A Critical Look at Learning Objectives: Knowledge Domain

A Critical Look at Learning Objectives: Knowledge Domain

If you understand Instructional Design, then you know how important the action verbs in your learning objectives are … they need to be relevant and measurable. You also are familiar with the three domains of learning; Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude. Or said in the vernacular of learning psychology; Cognitive, Psychomotor, and Affective domains.

Most general learning and education programs delivered at business and government organizations, as well as colleges and universities, usually only deal with cognitive domain content. There are exceptions, as in regulated industries, private institutes, and advanced study areas such as Medical and Scientific to name just a couple. In these areas of specialization, part of the curriculum does emphasize psychomotor skill building. Rarely is the Affective Domain, related to the instructional subject matter, ever addressed. Usually the issue with inclusion of Affective Domain goals is time and measurement.

For designing education and training, because it helps promote higher forms of thinking, many people use Bloom's Taxonomy. From a Critical Thinking viewpoint … that's good!

The taxonomy is a categorization of how, through education and training, a person's cognitive abilities grow. Bloom's original taxonomy, published in 1956, labeled the hierarchical categories: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation.

When put into use, the taxonomy becomes a framework for the organization and testing of instructionally delivered content.

Below is a graphic of the framework including sample action verbs and potential testing materials and methods.

Contrary to popular belief, Bloom did not choose the action verbs that fit into the categories; nor did the members of the committee of academics, representatives from 19 College/Universities and 4 other educational institutions, taking part in the creation of this taxonomy … at least not collectively. Over the ensuing years, learning and development experts have added them.

The Critical Thinking point I want to make about the action verbs is there can be duplicates.

For example, the verb "list" is often listed as a Level 1 action verb but depending on the goal and context of the instruction, as well as how attainment of the learning objective is going to be measured, it can be used in other knowledge levels.

My Learning Design tool add-in to Microsoft Word, which helps you create a design document for the instructional course you are creating, supplies 160 knowledge level action verbs that range across the six levels. You can edit them to meet your specific needs based on curriculum topic, subject, and purpose … and that is what Bloom et all expected would occur when you apply the taxonomy to your lesson design. In the "Taxonomy of Educational Objectives" handbook and concerning the framework, they wrote, "… convert it from an empty set of terms and definitions to one that the reader finds workable and applicable to his own situation."

The "workable and applicable" philosophy concerning the taxonomy applied again in 2001, when a group of cognitive psychologists and other experts, including a member of the original committee, published a revision to Bloom's original taxonomy and called it Bloom's Revised.

This new committee renamed the labels of some of the levels; Knowledge became Remember and Comprehension became Understand. However, the only really significant change, in my opinion, was Synthesis and Evaluation switching positions in the hierarchy; Evaluation and its definition became Level 5 and Synthesis became Create and took the Level 6 position.

I agree with new order and the category labels are more descriptive for practical use and understanding and have included it in the Learning Design tool. However, just like the taxonomy itself, it really depends on what is workable and applicable to you, so you can choose to use either version.

To me the bottom-line is …

Whether you choose to use the original or revised version of Bloom's Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain, the critically important aspect is choosing the right action verb that appropriately aligns with the end goal of the instructional content and the attainment method planned for learning validation.

A Critical Look at Learning Objectives: Skills and Attitude Domains

A Critical Look at Learning Objectives: Skills and Attitude Domains

Instructor-led Training is Best

Instructor-led Training is Best