Bloom’s taxonomy is a set of three hierarchical models used to classify educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity. The models organize learning objectives into three different domains: Cognitive, Affective, and Sensory/Psychomotor.
Bloom’s taxonomy was developed to promote higher forms of thinking in education, such as analyzing and evaluating concepts, processes, procedures, and principles, rather than simply memorizing facts. It is a framework for educational achievement in which each level depends on the one below, often drawn as a pyramid. The model is used in instructional design primarily for creating effective learning objectives.
Origins of the model
The models were named after Benjamin Bloom, who chaired the committee of educators at the University of Chicago that devised the taxonomy. He also edited the first volume of the standard text, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, first published in 1956.
L&D leaders still rely on and derive huge benefits from Bloom’s taxonomy when designing training experiences for their learners. Of course, there’s a lot that goes into effective training design. Check out this on-demand webinar recording to hear instructional design expert, Bill Milstid, share his five essential strategies for effective course design.
The three domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy
The first of the three domains, the Cognitive Model, serves as the predominant focus of the model and includes six levels of objectives, starting with knowledge—indeed, the very first stage of learning—which leads to the development of the skills and abilities that are crucial to completing the process: comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
While there are subcategories within each, each stage lies on a continuum. The belief is that learners move up through each level of the pyramid in Bloom’s taxonomy, starting from very basic learning, to acquire deeper knowledge on a subject, with each level crucial to the development of the next.
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New and improved
Though revised each year for 16 years after it was first published, Bloom’s taxonomy was revamped significantly in 2001. More dynamic language replaced the original, static, one-dimensional levels of educational objectives, providing learners with clearer objectives for what is expected of them.
|Original Bloom’s Taxonomy from 1956||Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy in 2001|
Bloom’s taxonomy framework is still valid across all learning environments because it enables the creation of achievable goals that instructors/course developers and learners can both understand and then build a definitive plan to meet them.
Bloom’s Taxonomy & Instructional Design
Learning objectives can be viewed in behavioral terms. As instructional designers collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs) to develop courses, they can see what students are capable of as a direct result of the instruction they have received at each level.
From the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
Using the categorization, courses can be designed with appropriate content and instruction to lead learners up the pyramid of learning. Instructional designers can also design valid assessment tools (i.e., quizzes) to ensure each category is met and in turn, that each part of the course material is in line with the level’s objectives. However, oftentimes, especially in a corporate setting, several of the stages are interconnected and blend into each other.
Learners may not be aware of Bloom’s taxonomy, but to them, it serves to bridge the gap between what they know now, and what they need to learn in order to attain a higher level of knowledge—and perform better at their jobs.
The purpose of applying Bloom’s taxonomy is to create measurable goals—perfect for corporate learning and development. If applied successfully, the learner has acquired a new skill or level of domain expertise and instructional designers are able to effectively assess this learning on an ongoing basis as the course moves through each stage of the framework.
Instructional design fundamentals like Bloom’s are being combined with Agile philosophies to create brand new learning design frameworks. Learn more about it in the free ebook: The Beginner’s Guide to Agile Learning.