You may be familiar with this method of categorizing the depth of different types of thought:
(It’s the revised version; the original categories were labeled Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. Note the top two rows in the revised version have been swapped.)
In principle this is a perfectly sensible arrangement. In practice there is an inane focus on the verbs being used to phrase the question, with little or no attention paid to the thought process in between.
For example, this list of verbs represents “Understanding”
classify, describe, discuss, explain, identify, locate, recognize, report, select, translate, paraphrase
while this represents “Creating”
assemble, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, write.
Which of these prompts will result in deeper thought?
A. Explain why the graph of the tangent has asymptotes.
B. Construct a diagram of the unit circle.
Now, prompt A does have a simple end product (“division by zero”) but the thought process in between can be vast, whereas the latter prompt is clearly nothing higher than the “Remembering” level of the taxonomy.
If one sat and pulled apart the different methods used the taxonomy seems more sensible (clearly if extrapolated from scratch prompt A enters the realm of creation) but that isn’t how the taxonomy is generally used or taught, in my experience. The list of verbs is a checklist, a way for teachers to escape having to genuinely think about a problem. Ignoring the content is a poor way to construct higher-order questions.