Most learning professionals have heard of Bloom’s Taxonomy (BT), the set of three hierarchical models that classify learning objectives into levels of difficulty. The first volume of the taxonomy was published in 1956. Since that time, the three domains addressed in BT (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor) have been used in both traditional education and training for business. But what role does BT play in creating measurable learning?
How Bloom’s Taxonomy Verbs Reflect Learning Progress
BT identifies the verbs that reflect the progression of learning. For instance, a learner must first remember and understand a concept before they can apply and analyze one. BT’s levels of learning (and their subsequent verbs) give instructional designers a framework for moving learners toward deeper levels of comprehension or skill.
Experienced instructional designers understand that BT enables classification of learning objectives into levels of complexity. They know BT as a powerful tool in creating specific objectives and promoting higher forms of thinking.
Less known, is how BT us used to measure learning outcomes.
The Importance of Verb Selection in Writing Measurable Objectives
We have spoken many times about the importance of creating measurable objectives. We have described how the components of objectives (performance statement, condition, and criteria) work together to define the intended outcome. Less pronounced, but equally important, is the verb selection in creating measurable objectives.
The verb used in an objective describes the level of a targeted performance. Most often, action verbs are used in creating learning objectives. Bloom’s Taxonomy of verbs helps designers describe and classify observable knowledge, skills, and attitudes. They provide levels of observable actions that indicate results.
Frequently, instructional designers use the same verbs for most of their objectives. Using verbs such as identify, know, and comprehend are common. These verbs are popular because they are general and can apply to most any learning. The challenge with using basic and general verbs is the outcomes from learning are difficult to quantify. What does it mean if I know something?
Measurable Verbs Clarify the Expected Learning Outcome
Adding conditions of performance and some criteria for performance can clarify the expected outcomes. Yet, when you create learning objectives using specified verbs, you indicate clearly what the student must do to demonstrate learning.
Additionally, the chosen verb level corresponds to specific evaluation methods. For example, when designers select verbs from Bloom’s lower comprehension levels (remembering, understanding) evaluation methods such as multiple choice and true/false are adequate to capture acuity. However, if a designer chooses Bloom’s higher comprehension levels (applying, analyzing, evaluating, or creating) the evaluation question types such as open-ended, essay, or checklist may be required to capture the learner’s ability to convey capability.
The level of the verb clarifies the level of the outcome. The chosen verb provides alignment between the entire learning unit. It helps define the expected outcome, appropriate evaluation type, and effective methods of instruction.
Bloom’s Taxonomy As a Helpful Framework for Instructional Design
Mainly, the good work done by Bloom’s Taxonomy provides designers with a framework for both identifying and measuring outcomes. When we use BT we are able to classify our objectives by levels of outcomes. We can identify the differences between basic knowledge targets and applied knowledge (skill) targets. We can easily categorize our objectives into foundational knowledge and cognitive skills such as problem solving and decision making.
Instructional designers who aspire to drive students to deeper levels of learning and measure the results of their program use BT on a regular basis. If you do not use BT in developing your learning programs then I urge you to consider adding them to your practice.
As a learning professional and instructional designer, how comfortable are you with Bloom’s Taxonomy? Do you see its use in creating specific learning objectives? If you want to learn more about measurable instruction design, then contact us here at eParamus. We’re here to help.
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