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Understanding Costa’s Levels of Learning and Thinking

Costa’s levels of learning and thinking, is a relative newcomer to the intellectual taxonomy world of cognitive theories. Note: sometimes his taxonomy is called “levels of inquiry,” or “levels of questioning” or “levels of intellectual thinking.” No matter what it is called, it all means the same thing—a way of categorizing and labeling the amount and depth of thinking a student is actually doing. His taxonomy has three levels—a lower level of intellectual thinking, a moderate level of intellectual thinking, and a high level of intellectual thinking.

His learning taxonomy is primarily used by the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, which is a successful program targeting kids who normally would not be thinking about going to college. Costa’s Levels of Creative Thinking are used in AVID to encourage both teachers and students to increase their level of intellectual rigor, in the products they make and in the process they go through to make the product. Because his learning taxonomy is relatively simple—there are only three different levels of learning difficulty—Costa’s learning taxonomy has been picked up by many other educators. It’s not hard to see why many individuals have preferred to use Costa’s learning taxonomy other those which have been created by others. His taxonomy is easier for many people to understand because it involves only three different levels of intellectual complexity, as compared with Bloom’s six levels and Schank’s 12 types of cognitive processes.

No matter which learning taxonomy you like or use, whether you are a parent or a teacher, the important thing is to make sure your middle school child’s brain is thinking in multiple ways, rather than relying on one or two thinking or learning processes.

Here are the links to useful websites which will help you understand Costa’s learning taxonomy:

If you enjoy lots of visuals, the website listed below may help. There are a multitude of visual pictures of Costa’s Learning taxonomy on this website

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