Integrating Bloom’s Taxonomy to Elevate Discussion Forums | Teachers College Press

By: Linda Dale Bloomberg

Linda Dale Bloomberg serves as Associate Director of Faculty Support and Development and Full Professor of Education at the School of Education, Northcentral University, San Diego. Dr Bloomberg received her PhD in 2006 from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she completed the AEGIS Program in Adult and Organizational Learning. His new book is called Designing and Delivering Effective Online Instruction: How to Engage Adult Learners.

Discussion forums are an important part of online courses, an experience that inspires engagement by allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge of the week’s learning activities, and also creating a sense of community. However, as I pointed out in my previous blog post, Learninghouse (2019) reports that only 66% of respondents said these forums are engaging; highlighting an opportunity for improvement.

Keep this in mind: there are many ways to think about reimagining and redesigning discussion forums, and ensuring that these serve to encourage dialogue and critical thinking.

A successful discussion is not measured by the quantity of responses from learners. Rather, it is measured by the quality of these responses. In addition, quality requires the commitment of the instructor and the thoughtful construction of discussion work that will generate dynamic interaction. However, even if you engage students early on, you cannot maintain ongoing engagement if they don’t see the relevance and value of the course material. As I write in my book, Designing and Delivering Effective Online Education: How to Engage Adult Learners, adults need to know why they should learn and are motivated to devote time and energy to learning if they know its benefits and applicability.

The way you organize and present your material provides an important opportunity for you to connect with your students and keep them engaged. The thoughtful and intentional use of discussion tools to facilitate meaningful speech can be enhanced by aligning Bloom’s taxonomy of educational goals (Krathwohl, 2002; Bloom, 1956; Bloom et al., 1956) with discussion prompts. This taxonomy comprises a series of levels of cognitive effort, each level representing a “stage” in comprehension, from simple memorization to creation. Following Bloom’s taxonomy means educators will strive to cover all levels of the pyramid, creating a more interactive and impactful educational experience for a diverse student body.


While this represents the lowest level of cognitive effort in the Blooms Taxonomy, it is still important for students to be able to define and remember aspects of the course content. Verbal prompts associated with this level include choose, set, identify, label, list, name, match, recall, select, and tab. Instead of having students answer discussion board questions which are usually based on naming items that affected them after completing the readings, students could be asked to create an infographic using Canva or other free tools. By sharing their learning in this way, students can demonstrate their ability to recall facts from text, but in enhanced and creative ways. In addition, students have the opportunity to use technological tools that may be useful to them in other assignments and courses.

To understand:

At this level, you’ll want students to not only be able to remember and recognize content, but you also want them to demonstrate that they can translate and describe that content in a specified context. Verbal prompts associated with this level include articulate, associate, compare, contrast, discuss, elaborate, explain, extrapolate, describe, show, summarize, and translate. Here you could ask students to create a mind map using a free tool such as Master of the mind to show how they give meaning to the interconnection between the concepts and constructions of the course. Sharing their mind maps allows students to see how their peers think about the same lesson concepts, reflect on them, and develop a deeper understanding of how certain concepts relate to each other.


At the application level, students must demonstrate and interpret. It goes beyond the comprehension stage where students simply had to report what they know. Additional verbal prompts associated with this level include adapt, construct, classify, construct, demonstrate, plan, organize, and use. Students could be asked to draw a virtual Venn diagram using a free tool such as Lucidchart. Students could be asked to share their diagrams and then engage in a discourse surrounding their individual application of learning. This activity would compare and contrast the learned concept with other concepts and constructs, demonstrating how students are actually able to use the information learned in new ways.


Asking students to analyze content forces them to organize, compare, and make connections between course content. Additional verbal prompts associated with this level include correlate, dissect, distinguish, examine, explore, infer, and describe. For example, using a case study approach is an activity where students would be required to review key elements of the case and categorize the content, going back into the text and relying on information. to support their positions.


This level asks students to prioritize, justify and decide. Additional verbal prompts associated with this level include assess, assess, critique, critique, estimate, judge, interpret, recommend, validate, and verify. Participation in team projects, such as debates, provides students with the opportunity to develop interpersonal communication skills, build relationships with classmates, and increase the level of collective skills. You can do this by posting the composition of the debate teams, the topic to be discussed, and a link to a shared collaborative space within the LMS for the debate teams to prepare and meet virtually. The questions for discussion would be developed from the topic of the weekly module or the course module. As an instructor, you could serve as a judge. Alternatively, you can have individual student judges or a panel of student judges, with rotating roles in different weeks or modules throughout the course so that everyone has a chance to serve in both the debater role and judge.

To create:

This is considered the highest level of cognitive effort in Bloom’s taxonomy and involves design, planning, and invention. Additional verbal prompts associated with this level include: adapt, organize, assemble, categorize, compile, compose, construct, describe, design, develop, design, formulate, innovate, integrate, organize, produce, review, and synthesize. Here you can ask the students to create or innovate a new product or concept related to the topic of the week. The discussion board would be used for students to share the process and invention with live or pre-recorded video responses. Instead of peers simply responding with “I agree” or “That’s a good point,” they can come up with alternatives to what their peers have created and back up their responses with newly formulated ideas and creations.

Discussion forums can and should indeed be more than the monotonous answer to questions about the course’s weekly readings. Keep the online learning experience dynamic by using different prompts to connect your students to course content, with their peers and with you. Providing creative discussion opportunities will definitely improve the overall online learning experience for everyone!

Reflection questions

  1. What other ideas might you have about applying Bloom’s taxonomy to your student discussion forums?
  2. What other ways have you tried to keep your discussion forums relevant and vibrant?
  3. What new strategies are you prepared to try to engage your students in discussion forums?

The references

Bloom, BS (1956). Educational Objectives Taxonomy Manual: Cognitive Domains. David McKay.

Bloom, BS, Englehart, MD, Furst, EJ, Hill, WH and Krathwohl, DR (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational objectives, by a committee of college and university examiners. Manual 1: Cognitive domain. Longman.

Bloomberg, LD (2021). Designing and Delivering Effective Online Education: How to Engage Adult Learners. Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

Krathwohl, D. (2002). A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview. EBSCO.

Learning house (June 2019). Students Online 2019: Complete Application and Preference Data. Recovered from

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Harry L. Blanchard