Many college faculty have heard of Bloom’s Taxonomy and have probably used one of the many helpful lists of accompanying verbs to craft measurable learning objectives. The six categories in Bloom’s Taxonomy for the Cognitive Domain (revised in 2001) – remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating – has been the go-to resource for writing learning objectives for over 50 years, assisting countless educators.
The goal of using Bloom’s Taxonomy is to articulate and diversify our learning goals. So why has the writing of learning objectives, considered to be an essential aspect of creating effective and engaging learning experiences, too often been viewed as an uninspiring task? Shouldn’t this be where our passion as teachers comes through? Could it be we are focusing on a limited aspect of learning?
Bloom’s Taxonomy has been used for so long because it makes sense and is useful, but perhaps it is time we move beyond Bloom to explore all the types of learning we are trying to achieve in a college-level course. Luckily there are other taxonomies we can use. In fact, Bloom’s taxonomy of the cognitive domain is only one of the taxonomies created by Bloom and his colleagues. A quick Internet search will uncover the work begun by Bloom and furthered by other scholars in the psychomotor and affective domains.
Additionally, L. Dee Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning Outcomes goes beyond cognitive processes and includes other aims of teaching. Fink’s taxonomy contains six aspects of learning:
Similarly, Wiggins and McTighe’s backwards design model describes Six Facets of Understanding:
Both of these taxonomies start with the foundational knowledge necessary for deeper learning, and allow us to tease out the type of thinking we want students to be doing. But both go beyond cognitive processes and application of knowledge to also explore some of the larger goals of our courses. Nearly all courses including some affective goals, whether it is a deeper appreciation of culture, or simply to change someone’s deep dislike of math or feelings of inadequacy about writing. And nearly all courses should include some metacognitive aspects, helping students develop the habits necessary of a lifelong learner in the 21st century.
Once we have clarified and articulated all the various objectives in our course, we can then choose the most appropriate teaching and assessment methods. For example, lectures and presentations are well suited for the transfer of foundational knowledge and could be useful for some cognitive processes, but are not effective for promoting application skills or perspective taking or self-discovery. Davis and Arend provide yet another categorization that can help educators determine which teaching methods are best suited for which learning objectives:
Which taxonomy you choose, or how you mix them together, might be a matter of personal choice. But articulating our goals beyond what we are used to describing will allow us to capture the entirety of what we are teaching, and perhaps become more passionate about our work. It’s worth a look into some of these other taxonomies, beyond Bloom, that can help us with these larger goals.
To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Seneca College and New York Institute of Technology.
Bridget Arend, PhD
Director of University Teaching
Office of Teaching and Learning
University of Denver
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