On many occasions, learners bring up Bloom’s Taxonomy in my workshops. It is sometimes brought up in my Instructional Design for New Designers workshop when we discuss action verbs or how to write objectives. It is discussed when we look at framing questions in the How Adults Learn workshop. (See my colleague Lynne’s blog Questions: A Facilitator’s Best Friend! for more on framing questions using Bloom’s Taxonomy.) In addition, it is often brought up when we discuss the terms training, education, and development.
Similar to the principles of adult learning, Bloom’s Taxonomy is naturally involved in the instructional design process. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a great way to determine how much your learners understand. This blog will illustrate how, and when, Bloom’s Taxonomy has been, and can be, integrated into course design. But first, let’s look at some background info.
Benjamin Bloom introduced Bloom’s Taxonomy in 1956. The initial focus was primarily for academia and now finds a comfortable place in training. Bloom and associates identified three domains of learning:
- Cognitive: mental skills, intellectual capability (knowledge)
- Affective: feelings, motivation, behavior (attitude)
- Psychomotor: manual or physical skills (skills)
These are sometimes identified as “Do-Think-Feel” or KSA (Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude).
In this blog, the focus is on the cognitive domain and the application of the six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. These levels represent a hierarchy of learning that goes from the simple (level 1) to the complex (level 6). The levels are as follows:
- Knowledge – to check learner ability to recall basic information
- Comprehension – confirm understanding
- Application – use or apply knowledge
- Analysis – interpret elements; see if the information can be broken into components
- Synthesis – create or develop plans
- Evaluation – assess, critical thinking
Now that we have defined the six levels, let’s look at how they can be applied to instructional design. Lynne’s blog explained how Bloom’s Taxonomy could be used in structuring questions; this blog will add how it applies to the testing process.
1. Knowledge – to check learner ability to recall basic information
This is usually assessed using a non-performance test that checks for knowledge of the information the learner has been taught. This is accomplished through quizzes using assorted multiple choice, matching, or true/false questions. You want the learner to define, repeat, recall from memory, list, etc. the information he/she has learned. (e.g. List the six steps of Langevin’s learning strategy.)
2. Comprehension – confirm understanding
This next level is also a non-performance check for knowledge, but now you want the learner to “put it in their own words” by describing, explaining, discussing, etc. the information he/she has been taught. (e.g. Describe the six steps of the learning strategy.)
3. Application – use or apply knowledge
Here, the focus is on performance-based assessment. You have the learner apply, interpret, practice, etc. the information he/she has been taught. (e.g. Create a brief lesson using the learning strategy that you will present to the group. You must use all six steps.)
4. Analysis – interpret elements, break the information into smaller parts
For this level, you ask the learner to compare, investigate, solve, examine, tell why, etc.
(e.g. This is an outline for a course, which was not received well by the learners. Compare this to the learning strategy, identify which part(s) of the learning strategy were omitted, and how this omission contributed to the course not being successful.)
5. Synthesis – create/develop plans; put pieces together to form a new whole
Here, you have the learner suppose, create, construct, improve, etc. (e.g. This is a handout of a course that is structured according to the learning strategy. It follows the six steps, but is not as dynamic as is could be. What would you add to each step to create a more dynamic course that gets the learner involved?)
6. Evaluation – assess, critical thinking
In this final level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, you ask the learner to offer opinions, criticize, judge, recommend, justify, evaluate, or explain which option is better, based on a set of knowledge and criteria. (e.g. You have examples of two courses that use the learning strategy. First, compare the examples against the learning strategy, then compare one example against the other. Determine which one best exemplifies the learning strategy. Be prepared to present your decision to the table group.)
Using Bloom’s taxonomy in instructional design is an excellent way to help gauge the level of knowledge amongst your learners. As you can see, it can easily be integrated into the design process.
Do you have other examples of how you have used Bloom’s taxonomy?