McREL has collected data from more than 27,000 classroom observations that offer a dismaying glimpse into the level of instruction that appears to be occurring in the nation’s classrooms. In well over half of these observations, student learning reflected the two lowest levels of Bloom’s taxonomy: remembering (25 percent) and understanding (32 percent). Meanwhile, students were developing the higher-order thinking skills of analysis (9 percent), evaluation (3 percent), and creation (4 percent) in less than one-sixth of the classrooms observed.
Certainly, not all learning can focus on higher-order thinking; teachers must develop students’ ability to recall and understand basic concepts before they can move on to more critical thinking. Nonetheless, the fact that so much of what goes on in classrooms appears to be focused on low-level thinking suggests that high expectations and challenging instruction may be the exception, rather than the norm, for most students.
[See also the data at Are 21st century skills a solution to a problem that may not exist?]