With all this in mind, Carole Frederick Steele (2009) would add that teachers need to be adept at improvising, interpreting events in progress, testing hypotheses, demonstrating respect, showing passion for teaching and learning, and helping students understand complexity. Fortunately, she reminded us that "No teacher is likely to excel at every aspect of teaching....What experts attend to and ignore is markedly different from what beginners notice. The growth continuum ranges from initial ignorance (unaware) to comprehension (aware) to competent application (capable) to great expertise (inspired)," paralleling Bloom's taxonomy. "Lack of awareness occurs before Bloom's categories. The awareness stage is a fair match for Bloom's stage of knowledge and understanding. Teachers at the capable stage use application and analysis well. Educators who reach the inspired stage have become skilled at synthesis and evaluation in regard to their thinking about teaching and learning" (Introduction section).
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Synthesis: In contrast to analysis (i.e., taking apart), at the synthesis level students put things back together. Given the pieces, there might be more than one way to do this. In terms of mathematics, students might take the pieces they’ve learned, and put them together to solve problems not yet encountered in the actual classroom setting. Synthesis is involved when creating something new. Advanced students might be asked to create a new theory. Synthesis is tested via major projects, for example, which might be long term involving creativity and application of all that students have learned on a topic.
Acquiring this expertise will require that educators play greater attention to differentiated instruction. "Differentiated instruction is a process to approach teaching and learning for students of differing abilities in the same class. The intent of differentiating instruction is to maximize each student’s growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is, and assisting in the learning process." Educators who differentiate instruction strive to "recognize students varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning, interests; and to react responsively" (Hall, Strangman, & Meyer, 2003, Definition section). As promoters of differentiated instruction, Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe (2006) indicated that it is primarily an instructional design model that focuses on "whom we teach, where we teach, and how we teach" (p. 3). Tomlinson's website, , will enhance your knowledge of differentiated instruction. She also clarifies myths and misconceptions about differentiation in an ASCD podcast,.
Evaluation: Teachers evaluate student work all the time, particularly exams and homework. The difficulty in evaluation arises when judging multiple perspectives and varied problem-solving approaches, as one must be thoroughly familiar with content. At this level, students might be asked to problem-solve via debate, for example. At the evaluation level, one is able “to judge the work of others at any level of learning with regard to its accuracy, completeness, logic, and contribution” (White, 2007, p. 161). Rubrics help teachers to evaluate work, particularly for that involving application, analysis and synthesis.
Caution: Readers should also be aware that although determining learning styles might have great appeal, "The bottom line is that there is no consistent evidence that matching instruction to students' learning styles improves concentration, memory, self-confidence, grades, or reduces anxiety," according to Dembo and Howard (2007, p. 106). Rather, Dembo and Howard indicated, "The best practices approach to instruction can help students become more successful learners" (p. 107). Such instruction incorporates "Educational research [that] supports the teaching of learning strategies...; systematically designed instruction that contains scaffolding features...; and tailoring instruction for different levels of prior knowledge" (p. 107). Cognitive scientists Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, and Bjork (2009) supported this position and stated, "Although the literature on learning styles is enormous, very few studies have even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate method, several found results that flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis" (p. 105). They concluded "at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice" (p. 105) and "widespread use of learning-style measures in educational settings is unwise and a wasteful use of limited resources. ... If classification of students' learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated" (p. 117). This position is further confirmed by Willingham, Hughes, and Dobolyi (2015) who concluded in their scientific investigation into the status of learning theories: "Learning styles theories have not panned out, and it is our
responsibility to ensure that students know that" (p. 269).
White (2007) presented a novel way to test levels of understanding. He proposed writing two test questions on a topic, allowing students to choose only one of those to answer. The first is written for the knowledge and comprehension levels (e.g., key verbs: list, describe), and the second is written for the higher critical thinking levels of application, analysis, and synthesis. Points possible would be indicated for each, so that students would recognize that only those answering the second could be awarded maximum points toward an A+ grade. The option to choose enables the less able student to better demonstrate what he does know and perhaps earn a B grade, rather than risk failure because of an inability to demonstrate critical thinking. For either question, students could fail.