Sept. 23, 1999
Vol. 19 No. 1

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    Bloom, influential education researcher

    Benjamin Bloom, the Charles H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Education, whose research transformed education, died Monday, Sept. 13, in his home in Chicago. He was 86.

    “Ben Bloom influenced strongly the field of education through his research and that of many graduate students from around the world with whom he worked,” said Susan Stodolsky, Professor in Education. “The theme throughout his research was that educational settings and home environments can foster human potential––a message that encouraged education experiments and reform.”

    From 1943 to 1959, Bloom served as University Examiner. In this position, he developed tests to determine if undergraduates had mastered material necessary for them to receive their bachelor’s degrees.

    In 1948, he and a group of colleagues with the American Psychological Association began discussions that led to the taxonomy of educational goals, a system of classification that frequently is called “Bloom’s Taxonomy.”

    His 1956 book on the subject, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain, deals with knowledge and the development of intellectual skills. Bloom set forth a hierarchy of learning, beginning with factual knowledge and leading through comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

    The second book in the series, for which he was a co-author, Taxonomy of Education Objections, Volume II: The Affective Domain, was published in 1964. It helped educators understand the importance of attitudes in the development of learning.

    Also in 1964, Bloom published Stability and Change in Human Characteristics. That work, based on a number of longitudinal studies, led to an upsurge of interest in early childhood education, including the creation of the Head Start program, Stodolsky said.

    Bloom showed that many physical and mental characteristics of adults can be predicted through testing done while they are still children. For example, he demonstrated that 50 percent of the variations in intelligence at age 17 can be estimated at age 4. He also found that early experiences in the home have a great impact on later learning.

    Bloom summarized his work in a 1980 book titled All Our Children Learning, which showed from evidence gathered in the United States and abroad that virtually all children can learn at a high level when appropriate practices are undertaken in the home and school.

    In the later years of his career, Bloom turned his attention to talented youngsters and led a research team that produced the book Developing Talent in Young People, published in 1985.

    “What we found was that the band of people who are capable of achieving great talent is actually quite broad,” Bloom said at the time. “The few who have achieved it had similar experiences.”

    The people who reach top levels in athletics, arts and academics are those who work hard and have challenging but affectionate parents and top teachers, Bloom found.

    Bloom, who joined the University faculty in 1944, was born in Lansford, Penn., and received a B.A. from Pennsylvania State University in 1935 and an M.S. from Pennsylvania State, also in 1935. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1942.