” and students, parents, and the community as our customers? Is it a foregone conclusion that if we make our teachers happy, our students are guaranteed to learn and to be excited about doing so?

Let’s examine some of the research.

Peter DeWitt, author of Collaborative Leadership: Six Influences that Matter, links teacher “happiness” to teachers’ feelings of self-efficacy (DeWitt, 2017). According to Tschannen-Moran and Hoy (2000), teacher efficacy is powerfully related to student motivation (happiness) and achievement.

Theodore Coladarci (1992; 2010) found that many school-level variables (i.e., small class sizes, principal’s conduct, and relationships with students and other staff members) affected teacher’s feelings of happiness and thus, their commitment to teaching.

Do you mean to tell me that after more than 30 years of research on school improvement, all we have to do to improve our schools is make teachers happy????

In short, no. Making teachers happy is not ALL, we have to do, but teachers’ happiness and sense of self-efficacy play a large role in successful schools. John Hattie (2014) identified the effect size of collective teacher efficacy at 1.57, meaning we can get almost FOUR YEARS of improvement in one single school year if teachers, as a collective unit, that they can effect change in student achievement! If THAT is not mind-blowing in itself, read on.

How can we make teachers happy?

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to helping to improve teachers’ commitment to teaching, there are approaches any leader can take so that they can find their own answers to this question.

  1. Build a motivational and open school climate. Be approachable and flexible.
  2. Be likeable! Seek thoughts and opinions without being judgmental.
  3. Provide opportunities for teachers to feel and BE more effective!
  4. Be a partner, not a boss.

In a recent (non-scientific and VERY informal) survey, I asked educators that I know personally: What makes you happy? Overwhelmingly, the response was knowing that they had had some impact on students’ lives – whether it be through direct contact years after the student graduated or the immediate feedback of seeing a student “turn on” in class.

Teachers need to know that they are (if they are not yet, then that they can be) the most important factor of a student’s success. Because, after all, happy teachers = happy students = successful schools!

(For more details on teacher efficacy and making teachers happy, keep reading my blog!)