Learning objectives are at the very core of the instructional design process, and rightly so. Without them, how would we know what content and activities to include in our courses? Unfortunately, the learning objectives are often poorly defined, making it hard to determine if learners are meeting them. Enter: Bloom’s Taxonomy!

Benjamin Bloom, the creator of Bloom’s Taxonomy, specifically designed this classification system to help instructors, and instructional designers, clearly define learning objectives—and, in turn, create courses that meet learners’ needs. Let’s take a closer look at how this instructional design principle applies to e-learning.

What Is Bloom’s Taxonomy?

In their original work, Bloom and a committee of educators identified three domains of learning: cognitive (mental), affective (emotional), and psychomotor (physical). However, when most people think of Bloom’s Taxonomy, they think only of the cognitive domain.

The cognitive domain is divided into six categories, each representing a cognitive skill level. Each category is associated with a set of verbs, or cognitive processes, that describe what learners should be capable of doing:

  1. Knowledge: recognize, recall, list, name, memorize, define, locate, identify
  2. Comprehension: interpret, illustrate, summarize, explain, match, paraphrase
  3. Application: apply, choose, organize, draw, generalize
  4. Analysis: analyze, differentiate, classify, categorize, distinguish
  5. Synthesis: create, plan, produce, construct
  6. Evaluation: evaluate, judge, criticize, compare, appraise

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Write Learning Objectives

Once you know the expected cognitive skill level for learners to achieve and the specific knowledge or skills the course covers, you’re ready to write your learning objective.

How? Simply combine the subject (the learner), the verb (what learners must know how to do), and the object (the knowledge they need to acquire).

For example, “At the end of this course, learners will recognize the five cognitive skill levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Design Activities

As you’re designing your course activities, it’s important to refer back to the learning objectives and let the expected cognitive skill level guide your choices. If your learners need to take the course content and apply it to their jobs, you could build a scenario that allows them to practice doing that. If they simply need to recognize a list of terms, a multiple choice question could be just the thing.

Let’s look at the six cognitive skill levels again, this time with an example of a suitable learning activity:

  1. Knowledge: a multiple choice question asking learners to identify the correct answer from a list of terms.
  2. Comprehension: a free-response question asking learners to explain their understanding of something.
  3. Application: a scenario in which learners need to make decisions based on the information they learned.
  4. Analysis: a sorting question where learners classify terms or concepts into the appropriate category.
  5. Synthesis: a free-response question that asks learners to outline a plan of action.
  6. Evaluation: a scenario where learners compare and contrast the options available.

As you can see, you can use certain activity types for more than one skill level. It all depends on how you design those activities. And this is only the beginning—there are many more activities that you can design to help your learners achieve each of these cognitive skill levels.


Hopefully, this article has you thinking about how you can apply Bloom’s Taxonomy to your instructional design process to create clear, concise learning objectives and design activities to support those objectives. 

Want more instructional design tips? Check out these articles:

How do you use Bloom’s Taxonomy to design e-learning? Share your ideas in a comment below!

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