Bloom’s Taxonomy, 4MAT and the Demand for Critical Thinking Skill Development in Dental Hygiene Education

4MAT Image from

This week in class the discussion was focused on learning profiles and how to differentiate instruction using the instructional tool and learning model, 4MAT (McCarthy, 2010).  There are four types of learners represented in this model with each type incorporating both left and right brain mode processes.  Learning is achieved when students engage in all stages of the model.  Students generally identify strongly with one or two of the stages, but will operate in all stages to varying degrees.  The first phase of the model is experience then conceptualizing, applying and finally creating.

A second learning model discussed this week was Bloom’s Taxonomy as a model for structuring learning objectives from less to more complex levels of thinking (Bloom, Englehart, Furst, Hill, & Krathwohl, 1956).  A Revised Bloom’s taxonomy presents a process of thinking using verbs, again from less to more complex thinking and are indicated as: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001).  From earlier weeks of this class I have learned that differentiating instruction can be accomplished by varying the content, process or product of learning (Tomlinson, 2001).  The process, content and product of learning can be varied using 4MAT (McCarthy, 2010).  Applying the verbs associated with the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used to manage the level of thinking required for both learning objectives and assessments as the product of learning (“Tips on Writing Good Learning Objectives,” 2015).

Revised Bloom's Taxonomy Image

Critical thinking is an essential skill for excellent clinical judgment in dental hygiene and any other health related occupation.  Beistle and Palmer (2014) defined critical thinking as, “an art of analyzing and evaluating thinking by self-dicipline, self-correction and self-monitoring within a framework to improve one’s thinking” (p. 395).  These thought processes are aligned with higher-level thinking described in the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (“Tips on Writing Good Learning Objectives,” 2015) and the final stages of learning in 4MAT (McCarthy, 2010).  Canasi, Amyot, and Tira (2014) concluded that concept mapping supports higher-level thinking consistent with Bloom’s Taxonomy and the development of critical thinking because it provides a format for students to make meaningful, personal connections with interrelated concepts.  Constructing well designed learning objectives, test questions, and activities incorporating the use of verbs associated with the stages of the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy is also an effective means for further developing critical thinking skills (Beistle & Palmer, 2014).

As a final note, these models were developed with students and teachers in mind. Students – you can develop weak areas of your learning profiles to become proficient all stages of 4MAT – this will make you a better learner!  Teachers – you can use these models to ensure you are differentiating instruction for all learning styles and challenging your students to apply their knowledge using higher-level thinking.


Anderson, L.W., & Krathwohl, D. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.

Beistle, K. S., & Palmer, L. B. (2014). Exploration of critical thinking in dental hygiene education. Journal Of Dental Hygiene, 88(6), 394-402.

Bloom, B., Englehart, M. Furst, E., Hill, W., & Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green.

Canasi, D. M., Amyot, C., & Tira, D. (2014). Evaluating meaningful learning using concept mapping in dental hygiene education: A pilot study. Journal Of Dental Hygiene, 88(1), 20-29.

McCarthy, B. (2010, January 27). Introduction to 4MAT by bernice mccarthy [Video file]. Retrieved September 23, 2015 from

Tips on writing good learning objectives. (2015). Retrieved September 27, 2015 from

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development


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