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, more often than not, the learning objectives are poorly defined, making it hard to determine whether they have been met. Enter: Bloom’s Taxonomy!
This classification system was specifically designed 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:
- Knowledge: recognize, recall, list, name, memorize, define, locate, identify
- Comprehension: interpret, illustrate, summarize, explain, match, paraphrase
- Application: apply, choose, organize, draw, generalize
- Analysis: analyze, differentiate, classify, categorize, distinguish
- Synthesis: create, plan, produce, construct
- Evaluation: evaluate, judge, criticize, compare, appraise
Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Write Learning Objectives
Once you know the cognitive skill level that learners are expected 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 job, 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:
- Knowledge: a multiple response question asking learners to identify a list of terms.
- Comprehension: a free-response question asking learners to explain their understanding of something.
- Application: a scenario in which learners need to make decisions based on the information they learned.
- Analysis: a matching question where learners classify terms or concepts into the appropriate category.
- Synthesis: a free-response question where learners are asked to outline a plan of action.
- Evaluation: a scenario where learners are asked to compare and contrast the options available.
As you can see, certain activity types can be used 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 in order to create clear, concise learning objectives and design activities to support those objectives.
Want more instructional design tips? Check out these articles:
- An Introduction to Instructional Design
- Personalization Principle: Speaking to Your Learners Instead of at Them
- Multimedia Principle: Adding Graphics to Words Improves Learning
- Contiguity Principle: Keep Graphics and Related Text Together
- Redundancy Principle: Should You Duplicate Narrated Text on Screen?
- Coherence Principle: Less Material for Better Learning
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