Two taxonomies are better than one: towards a method of analysing a variety of domains and types of thinking

Since the seminal work of Bloom, it has been an established practice to analyse the domains and types of thinking involved in undertaking educational activities. Generally such work includes experts using a taxonomy of domains and types of thinking. Many taxonomies focus on cognition and are therefore unsuitable for analysing noncognitive domains, which are often assessed by means other than traditional written examinations. Therefore, the aims of this research were:
• to find a taxonomy for analysing a variety of domains and types of thinking
• to ascertain whether the taxonomy is suitable for use with a variety of assessment tasks (not just traditional written examinations)
• to ascertain whether experts perceived it to be useable.
The context of the research is summative assessments including short and long written constructed responses, an assignment, an oral and multimedia presentation and a personal reflection on the group work undertaken to write the presentation.
To find a taxonomy, several were evaluated against suitability criteria. No individual taxonomy met the criteria, however, combining two taxonomies did. Six experts were briefed on the taxonomies, worked together to apply them to practice assessments and then individually applied them to the target assessments. Finally, the experts completed a questionnaire about their experience which required open and closed responses.
Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics and the qualitative data were summarised or quoted.
The assessments tested a variety of domains and types of thinking. The data allowed for comparisons between the different assessments. For instance, the interpersonal domain was only evident in the presentation and reflection assessments, and all of the assessments tested a high level of thinking. The experts’ experience was generally positive and they found the taxonomies accessible and suitable for analysing the domains and types of thinking.
Our research introduces a combined taxonomy for analysing domains and types of thinking, which is a combination of two established taxonomies. Other key findings were that the combined taxonomy:
• could be used to analyse domains and types of thinking tested by a variety of assessment types according to the participants
• was accessible and appropriate for a variety of examination questions and subjects.
The combined taxonomy has multiple potential applications including:
• checking that the domains and types of thinking used in classroom activities (and equivalents) align with those tested in summative assessments.
• checking whether the domains and types of thinking assessed in two different pre-university qualifications are comparable.