Bloom's Taxonomy is a BIGGIE in course design! If you understand the different ways that Bloom's Taxonomy can be used to design courses, you are well on your way to being an instructional designer! If you do not understand the need or use of objectives for your course, you're in the right place. You need to have a deep understanding how Bloom's Taxonomy figures into course design.
Program accreditation usually uses the concepts of Bloom's Taxonomy to determine whether or not students are achieving course and program expected learning outcomes. If learning objectives, course activities, and assessments are properly aligned, then the outcomes (assessments) prove that.
|Stating Learning Objectives|
The Quick Explanation
Learning objectives are used in courses to signal to the student what they will be able to do at the end of instruction. For example:
You will be able to
Notice that the verbs "identify," and "associate" are things that can be measured in some way on an exam or by observation. This is essential when stating objectives. In essence, we are telling the student exactly how they will demonstrate that learning has taken place on an assessment.
The Origin of Objectives for a Course
Most instructors know that they have to state learning objectives in their course, usually in the syllabus. But where do these objectives come from? Well, it depends, but usually from several places. They come from the University, industry, departmental (program) requirements, perhaps others. If you'd like to read more on this topic, see Origins of Objectives for a Course.
|Audio Slide Show of Bloom's Taxonomy|
|If you would like to listen to the audio version of the information on this page, click the Bloom's Taxonomy Audio Slide Show.|
|Bloom's Taxonomy for Course Design|
Bloom's taxonomy provides us a very clear formula for thinking about instructional design, i.e., objectives, class activities, and assessments. Using Bloom's Taxonomy to design our courses does the following.
It informs the students:
It guides the instructor:
It tells the instructor (and accreditation agencies):
This page will explain all of the above.
|Bloom's Levels of Learning|
Bloom did a study back in the 50s on the types of learning students were being asked to do. He found that a large number of college students were not being prepared to think past memorization and shallow comprehension. He published a work in 1956, "Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain." The study proposed that stating learning objectives in specific ways could move student learning to higher levels. He developed a chart that would guide an instructor in properly stating the objectives to target different outcomes.
Bloom's Taxonomy for Levels of Learning (Cognitive Domain)
The cart below shows the six levels for cognitive leaning that Bloom identified. Evaluation (top of chart) is the highest level of cognitive processing. Knowledge (bottom of chart) is the lowest level of cognitive processing. We must master knowledge before we can move to comprehension and so on up the scale. Knowledge, comprehension, and application are lower-order thinking skills. Analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are higher-order thinking skills.
The third column, "Related Behavior (Verbs)," suggests verbs we can use to state our learning objectives. Of course, this list is not exhaustive of all possibilities, rather a starting point.
How Does it Work?
The verbs in the chart above are action verbs. They indicate what the student can do to demonstrate that learning has occurred, i.e., the outcome is measurable. The verbs are the key to targeting a particular learning outcome. For example, if you want the student to think and perform at the "analysis" level, you would use one of the suggested verbs from that level. For example:
The student will be able to
To achieve that "objective," the student will have to analyze the two political systems. In doing so, a higher level of thinking is being exercised. If you would like to explore this a further, view the chart on Levels and Types of Thinking.
So far, we have looked at Bloom's Taxonomy for the cognitive domain only. There are other domains: affective and psychomotor. Read more about the other types of learning domains here.
Revised Bloom: Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl revised Bloom's Taxonomy.
Remember the suggested verbs in the chart above are action verbs. They signal something the student will do to demonstrate knowledge. Let's contrast that to the verbs in the following list. Consider these verbs:
Can you measure student learning with any of the verbs listed above? Nope. How do you measure "know," or "understand?" These verbs should be avoided when stating learning objectives. This group of verbs would be fine for stating the general goals of a course or topic, but are not suitable for stating objectives.
|Designing Instruction and Assessments with Bloom's Taxonomy|
OK, so we now know how to state learning objectives using the taxonomy. We can use Bloom's to target student products or write test questions at higher levels.
Task-Oriented Question Construction Wheel (Polygon) (PDF)
Bloom's Taxonomy (Krathwohl's Revised) Planning Worksheet (Word document)
|Idea of Alignment of Objectives, Class Activities, and Assessments|
How do you know if a student has reached the learning objective? If we state that "the student will be able to do X," how do we know if s/he achieved it? Whatever we state in the objective should be measured in the assessment, whether on test questions or student products. Furthermore, class activities should support the objectives and assessments.
What if the class as a whole did not assess well, i.e., they did not achieve the expected learning outcome? What's wrong?
Things you might consider:
When the class assesses well, there is probably good alignment of objectives, class activities, and assessment. This is called "closing the loop." Nota Bene: This is exactly what SACS looks for when they are doing program evaluations.
There needs to be "coherence" between the objectives, teaching/learning strategies, and assessment outcomes. Think of it as a check-and-balance system to measure teaching and learning effectiveness.
|Backward Design Concept|
Though we have approached the idea of designing instruction by thinking about learning objectives and designing teaching/learning strategies and assessments to support them. Let's think outside the box for a moment.
We should start our course design with the assessment activites in mind. Consider your objectives, design your learning outcome instruments (assessments), and then design your teaching and learning stragegies.
Backward design proposes that we design instruction in this order:
If instructors have a clear picture of what constitutes acceptable evidence that learning has occurred, then it makes sense to start with assessment and work backward to build learning activities.
There is actually a whole lot more to the process of backward design, but this is enough to get you started. If you are interested in pursuing the concept deeper, look for information on the Internet for "backward design." Wiggins and McTighe are the authors of the concept, and they have written a book on it.
Here is a link to Amazon.com for the book Understanding by Design. (If the link goes dead, just look for Understanding by Design on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.)