An Evaluation of Thinking Skill Taxonomies for post-16 Learners

From April 2002 to January 2003
Project Leader(s): David Moseley
Staff: Viv Baumfield, Steve Higgins, Mei Lin, Jen Miller, Doug Newton, Sue Robson and Joe Elliot (Durham University) and Maggie Gregson (Sunderland University).
Contact: David Moseley:
Sponsors: LSDA

Research overview A review of systematic ways of classifying thinking skills for post-16 learners concentrating on taxonomies and theory-based frameworks funded by the Learning Skills Development Agency (LSDA). Key Objectives To identify, review and evaluate taxonomies and frameworks for describing thinking skills. Main tasks were to identify: • Key principles on which teaching approaches designed to develop thinking skills depend; • Helpful ways for teachers and learners to classify and talk about thinking skills. Empirical work on teaching and assessing thinking provides a sound evidence-base for theory-building and testing. There is evidence to support the following: • there are broad and narrow thinking skills, as well as general psychological factors which affect how people think and learn; • thinking skills can be developed by means of teaching practices; • learning progress can be encouraged by thinking skills approaches; The value of thinking skills approaches stems from attention to: • pedagogy emphasising learner engagement – in particular beliefs and feelings that help determine the motivation to learn; • metacognitive knowledge (knowledge of one’s cognitive functioning, including knowledge developed through reflection); • the strategic management of thinking and learning through self-regulation . Over 350 articles and books were identified as relevant as well as a large number of websites. 55 thinking skills frameworks were identified and summarised. Four main categories of models and theories emerged from this analysis: 1) of personality, thought and learning 2) of instructional design 3) of ‘critical’ or productive thinking 4) of cognitive structure and/or cognitive development. 35 of these were selected for further evaluation because of their applicability to the post-16 sector. Those rejected were excluded largely because they were similar to existing conceptualisations. Nine were identified to exemplify the main categories outlined above: 1.1 Jonassen and Tessmer’s taxonomy of learning outcomes 1.2 Marzano’s new taxonomy of educational objectives 2.1 Biggs and Collis’ SOLO taxonomy 2.2 Anderson and Krathwohl’s revision of Bloom’s taxonomy 3.1 Ennis’ taxonomy of critical thinking skills and dispositions 3.2 Halpern’s reviews of critical thinking skills and dispositions 3.3 Paul’s model of critical thinking 4.1 King and Kitchener’s reflective judgment model 4.2 Pintrich’s general framework for self-regulated learning. Contact: David Moseley:


Dr Mei Lin

Professor Sue Robson
Head of School