A Tale Of Two Triangles

James Proclaims (4)

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…

  10 comments for “A Tale Of Two Triangles

  1. Shirley
    June 13, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Made me smile…not sure it should!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • June 13, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      It’s ok – you’re one of the good ones…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. June 14, 2015 at 3:19 am

    Ok Dickens, you are taking me back with all this triangle talk. I was introduced to Maslow’s at a young age and Bloom’s in grad school. What grade (or whatever term you use) do you teach?

    Liked by 2 people

    • June 14, 2015 at 8:31 am

      I’m trained to teach secondary kids, which is I think equivalent to from 6th-12th grades. But now I teach special needs – same ages (mostly 14-16), smaller groups and Maslow is now much more relevant than Bloom to what I do…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. June 15, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    I read of Maslow as a post graduate student in public health and of Bloom while teaching medicine. So I learnt of them pretty late in life and not through classical learning but of my own extra reading.
    My husband and I are in our middle ages now. It becomes apparent to me that this Maslow thing is really true. About 10 years back, my husband, who is a physician himself, wanted to make money and nothing but. So he gave up his academic career for a lucrative job in private practice. Now that his levels 1-3 needs are amply satisfied, he wants to become ” famous”, perhaps. His daily grind makes him dissatisfied and he constantly regrets the academia he left behind. Now I diagnose this is as his need to become socially relevant and leave a mark. Thank you for sharing and enjoyed your post with the funny ending.

    Liked by 2 people

    • June 15, 2015 at 10:39 pm

      Thanks for enjoying! I actually agree – Maslow is pretty relevant and it applies to quite a lot of stuff I’m studying now, but when it was first taught to me it was vague and seemed to have no direct bearing the other points being made so I forgot it…I hope your husband find his way to the next level…

      Liked by 2 people

    • April 10, 2018 at 8:39 am

      Hello Susie and James,

      I concur with both of your “reading” of ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’.

      If you care about diet then another triangle that you may have come across is the Food Triangle.

      If you were a biologist or ecologist then the Trophic Triangle is going to stand you in good stead.

      If you were still curious at this point, I love to introduce “Triangulation” to you in my special post at soundeagle.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/the-quotation-fallacy/

      Please enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. March 12, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    Lovely post! I so enjoy your sense of humor. It’s more than a little admirable.

    I came across Maslow’s Hierarchy as an undergraduate. It seemed to make sense of a lot of things so I bought the book in which he introduces it, and that book became a favorite of mine for some years. Yet, nowadays, I can’t recall the title! I can still recall some of the contents, but not the title. That annoys me! Annoys me so much that I’ve become reasonably convinced Maslow should have created a sixth level for the felt need to recall titles. Wouldn’t you agree? I suppose I could go look it up on the net, but that would seem to me like cheating, and like any sensible person, I only condone cheating on taxes, car purchases, and when playing cards with ones siblings.

    Liked by 2 people

    • March 12, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      Wow, I’d forgotten about this post – but thanks. Yes still a big fan of Maslow, though never done anything as sensible as reading a book on the subject so can’t help with the elusive title I’m afraid. And I’m not sure how I feel about cheating in general but happy to turn a blind eye on this occasion…

      Liked by 1 person

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