Laying out clear learning objectives or instructional goals is a vital part of an effective instructional design project. Turn-Turtle Educational Media suggests that you consider applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to every phase of the instructional design process. We believe this is one sure-fire way of taking your eLearning projects from good to GREAT!
To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first, and call whatever you hit the target.
This epigram was the creation of author and syndicated cartoonist Ashleigh Brilliant. Mr. Brilliant’s thought-provoking saying provides humorous commentary on everything from a life lived without purpose to politics. When applied to eLearning and instructional design, that saying might be funnier if it wasn’t true. Far too many instructional design projects begin without first having established clear learning goals.
Instructional goals or learning objectives are the targets that instructional designers must never lose sight of. In fact, it may be more precise to describe them as the “bullseye.” They create a strong foundation and framework for us to follow throughout the entire ID design and development cycles. It’s the objectives that guide us through the creation of every element of the course from content, activities and interactions, to assessments and reference materials. For that reason, our instructional design team will never move out of planning and into the design phase until these goals have been locked down.
So now, let’s assume we have our learning objectives written out and that they have been agreed on and approved by the project’s stakeholders. A common question we encounter next is “What tools can be applied to help ensure that every module, every element in our course is designed to achieve those objectives?” This article will cover one such tool, a set of well-defined learning domains referred to as “Bloom’s Taxonomy.”
Simply put, Bloom’s Taxonomy is a framework for categorizing instructional goals. This framework has been applied by teachers and college instructors for decades. The framework elaborated by Benjamin Bloom and his collaborators consisted of six major learning domains: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. The domains after Knowledge were described as “skills and abilities,” because, in the author’s view that knowledge was the prerequisite for applying these skills and abilities in the “real world.”
Here are the authors’ brief descriptions of these primary domains from the appendix of Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Taxonomy, pp. 201-207):
Knowledge “involves the recall of specifics and universals, the recall of methods and processes, or the recall of a pattern, structure, or setting.”
Comprehension refers to a level of understanding where “…the individual knows what is being communicated and can make use of the material or idea being communicated without necessarily relating it to other material or seeing its fullest implications.”
Application refers to the ability to use “abstractions in particular and concrete situations.”
Analysis is the “breakdown of a communication into its constituent elements or parts such that the relative hierarchy of ideas is made clear and/or the relations between ideas expressed are made explicit.”
Synthesis is the process of “putting together elements and parts so as to form a whole.”
Evaluation refers to “judgments about the value of material and methods for given purposes.”
Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised
In 2001, a group of education researcher set out to revise Bloom’s Taxonomy. Their goal was to characterize the domains as outcomes and to better describe these learning outcomes as capabilities that the learner should possess after training. The original taxonomy used nouns to label the domains whereas in contrast, the revised version uses verbs and gerunds (verbs that function as a noun, such as “identifying, “categorizing,” or “describing”.)
For example,“Learners should be able to name the five phases of mitosis and explain the importance of events in each mitotic stage.” (Verb form.) Or, “The learner should be capable of locating the requested menu option on the first try.” (Gerund form.)
Here is a list of instructional domains in the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Remember (Recognizing, Recalling)
Understand (Interpreting, Exemplifying, Classifying, Summarizing, Inferring, Comparing, Explaining)
Apply (Executing, Implementing)
Analyze (Differentiating, Organizing, Attributing)
Evaluate (Checking, Critiquing)
Create (Generating, Planning, Producing)
As you can see, in this revised version of Bloom’s Taxonomy, knowledge is still the foundation of the six learning domains. Furthermore, the authors proposed a separate, expanded taxonomy of the types or “dimensions” of knowledge that apply to cognitive processes:
Factual – Includes knowledge of terminology, or of specific details and elements.
Conceptual – Includes knowledge of classifications, categories, principles, generalizations, theories, models, and structures.
Procedural knowledge is knowledge of subject-specific skills and procedures and of subject-specific techniques and methods. It also includes knowledge of the criteria for determining when to use appropriate procedures.
Metacognitive Knowledge is strategic “thinking about thinking.” It refers to knowledge about cognitive tasks including conditional knowledge as well as self-knowledge or self-awareness.
Why is Bloom’s Taxonomy Important?
We’re glad you asked! First of all, as we have already established, instructional goals are vital to the instructional design process. They create a foundation and framework for the entire instructional design process. These goals or objectives, along with rubrics, help both the instructor and the learner understand the purpose of the courses we create. Even more so, applying Bloom’s taxonomy to our learning objectives helps the instructional design team organize, clarify, and better understand the objectives. This allows us to deliver more effective eLearning, design better assessment strategies, and ensure that every element and module aligns with the objectives.
For more information on Bloom’s Taxonomy, see the related articles that are listed here. Unfortunately, the original handbook by Benjamin Bloom is out of print. However, you can probably find a copy in your local library, pick up a used copy at various online booksellers, or you can read it online here.
Turn-Turtle Educational Media Can Help!
Bloom’s Taxonomy is an integral part of the instructional design process at Turn-Turtle Educational Media. We stand ready to assist you plan, design, develop and deliver your next instructional design project. Visit our Get in Touch page and give us a call – we look forward to hearing from you!
Bloom, Benjamin S. Taxonomy of educational objectives; the classification of educational goals. New York: Longmans, Green, 1956. Print.