Until today I didn’t know what the word ‘taxonomy’ meant. Actually that probably isn’t especially surprising. It’s not a word in common usage. If you’re interested (and I’m less than certain that I am) the relevant dictionary definition is “a scheme of classification”.
I looked it up because I was thinking about ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’, which I do know about a bit through being a teacher. ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ is all to do with classifying different types of learning. Bloom was the bloke who came up with it, so on reflection, I should have been able to deduce what taxonomy meant, but until today I hadn’t really given it much thought.
It was one of the things that were covered by quite a boring person during my initial teacher training. I drifted off into my own little reveries during quite a lot of those lectures. It’s ironic that sessions, supposedly designed to teach me and my fellow trainees how to become effective teachers, were led by people who were, in essence, ineffective teachers themselves.
I got the chance to revisit Bloom’s taxonomy a year or so later when I was a proper certified teacher working in an actual school. It was during a ‘twilight’ session. I looked forward to my first ‘twilight’ session. It sounded all magical and mysterious. Disappointingly it turned out just to mean an evening of me having to work late for no extra money.
Anyway ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ was covered but again left very little impression other than the fact that it is often presented visually in a triangle as below:
This is important because another thing that got mentioned a lot in my early teacher training was ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’, which is all about the different levels of human need. It extends beyond the field of education and I’m not entirely certain that the majority of teachers ever really understand it fully.
It’s grossly oversimplified in teacher training. In education terms it ‘explains’ why a kid who hasn’t had their breakfast, for example, might not be all that interested in quadratic equations. Then nothing is done with that ‘information’ to benefit the hungry, bored child so it doesn’t really matter.
The problem, for me at least, is that ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ is also represented by a coloured triangle:
Effectively, during the early part of my teaching career, the only thing I really was able to recall from all of the tedious training sessions that I attended was the fact that a coloured triangle seemed to come up a lot. I failed to recognise the fact that there were two different triangles at play.
This was fine, because in my everyday teaching career, neither came up at all. People referenced them from time to time, in further ‘twilight’ sessions and the like, but I never had to exhibit any understanding of them.
Some years later I was in a meeting along with some of my colleagues. We were convening with a woman who was, to put it mildly, making some fairly key judgements about the educational provision we were working in. It was a relatively ‘make or break’ kind of meeting and I was trying to justify the reasons we adopted quite a nurturing approach to educating some of our students. The meeting was going well, the person who needed to be impressed was seemingly impressed, but at the back of my mind was this coloured triangle about human needs which would illustrate the point I was trying to make brilliantly. I just couldn’t remember the name of it…
The meeting concluded and I showed our guest out. As she departed she intimated that she had been quite impressed with my arguments. All I had to do was smile and say goodbye. Nothing else was required of me…
…and then I had my Eureka moment…
“This thing is, it’s all just basically Bloom’s Taxonomy…” I announced.
She shot me a confused look but said nothing and departed.
Puzzled by her lack of response I panicked.
I looked up Bloom’s Taxonomy.
I realised my mistake.
I’d referenced the wrong triangle. I only had two to choose from…
Still nothing ever came of it. Indeed my line manager shortly afterwards received an email. from the same lady, stating just what a pleasure I was to work with.
I can only assume that, like me, she also daydreamed her way through her initial teacher training…