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Scripting Effective Learning Objectives using Bloom’s Taxonomy

Ask any instructional designer about learning objectives (at your peril! They can talk your ears off on this topic), they will all, without exception, talk about Bloom’s Taxonomy. But what is this Bloom’s taxonomy all about? And why is it so relevant for corporate training?

“What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn if provided with appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.”  – Benjamin Bloom

Bloom’s taxonomy is a classification framework proposed by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom in 1956 to assess learning at different cognitive levels (from basic to more complex). The taxonomy is best represented as a pyramid with the learning level advancing from the bottom to the top.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Source: Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching

The original framework was revised by one of Bloom’s students, Lorin Anderson, in 2001. Anderson replaced the original nouns used for each level with verbs (because learning is an active and continuous process) and also rearranged a few levels.

Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy

This revised Bloom’s Taxonomy is used by instructional designers across the globe to frame learning objectives for eLearning courses and assessments. Let’s see how each level differs from the other in framing learning objectives.

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6 Levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and Learning Objectives

1. Remembering

This is the first and most basic level of learning that involves simply recalling or recognizing factual information. The common action verbs used for learning objectives for this learning level are: list, outline, define, name, match, recall, identify, and label.

Example learning objectives:

  • By the end of this course, learners will be able to list all steps to fill out a purchase order form in an ERP system.
  • By the end of this course, learners will be able to name all parts of a robot vacuum cleaner.

You can use simple quiz assessments like fill the blanks and multiple-choice questions for assessments at this level, as learners merely need to recall factual information.

2. Understanding

This is the second level of learning where learning goes beyond memorizing factual information and focuses on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of things. At this level, learners need to be able to understand the meaning of the information provided and interpret it for their use. The common action verbs used in learning objectives for this learning level are: describe, explain, paraphrase, give original examples of, summarize, contrast, interpret, discuss.

Example learning objectives:

  • By the end of this course, learners will be able to describe different ways that a purchase order form can be rendered invalid.
  • By the end of this course, learners will be able to explain how the vacuum cleaner works.

Assessments in eLearning courses that you can use for this level include drag n drop, match the columns, arrange in sequence, etc., to assess learners’ understanding.

3. Applying

The third level of Bloom’s taxonomy focuses on translating knowledge into action. The learning objectives at this level should enable learners to apply the information they have learned to perform a task or activity at hand. The corresponding action verbs for learning objectives for this learning level are: calculate, apply, solve, show, illustrate, use, demonstrate, determine, and perform.

Example learning objectives:

  • Demonstrate how to generate a purchase order using the given information.
  • Show how to clean out the robot vacuum cleaner after use.

For the first learning objective, you can use Watch-Try-Do simulations to assess if learners can generate a purchase order on their own at the end of the course.

4. Analyzing

This level of Bloom’s taxonomy focuses on the analytical and comparative aspects of learning. The learning objectives at this level should enable learners to think critically, analyze a given situation, and apply that knowledge to perform a task. The action verbs used for learning objectives at this level are: classify, break down, categorize, analyze, criticize, simplify, compare.

Example learning objectives:

  • Compare the sales process followed in the US vs. the UK.
  • Analyze the malfunctioning vacuum cleaner to identify the problem.
  • Classify different forms generated in the ERP system into orders, purchase orders, and payroll.

Scenarios, especially branching scenarios, can be a useful instructional strategy for this level of learning. Also, since achieving this level of learning can be complex and may need the instructor’s guidance, you can employ blended learning and collaborative learning approaches for this.

5. Evaluating

At this level of Bloom’s taxonomy, learning objectives enable learners to assess the information given and take decisions or act based on their assessment. The action verbs used for these learning objectives include choose, support, defend, judge, grade, argue, justify, support, convince, select, evaluate, assess, rank.

Example learning objectives:

  • Assess the impact that creating a purchase order has on the organization’s Procure-to-Pay process.
  • Convince a customer why your vacuum cleaner is better than a competitor’s product.
  • Justify the high cost of the robot vacuum cleaner.

This level of learning is best handled through a blended learning approach but can be done through a custom made eLearning program as well.

6. Creating

This is the highest level of learning where learners should be able to build on their existing knowledge and create a new idea or product. The action verb for learning objectives at this level can be: design, formulate, build, invent, create, compose, generate, derive, modify, and develop.

Example learning objectives:

  • Modify the current vacuum cleaner model to make it more energy efficient.
  • Formulate a new sales plan to increase revenue.
  • Create a new mobile app using the C++ programming language.

End Note

Bloom’s taxonomy is still followed religiously by most learning designers six decades after it was proposed, because it simplifies our understanding of how learning happens and progresses in an average human. But there is another important thing to note about this 6-level taxonomy. Though learning progresses from basic to advance level, it doesn’t need to go through all the 6 levels. It can skip a few steps based on the current level of learners’ knowledge and their job requirements.

So now you know the science and the amount of thought that goes into framing effective learning objectives. But that is just the first step in designing an effective eLearning course. If you want to know more about the instructional design that goes into eLearning, download our eBook.

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