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Using Bloom’s Taxonomy

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This set of OWL resources aims to help engineering instructors and TAs create and assess a variety of short, low-overhead writing exercises for use in engineering courses. The primary focus here is on “writing to learn” assignments, which leverage writing to improve students’ conceptual understanding of technical concepts.

Writing exercises can be used in engineering courses to promote the deeper learning of technical material and build students’ writing skills. Writing in engineering courses gives students practice in articulating engineering concepts to different audiences and in engaging with technical communication genres. However, engineering instructors and TAs often struggle to incorporate writing into engineering classes due to a variety of challenges, including class size and the amount of time it takes to grade writing assignments. Additionally, the teaching of writing is an entire discipline of study with its own theories and practices that may not be accessible to engineering educators.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a framework for identifying and organizing what educators want students to learn from a given instructional activity. It was originally conceived to create common learning objectives across courses and departments and to provide educators with standardized language to use when framing learning goals for curricula and comprehensive examinations. Now, Bloom’s taxonomy can be used as a potential model for framing educational objectives within a course and as a guide to structure activities and assessment based on learning goals.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is useful for framing writing instruction in engineering courses as it helps instructors and TAs create assignments that will enhance students’ understanding of important concepts and ideas and enable them to meet the key course objectives.

Objectives created using Bloom’s Taxonomy are based on two dimensions: 1) knowledge and 2) cognitive processes. The knowledge dimension indicates the type of content or subject matter that students will work with, while the cognitive processes dimension dictates what students will have to do with that content (the tasks they will have to perform as they think and write). Below we provide two lists that break down the knowledge and cognitive process dimensions and then a table that shows how the two dimensions work together:

Knowledge CP Dimensions Table

Instructors and TAs can use the table shown above to create prompts that ask students to perform specific writing tasks that address different types of content or knowledge taught within the course.

When writing exercises are used in an engineering course, any standard calculation-based homework problem can be leveraged to target different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Below we provide one example, taken from a Purdue fluid mechanics course, which illustrates this expansion with the use of writing prompts:

Bloom Taxonomy Prompts

You’ll notice that all the prompts that follow use one of the tasks from the cognitive processes dimension list, and then identify specific content (knowledge) that students should engage with.