Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

Learning at the Right Level

Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives - Learning at the Right Level

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Identify where you are on the pyramid.

Are you an expert at everything?

Of course, your answer is probably no. No matter what we do, none of us are experts at every single thing that we're responsible for: some tasks need only a minimal amount of knowledge, while others require us to know the subject in detail.

Our level of expertise largely depends on our role. or instance, an administrative assistant may know nothing about SWOT Analysis, but his boss has asked him to learn about the topic before the next department meeting, so that he can take good notes. For this role, the assistant needs only a limited amount of understanding.

The boss, however, is planning to use SWOT during the meeting to contribute to her company's business plan for the upcoming year. Her understanding of SWOT must be much greater than her assistant's.

On the other hand, a university professor needs to decide if SWOT is a significant enough tool to use in his course curriculum. His understanding of SWOT Analysis must be particularly strong if he wants to make an informed decision for his students.

In these examples, the level of understanding that each of these people needs depends on their use of the information. To use your learning time more effectively, you must define the level of understanding you need before you start learning.

So, how can you be clear about your starting point, so that you can ensure that you reach the necessary level – without wasting time developing your understanding beyond that level? This is when a tool like Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives can be useful.

In this article, we'll examine Bloom's Taxonomy, and we'll explore how you can use it with your team to help your people achieve their learning goals more effectively.

Understanding Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom's Taxonomy first appeared in 1956 when Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist, presented the model in "Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals (Book 1: Cognitive Domain)." Despite its age, this handbook is one of the most widely referenced books in education.

Bloom's Taxonomy, although rooted in education, is also useful in a business context, in that it helps you assess how much training and coaching people need to perform effectively in their roles.

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Whenever we learn something new, we start at the lowest level of understanding. The more we learn about the subject, the more we "move up" to the next level in skill and complexity, and the more we're able to do with this information. At the start, we simply know about a topic – but when we reach the highest levels of understanding, we're able to make educated judgments and form well-rounded arguments to support our theories.

This can be neatly summarized in a pyramid diagram as shown in figure 1 below. Here, the most basic levels of understanding are wider than the higher levels, because many more people will have basic knowledge of a subject than have higher-level knowledge.

Bloom's Taxonomy Diagram

The six levels of Bloom's Taxonomy relate to "cognitive" functions – i.e. functions associated with knowledge, comprehension and application. Let's look at each level in greater detail, starting at the lowest:

  1. Knowledge – This is learning on its most basic level. People at this level can remember specifics such as terminology and dates, and they can remember facts and figures to answer basic questions.
  2. Comprehension – Comprehension means that individuals can derive meaning from their knowledge by organizing, comparing, and interpreting the information.
  3. Application – When people can apply their knowledge, they can use the information in a new or different way to solve problems.
  4. Analysis – At this level, individuals can break the information down into parts, and then examine those parts individually. The team can see how each piece relates to the whole, understanding things like cause and effect as well as relationships.
  5. Synthesis – Synthesis means that individuals can put together all of the elements to form a whole.
  6. Evaluation – This last level means that people can make educated judgments about the information, and they can propose new solutions.

Note:

The pyramid representation is a later interpretation of Bloom's work, developed by Lorin Anderson, a former student of his. Anderson worked with a group of educators and psychologists to update the taxonomy. Published in 2000 as "A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing", the other big difference was that they changed the name for each level from a noun to a verb:

Bloom's Original Level Revised Level
Knowledge Remembering
Comprehension Understanding
Application Applying
Analysis Analyzing
Synthesis Creating
Evaluation Evaluating

The benefit of Bloom's Taxonomy is that it helps us identify where we, and individuals within our teams, currently are on the pyramid, so we can ensure that people are learning at the right level. We can also use the pyramid to help guide our people through the levels to reach the levels of learning and understanding that they need to do their jobs effectively.

How to Use the Tool

So, how can you use Bloom's Taxonomy with your team? We'll pick up on our earlier example to help illustrate how you can apply this tool in team development.

Imagine that you're using SWOT Analysis to help shape your company's strategy for next year. You're leading a team of people who know nothing about SWOT – and until they do, you can't move forward with this work.

Level 1: Knowledge

At this level, knowledge can be repeated in the same way it was learned – writing, defining, listing, labeling, and naming.

Using our SWOT example, your team would be able to:

  • Tell you what SWOT is.
  • Explain each element of SWOT Analysis.

Level 2: Comprehension

Here, knowledge turns into comprehension and understanding. Explaining, summarizing, paraphrasing, and illustrating take place.

At this level, your team would be able to:

  • Describe why SWOT would be helpful in a business plan.
  • Understand the benefits and disadvantages of SWOT Analysis.

Level 3: Application

Here, an actionable plan is created. Computing, solving, applying, and constructing take place.

At this level, your team would be able to:

  • Construct an intelligent SWOT Analysis for each of your company's products.
  • Apply specific company performance metrics within this SWOT Analysis.

Level 4: Analysis

Fact is separated from fiction. Categorizing, comparing, separating, and contrasting take place.

At this level, your team would be able to:

  • Break down each level of their analysis, and clearly see how each level works as part of the whole.
  • Debate strategic issues within the analysis to ensure that they're addressing the most important topics.
  • Compare SWOT with other strategy tools, such as USP Analysis and Core Competence Analysis, as a basis for forming strategy.

Level 5: Synthesis

At this level, integration and creativity occur. Old information is put together in a new way. Creating, designing, inventing, and developing – as well as checking and critiquing – take place.

Your team would be able to:

  • Hypothesize whether SWOT Analysis would function better if used in combination with another strategy tool.
  • Add new elements to the SWOT approach to make it more useful.

Level 6: Evaluation

In this last stage of learning, complete understanding has occurred. All of the parts come together, resulting in action. Judgment, recommendations, and justifications take place.

Your team would be able to:

  • Justify and defend the analysis to the board or CEO, and make a strong case for why it is or isn't a suitable tool for developing your organization's strategy.
  • Suggest and/or implement actions or policies that relate directly to the SWOT analysis.

In our example, most members of your team probably need to reach only level 3 (Application), while you would need to understand the tool up to level 6 (Evaluation).

Tip:

If you'd like to find out more about team development, see our articles Understanding Developmental Needs and Training Needs Assessment.

Key Points

Correctly identifying your team's level of knowledge can help you make sure your people are at the right level to ensure a project's success. Bloom's Taxonomy model will help you see clearly where your team is currently, so that you can determine where they need to be to achieve set goals.