A Journey Through Technology

Week 6: What are the challenges in shifting content from “what” to “where” and “how”?

on February 24, 2017

This week we are looking at the “what”, “where”, and “how” of education. To understand the challenges in making a shift from the “what” to the “where” and “how”, we need to look at what each of these looks like in terms of education. “A question of what is particularly useful in terms of education because it is easily testable.” (Thomson & Brown, 2011, Kindle location 1241) The “what” is about the facts. Most tests that students take are designed to assess the “what” of content. “While tests give us benchmark data on where students are with knowledge and skill development, they often fall short of helping students develop the higher level thinking skills that 21st century students need for a technological workplace.” (Cochran, n.d.)

The “where” of content deals with the context of the knowledge. Thomson and Brown give an example comparing “what” and “where” in A New Culture of Learning. A survey done in 2006 “found that 63% of Americans ages 18 to 24 could not find Iraq on a map of the Middle East” (Thomson & Brown, 2011, Kindle location 1266) One of the authors tried to recreate the survey a few years later and asked 18 of his students to “Find Iraq” using a computer. All of the students were able to find Iraq, and used the technology to go even more in depth than just finding Iraq. The students took the “what” question of finding Iraq on a map and turned it into a “where” questions by giving context and relevance to the question. (Thomson & Brown, 2011, Kindle locations 1266-1277)

The “how” of content  deals with how we can use our knowledge and context in our lives. According to Thomson and Brown, this is where play comes into learning. (Thomson & Brown, 2011, Kindle location 1349) Students use the “what” and the “where” to help them reach the “how”. So, now that we have defined the “what”, “where”, and “how”, we need a tool to help us in the transition from “what” to “where” and “how”. Bloom’s Taxonomy is the perfect tool for the job.  blooms-taxonomy

(Armstrong, n.d.)

Essentially, Bloom’s Taxonomy was designed as “a framework for determining the extent to which objectives and activities engaged in higher-level thinking.” (Cochran, n.d.) The higher up on the taxonomy, the higher the required thinking level. When comparing “what”, “where”, and “how”, you could say that “what” would fall on the lower end of the taxonomy, “where” would be moving up, and “how” would be at the top. So, the key to shifting content to the “where” and “how” is to shift the objectives and activities toward the upper level of the taxonomy.

One method of doing this is outlined by Dr. Barry Ziff in his article titled Utilizing Bloom’s Taxonomy in Your Classroom. Dr. Ziff suggests preparing activities and questions that use the verbs from each level of the taxonomy, working from the lowest level to the top as you make your way through a unit. He also suggests that student “be involved in creating a variety of products to show their understanding and level of expertise in the content area.”(Ziff, n.d.) If we want to shift content to the “where” and “how”, the final product of the units we teach should not be a test, but instead something that the students create that demonstrates their understanding, the “where” and “how”, of what they have learned.

The challenge in shifting to the “where” and “how” is therefore in changing how we are assessing our students. Teachers give tests. It is something that has been done throughout the history of education. If we are going to shift to a more authentic form of assessment, then teachers will need to stop testing students, and start having them create.


Armstrong, P. (n.d.) Center for teaching. Available at: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/ (Accessed: 24 February 2017).

Cochran, D. (n.d.) Moving up bloom’s Taxonomy. Available at: http://www.thecreativeeducator.com/v02/articles/The_New_Blooms (Accessed: 24 February 2017).

Thomas, D. & Brown, J. S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Kindle Edition.

Ziff, D.B. (n.d.) Utilizing bloom’s Taxonomy in your classroom. Available at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:bfWja9vGZZcJ:www.calstatela.edu/sites/default/files/centers/spedintern/hints11bloomtaxonomy.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us (Accessed: 24 February 2017).


3 responses to “Week 6: What are the challenges in shifting content from “what” to “where” and “how”?

  1. Natalie says:

    I like your suggestion to create activities and questions from the verbs on Bloom’s Taxonomy chart. Even though most of us have to follow mandated curriculum’s, we could try to incorporate a end of chapter/unit project using the highest level of thinking (create). Maybe we could even shift our text based assessments from fact recall to design? Students would be able to use the prior skills (knowledge, understanding, application, analyze, and evaluate) either independently or group based in future projects. They may even like it!:) Thanks for your insight

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tristan Leiter says:

    One thing my school focuses on is students writing different level of questions after taking Cornell notes. They take the notes and then they have to write questions based off of what they learned, so not only are they answering higher level questions, they are learning how to think through the information in order to write them. I think it’s a good skill for students to use and then teacher can utilize these to incorporate them into tests or projects. I think this is a great way to help students be involved in their learning. I know for me when I was younger we would each have to write two test questions (although we had no idea what the different level of questioning were) and our teacher would use them on the test. It was easy points for the ones we wrote, but we also felt like we were a part of what was going on.

    I don’t know what is true of public school districts in Alaska, because I taught at a private school when I was there, but in New Mexico, it is so focused on assessments. We have to give a certain amount of written assessments per quarter and I feel like this is the only way they evaluate students, at least in math. Among the four middle schools, we all have to give the same assessments for each section so they can compare data. I just don’t understand the reasoning behind that, because I would think with how far education has progressed, people would realize that students can show their knowledge in different ways. I never really thought about projects being such a big part of learning until this year because I just naturally integrated them before this year. I think it would be great to start assessing students through creating with options of a final result, rather than putting a piece of paper in front of them with questions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. unicyclepro says:

    Although I mention in my blog about using some alternative assessments that have students work on the “where” and “how”, I admit that students are not used to this type of assessment. They are so used to “what” questions, which is really unfortunate. I have given this type of assessments and students really struggle. The water tower problem is a great problem. I was lucky if students were able to find the volume of each figure correctly based on the constraints. They didn’t set up the dimensions correctly, and so the final solution would be incorrect. It is truly a multi-step problem, but a great real-life problem. If we can begin to provide these types of opportunities early in math education, they would be more successful later on in secondary school and develop that problem solving mentality that would benefit them.

    Liked by 1 person

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