Revisiting Bloom

Like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Bloom's Taxonomy is one of those tools that we learn about fairly early in teacher training, but tend to forget about later on. 

Like 'the hierarchy' though, 'the taxonomy' can be a useful way of understanding school- and staff-development. By turning these tools which we so often use to understand children back on the staff, we can gain an insight into staff-members' problems and needs. Indeed, as Rachel and I looked at Teaching with Heart through the lens of Bloom's Taxonomy, we were struck by how neatly the progression we support teachers to make mirrors the journey from lower-order to higher-order thinking. Indeed, Teaching with Heart could be considered as a tool for developing higher-order thinking amongst teaching staff.

This is not to say that higher-order thinking does not already happen in schools, or that many teachers are not already operating regularly at the higher levels. But ask yourself this: how much time ins staff meetings is focused on the lower-order skills of remembering, understanding and applying? So much of what we have to do in education, owing to the constant stream of initiatives and guidelines, tends towards these lower-level skills. Further, it is to these levels that we often withdraw when things get stressful or difficult, seeking safety in remembered instructions applied to the letter, rather than principles applied creatively and flexibly.

The space to reflect which is provided by Teaching with Heart can be a great resource for teachers to stretch their thinking as well as their feeling, allowing them to become more creative, flexible and nuanced in their work. This is especially true of the kind of challenging support offered in Bring a Child to Therapy and Group Reflective Practice

But what might this look like? Below is a table which describes the levels of thinking and matches these to examples of typical prompts or questions a therapist might use when working with a teacher:

As the relationship between teacher and therapist develops, the work they do will increasingly tend towards higher-order thinking. Indeed, although the primary focus of Teaching with Heart is on the emotional work of teaching, this kind of work is not easy or 'fluffy', and the fact that it's emotional doesn't mean that it's not intellectual too. Rather, the work done will attend to both emotional and intellectual processes, depending on which is more present at any particular moment.

By remaining open both to the emotional needs of the teacher (as captured by Maslow) and to their need to understand in deeper, more creative ways (as described by Bloom) we can help the teacher to speak from both the heart and the head, and to integrate these in who they are in the classroom.