Blooms Taxonomy: Tried and tested recipe for effective eLearning

Bloom's TaxonomyBloom’s Taxonomy was created in 1956, by educational psychologist Dr. Benjamin Bloom, and subsequently updated in 2001 to its current form. It is based on hierarchical ordering of learner’s cognitive skills, which then facilitates learning professionals (L&D) and Instructional Designers (ID) in helping learners learn better.

To help instructors and course developers understand how to achieve their learning objectives, the taxonomy breaks down human thinking skills into six categories, ascending as a pyramid from lower to higher-orders of thinking. 

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy

Understanding Bloom’s Taxonomy can play a vital role in helping eLearning professionals create highly effective learning objectives; organize learning into logical structures to help make learning a seamless process; inject focused interactivity into courses; and design course assessments that truly evaluate whether learners have mastered desired learning objectives.

Here are some strategies and tips to help eLearning professionals accomplish those goals.

How to Make Learning Objectives Measurable

Bloom offers a list of measurable verbs that are specifically effective when crafting quantifiable learning objectives (LOs).

Use these verbs to measure critical thinking attributes of your course. Frame your LO’s to explicitly indicate what learners must demonstrate as a result of consuming your content. LOs must therefore be conducive to discerning observable change as a result of learner’s completing the course.

Suggested Approach

When framing your LOs, ensure that they are very specific and identifiable. For example:

“At the end of this module you should be able to:

  1. List the 5 elements of the company’s safety policy
  2. Identify the 3 steps to take in the event of a power failure
  3. Operate a Class A fire extinguisher to put out a waste paper basket blaze

In the first two learning objectives above, we provide a specific number (5 key elements, 3 steps) of (finite) characteristics that the course will teach. In the third example, we’re identifying the exact equipment (Class A) and situation (waste paper basket fire) learners will encounter during the course.

Tip

To create highly effective measurable LOs, course developers must avoid using words like “Think” (What you think are the key elements of the company’s safety policy?) or “Familiar” (Get familiar with operating a Class A fire extinguisher).

Aiding The Transition From No Knowledge to Complete Comprehension 

Bloom proposes three categories of learning, including knowledge-based (Cognitive), emotion-based (Affective) and action-based (Psychomotor). Effective eLearning is a progressive process that leads learners, step-by-step, from lower to higher levels of learning.

For instance, would you ask a Safety Policy course participant to deal with a Class E fire (involving live electrical equipment on the shop floor) before introducing him/her to basic firefighting principles and fire extinguisher operations?

Bloom’s Taxonomy closely mimics the learning process from end-to-end. That’s why it is so efficient at moving learners through the learning process – turning them from novice to ninja seamlessly!

Suggested Approach

When developing a learning plan for individual learners, to transition from having little or no knowledge of a subject, to mastering it, it is essential to start with a learner assessment. This gives course builders a baseline. Then, start with “big picture” topics, so learners have a better sense of what the end goal is (fighting uncontrolled Class E fires), and then progressively expand the granularity of the subject matter.

Tip

Make learning paths flexible. For instance, if a learner already has a basic background with residential or industrial fire safety, it might be more productive to directly launch them into the basics of fire-fighting gear operations module, instead of walking them through Fire Safety 101.

 

Creating Targeted Outcome-focused Interactivity

ELearners learn more effectively when course content is interactive compared with static content. However, such interactivity must be deliberate in design, to effectively move learners through Bloom’s chain of orders – from memorization to application and analysis, and eventually evaluation.

 

Suggested Approach

Depending on the results of the learner assessment, and the subject matter of the course, you may achieve this objective by designing content with 4-levels of interactivity, ranging from:

 

Level 1: Passive Interactivity (e.g.: “Click next to proceed…”)

Level 2: Limited Interactivity (e.g.: “Select the right response to advance…”)

Level 3: Complex Interactivity (e.g.: Scenarios and Simulation)

Level 4: Advanced Real-time Interactivity (Social learning, Gamification)

Tip

Here are some ways to introduce interactivity through the 6-levels of Bloom’s pyramid:

  • Knowledge: Use multiple-choice questions to assess memorization skills
  • Comprehension: Introduce banks of multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks and drop-down list quizzes
  • Application: Use tasks such as research topics, writing short essays or drag-drop matching word/phrase type tasks to evaluate transfer skills
  • Analysis: Assignments such as responding to questions around Case Studies, or asking learners to build Use Cases based on the subject matter are a great test of logical and independent thinking
  • Evaluation: This level of interactivity tests the learner’s ability to analyze, draw conclusions and pass judgment on a given situation. Use interactivity, such as simulated exercises, to assess critical thinking
  • Creation: This level of interactivity judges the learner’s ability to create original ideas or artifacts based on content learned. Proposing unique prototypes or suggesting new applications of existing theories is a good way to assess creativity

 

How to Match Assessments to Learning Objectives

The ultimate objective of any eLearning endeavor is to successfully meet your stated learning objectives. To accomplish that, it is important to map your assessment with the different levels of learning objectives and then match that knowledge with an appropriate instructional strategy.

Suggested Approach

Start by asking yourself three foundational questions:

  1. To design your Learning Objectives: Upon completing this course, what knowledge/skills will the learner acquire?
  2. To create supporting assessments: What tasks, quizzes, tests, and assignments will help me determine whether learners have mastered the learning objectives set out for them?
  3. To map-out an appropriate instructional strategy: What activities, both online and off-line, will reinforce these LOs and prepare learners to successfully complete the planned assessments?

Tip

Use Blooms Verb Chart to guide your determination of assessments that match learning objectives. For example:

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