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Understanding Academic Progress: The Shift from Basic, Advancing, and Deep to Remembering, Knowing, and Reasoning

Chris Quigley
Posted by Chris Quigley
September 4, 2023


I formerly categorised the stages of learning as Basic, Advancing, and Deep. However, these terms lacked the descriptive power to convey the cognitive processes involved at each level. So, I've transitioned to a new terminology—Remembering, Knowing, and Reasoning—that more precisely encapsulates what occurs at each stage of academic progress.

The Previous Framework: Basic, Advancing, Deep

The Basic stage signified the initial phase of gathering information. Students at this level primarily focused on learning and memorising facts. However, the term "Basic" could inadvertently downplay the critical foundation that this stage provides.

Advancing was meant to indicate that a student had moved beyond the mere collection of facts and was making connections between pieces of information. Yet, the term needed to be more specific to capture the intricacy of the cognitive operations in play.


The Deep stage signified mastery or expertise in a subject. However, the term needed to fully express the creative and flexible use of knowledge that marks proper understanding.

The Shift: Remembering, Knowing, Reasoning

This stage is all about recall. It represents the point at which students are exposed to new information and tasked with remembering it. It aligns well with the first levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (Bloom, 1956), which considers remembering as the foundational cognitive skill upon which all others are built.

Here, students move beyond rote memorisation to establish a schema—a coherent structure of interrelated facts. The term "Knowing" better encapsulates the mental process of building upon what was learned in the Remembering stage, something supported by Schema Theory (Anderson, 1977).

The final stage is where students can flexibly and creatively apply their knowledge. The term "Reasoning" better conveys the complex cognitive skills involved, which resonate with the top tiers of Bloom's Taxonomy, like analysing, evaluating, and creating.

POP Tasks: Portrayal of Progress
To foster academic progress, I've developed what I call "POP Tasks," designed to guide students through these three stages. POP stands for Portrayal of Progress. The tasks begin by encouraging recall, then promoting relational thinking, and finally fostering reasoning. This sequential approach ensures that learning builds on a solid foundation, maximising the potential for deep understanding.

Expertise Reversal Effect: A Key Consideration
Another dimension of this framework is the "expertise reversal effect," which posits that novices and experts require different instructional techniques (Kalyuga, 2007). For novices, a structured, step-by-step approach works best. In contrast, experts benefit more from tasks that challenge their reasoning and problem-solving abilities.

The shift in language—from Basic, Advancing, and Deep to Remembering, Knowing, and Reasoning—was driven by the need to more accurately describe the cognitive processes involved in each stage of academic progress. By incorporating this new framework and applying it through POP Tasks while considering the expertise reversal effect, teachers can better understand and, therefore, effectively guide their students' learning journeys.


For examples of POP tasks please see our Curriculum Companion Series.

Please see our Assessment Course for further training on planning for and assessing progress.


- Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: David McKay.
- Anderson, R. C. (1977). Schema Theory and the Design of Content. Reading Education, 1(1), 1-12.
- Kalyuga, S. (2007). Expertise Reversal Effect and Its Implications for Learner-Tailored Instruction. Educational Psychology Review, 19(4), 509-539.

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