Bloom’s Taxonomy was created in 1956 as a set of six cognitive skill categories. These ranged from lower-order abilities that require less cognitive processing skills, to skills of a higher-order that must demonstrate greater degrees of cognitive processing.
In 2001, the original framework created by Benjamin Bloom was modified slightly, giving birth to the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (RBT). While the revisions do make it easier to understand and implement, the fundamental principles of BT remain unchanged.
As a designer of eLearning courses, you can leverage the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy to create powerful learning content. Let’s look at 10 simple ways in which you can do that.
Even though Bloom’s Taxonomy (BT) was initially created for a classroom environment, its application is still very relevant to eLearning domains. That’s because the underlying cognitive principles enshrined within RBT are applicable to any form of learning.
RBT has real-world application, and courses designed using it as a guideline can be very effective in delivering their desired learning outcomes.
As an eLearning designer, here’s how you can incorporate RBT into your courses:
Cognitive skill 1 – Remembering
- Memory test#1: The first cognitive skill outlined in RBT is Remembering. A great way to test that skill is to create “course prerequisite” type content. Through this content, you should test learner’s ability to remember materials from previous courses (or instructions) that are required learning prior to taking the current course.
- Memory test#2: Typically, this memory test will come throughout the current course. You should administer pop-up quizzes to test how well learners remember the content that you are teaching them. True/False, multiple choice, and fill-in-the-blank type tests are a great way of accomplishing this.
Cognitive skill 2 – Understanding
- Knowledge test: The fundamental assumption, when learners enroll in an eLearning course, is that they are in search of knowledge that your content will (hopefully!) deliver. Use multi-media content, such as videos, animations, and graphics to accomplish this. Then, use short questions to test if they have absorbed that knowledge.
- Comprehension test: Knowledge tests whether your learners “know” what you’ve just taught them. Comprehension tests whether they’ve understood it! Content that demonstrates comprehension might include questions that look/feel the same, but each may have a specific resolution (answer). If the learners have absorbed the knowledge to which they were exposed, and comprehended what you’ve taught them, then they should be able to provide you with the correct response.
Cognitive skill 3 – Applying
- Simulated application: At a very basic level, eLearning is all about ensuring learners know, understand, and comprehend the subject matter being taught, and are then able to demonstrate that understanding through practical application. The best way to help you assess application skills is to use simulated exercises. Make sure that your exercises are tailored as closely as possible to the work environment in which the learner will apply those skills.
- Problem solving: If your course relates to a subject that isn’t specific to a particular work environment – such as advanced math or physics – application can be demonstrated through complex problem solving. Learners should be able to demonstrate they have sufficiently understood the course content, and are able to use the facts and techniques to solve complex problems using that knowledge.
Cognitive skill 4 – Analyzing
- Controlled analysis: This type of cognitive skill seeks to demonstrate the learner’s ability to use his/her understanding of course content to discern between multiple courses of action. You might include Case Study-type content to test this skill. Learners should be given few contextual clues about the “right” solution. Instructors should then assess whether learners are able to research and investigate the situation presented, and draw correct inferences.
- Free-form analysis: Another approach to stimulating analytic skills is to develop courses that include group interactions amongst learners. Chat sessions and Bulletin boards are ideal for such application. The instructor poses an “open question” and lets groups of learners dissect, debate and dichotomize the topic and demonstrate their analytical skills.
Cognitive skill 5 – Evaluating
- Evaluation tests: Real-life situations often require individuals to be able to discern between multiple options to make the most appropriate decision. In testing this skill, eLearning course developers should create situational content that forces learners to evaluate practical work problems to come up with original ideas and opinions that address the issues being discussed. The use of multiple-choice questions (requiring more than one option) that don’t have a single right/wrong resolution is also a good way to test evaluation skills.
Cognitive skill 6 – Creating
10. Originality test: The ultimate test of a course’s success is having learners master the content so thoroughly, that they are able to produce original content, thoughts, ideas and solutions by themselves. This is a very challenging skill to foster and test through eLearning. But one approach to do so might be in tasking learners to use their knowledge and solve a real-life issue in the workplace. Designing new policies and procedures, re-vamping existing workflows, or inventing time-saving tools and devices for the workplace are all outcomes that will validate originality on the part of the learner.
What Bloom tried to do in proposing his taxonomy, is to provide learning content developers a broad framework within which to develop instructional content. By using the 6 cognitive domains of his taxonomy to create eLearning courses, you can ensure that your learners receive real benefit from your courses.
One thing that instructional designers should remember, however, is that Bloom’s Taxonomy is just a framework – and not written-in-stone edicts. Therefore, it is a high-level guideline for developing and testing specific cognitive skills in your learners. If you interpret Bloom’s Pyramid as a form of step-by-step tutorial, you’re likely to fail in producing highly effective courses.
This is why, when using RBT to create course content, you should be flexible in your design. For instance, some of your content can be designed in a way that you test more than one cognitive skill simultaneously – such as remembering and understanding.
In other instances, for example when assessing if a learner is ready to move to the next level of learning, you might just want to design content that validates a higher level of skills – like evaluation or creation – instead of testing all 6 cognitive skills serially.