Monday, September 12, 2011

Bloom's Taxonomy and New Authors

Anyone who has been involved with education is very familiar to the idea of Bloom's Taxonomy. The model essentially describes how learning moves up the pyramid as a learner becomes more proficient in the subject. I was thinking about this when I was reading submissions yesterday (and unfortunately, having to write a lot of rejection letters due to stories not being strong enough).

Let's look at this model:

REMEMBERING - Essentially this is just knowing terminology. For many authors, this is where they are at in the very beginning. They know terms such as Goal, Motivation, Conflict, Plot and so forth. But this is about as far as the learning goes. Are they ready for writing yet? Probably not.

UNDERSTANDING - This level takes the terminology to a new level but we are still not quite there. Authors may understand the terms and know the definitions of the terms and potentially what they are used for, but at this point, it is simply nothing more than remembering definitions. At this point, the author is not going to be able to translate this learning to their writing. Ready for writing yet? No. Will they start to talk to others about their craft? Probably. Should we be trusting this learning yet? Not yet.

It is this level we start seeing many authors starting the submission process. They have enough knowlege to get the ball rolling with their publishing but not enough to be successful.

APPLYING - We are finally moving toward someone who might find some success. The authors at this level can finally start to take that learning and use it in their writing. This is still very elementary writing though. The reason is simple. The author is still having to "think" about how to use the skills. The fluidity of using the skills unconsciously is not strong enough.

When we see writing that falls into this category, we really see what I call "forced writing." Sure the writing might have incorporated the skills and they might have been done correctly, but it hasn't been done well.

At this point, we also start seeing more and more writers trying to help out other writers. In my humble opinion, this is nothing more than the blind leading the blind. They know enough to be dangerous.

ANALYZING - When we reach this level, we are finally getting to the point the author will find some success. A successful writer here would be able to look at what they are doing in their own writing and know that something is wrong. They will also be able to know what to do with their writing to fix it. The odds are that the solutions will be very limited. In other words, the author will look at their character and realize there is no reason for the character to do something. So, they add something, more often than not, a subplot or backstory. Yes, this solution works, but it might not be the strongest solution.

If you are working with critique partners and you have someone who always goes back to the same solution to almost every problem. you are probably working with someone just starting this level. Of course, if you always take their solution, then you haven't made it here yet.

EVALUATING - It is at this level, that I personally believe writers need to be at BEFORE they start teaching others or judging contests. The author can not only determine what works or doesn't work with a project, but they can find that right solution for the right situation. Unfortunately, too often the people we have judging contests are still back at the Remembering and Applying level. Far from the place you want someone who is assessing your work.

CREATING - This last level is a full understanding. Writers here can look at their own writing and apply this information to areas outside of their writing. If they write historicals, they can now take those skills and put them toward synopsis writing, contemporary romances and non-fiction. At this point, the learning is all at an unconscious level.

Think about where you are at now. Your job is to work your way up the list. And honestly, if you are at the lower levels, keep working and quit submitting projects. Learn it first!


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