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 not clearly 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. In recent years, the names and order of these categories have been revised, but the general idea remains the same.
- Remembering: recognizing, recalling
- Understanding: interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing, explaining
- Applying: executing, implementing
- Analyzing: differentiating, organizing, attributing
- Evaluating: checking, critiquing
- Creating: generating, planning, producing
The revised taxonomy also includes a second dimension, called the knowledge dimension, which focuses on the type of knowledge. This dimension is split into four categories:
- Factual: knowledge of terminology; knowledge of specific details and elements
- Conceptual: knowledge of classifications and categories; knowledge of principles and generalization; knowledge of theories, models, and structures
- Procedural: knowledge of subject-specific skills and algorithms; knowledge of subject-specific techniques and methods; knowledge of criteria for determining when to use appropriate procedures
- Metacognitive: strategic knowledge; knowledge about cognitive tasks, including appropriate contextual and conditional knowledge; self-knowledge
Once you know the cognitive process that learners are expected to achieve and the type of knowledge the course covers, you’re ready to write your learning objective.
How? Simply combine the subject (the learner), the verb from the cognitive process dimension (what learners must know how to do), and the object from the knowledge dimension (the knowledge they need to acquire). For example, at the end of this course, learners will be able to recognize the three domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
How Does It Apply to E-Learning Instructional Design?
As e-learning designers, writing clear learning objectives is essential to the success of our courses. They are the basis for the instructional design process and should shape every aspect of our courses, from the content we include to the activities we design. It only makes sense that you would design your course differently if learners were expected to simply recall a piece of information versus asked to create something new based on said information.
Let’s take a look at examples of activities you can design for each of the six cognitive skill levels:
- Remembering: examples, lectures, videos, visuals
- Understanding: basic quiz questions (multiple choice, matching, etc.)
- Applying: practical exercises, role-playing games, simulations
- Analyzing: problem-solving questions, case studies
- Evaluating: case studies, critiques, appraisals
- Creating: projects, complex quiz questions (drag and drop, free response, etc.)
As you can see, certain activities can be used for more than one skill level; it all depends on how you design your course. 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 got you thinking about how you can apply Bloom’s Taxonomy to your instruction design process in order to create clear, concise learning objectives.
Want to learn more about instructional design? Check out the following 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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Cecelia Munzenmaier, MS, Bloom’s Taxonomy: What’s Old Is New Again (Santa Rosa: The eLearning Guild, 2013).