As an instructor, you are charged with cultivating a learning environment in which your learners walk away with new information. To demonstrate this growth, the ANSI/IACET 1-2018 Standard requires the assessment of learning outcomes. However, there is much to consider when it comes to composing session “take-aways” or determining successful completion of a course. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a very helpful tool in guiding the development and assessment of learning outcomes.
Bloom’s Taxonomy consists of a pyramid hierarchy layered with levels of knowledge. Within each category are corresponding verbs reflecting the necessary skills to achieve each respective level. In addition, each section includes various assessment methods that directly correlate to and exemplify those abilities.
The most basic demonstration of understanding exists as the foundation for all: “knowledge.” At this level, learners are introduced to facts, often involving rote memorization and repetition. The next level is “comprehension”, involving a general understanding of a given topic. Learners who demonstrate this can discuss, describe, and explain on command. A step up from comprehension is the “application” of the material, in which information can be applied in a variety of situations. Once a learner is able to take what they learned and use it in a given context, they are then capable of “analysis” – using what they know to compare, inspect, and distinguish. The last two levels are the “synthesis” and “evaluation” of content, which involve producing, creating, and judging and ultimately demonstrates mastery of material.
In 2001, a revised edition of Bloom’s Taxonomy was published.[i] This featured action-oriented knowledge categories to represent the continuous state of learning. The amended taxonomy also swapped the order of Evaluation (Evaluate) and Synthesis (Create).
Consider what your learners need to know by the end of your training. What must they produce or demonstrate to have successfully completed the learning event? Always begin with the end in mind. This will encourage organization within the instructional design and provide the necessary direction for success. One of the core tenants of composing learning outcomes is never to use vague language such as “learners will understand” or “learners will appreciate” a given topic. Learning outcomes need to be measurable, identifiable, and specific so that it is clear whether requirements have been met. Bloom’s contains multiple suggestions of key verbs for learning outcomes that accurately represent each level of knowledge.
“By the end of this session, learners will administer CPR at a rate of 30:2 compressions-to-breaths for two minutes.”
“By the end of this course, learners will design an energy-efficient house, incorporating cost-effective and realistic products into a digitally-produced presentation.”
At face-value, Bloom’s Taxonomy poses general points of reflection such as “how do I currently assess knowledge in my trainings?” You can probably quickly identify the methods of assessment you use. However, the beauty of the continuum is how it provokes instructors to take a closer look. Consider why you are assessing by those methods. Can you defend your instructional design such that it functions as a best practice for demonstrating achieved learning outcomes? If not, begin with the outcome(s), and ask: “what is it I want my learners to walk away having demonstrated?” Then, find the best method to represent the appropriate level of knowledge.
Too often, the temptation instructors face is to assess learners using the easiest, most mechanical methods without truly considering why. Consider - what level of knowledge are your learners really supposed to achieve? Using Bloom’s Taxonomy as an aid, compose specific and measurable learning outcomes. With that given level of knowledge, use the corresponding assessment methods as a basis for assessing your learners effectively and accurately in a way that challenges them and promotes the richest learning experience you can offer.
For more information, download this free IACET resource on Bloom’s Taxonomy.
[i] “Revised Bloom's Taxonomy.” Iowa State University: Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching/effective-teaching-practices/revised-blooms-taxonomy/.
As the Coordinator of Accreditation and Training, Alexa is responsible for assisting with matters related to upholding best practices for continuing education and training. Her duties include hosting virtual site visits, helping facilitate IACET workshops and webinars, and providing information throughout the ANSI/IACET 1-2018 Standard and Application review process.
She also serves as the Digital Badging Standard Committee staff liaison.
Alexa has a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Studies and earned a Master of Education from George Mason University. She lives in the Washington DC metro area, and enjoys staying active, being outdoors, and spending time with friends and family.