How do you know when learning has taken place?
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How do you know when learning has taken place?

This is a question that many teachers are often asked. My response has always been ‘true learning is when you can apply what you have learned i.e. in the workplace’. That said, how do you decide what to include when preparing courses at different levels of academic standards?

This is where knowledge of Blooms Taxonomy will help.

In 1956, Dr Benjamin Bloom (an educational psychologist) created this theory because he felt that rather than simply remembering facts, education should focus on higher forms of thinking. Although Bloom’s Taxonomy was initially created for academic education, it can be applied to all types of learning.

According to Bloom (1956), learning often goes through five stages which should lead to a change in behaviour. These are:

So what does this mean for us as teachers or trainers?

We need to start by getting the attention of our learners. Then we aim to progress through each stage to ensure that learning takes place. These stages relate to our learner’s thinking, their emotions and their actions. Bloom referred to these as ‘Domains of Learning’.

The three domains are:

Cognitive

This relates to our knowledge or mental skills. This is the thinking part of learning.

Affective

This relates to growth in feelings or emotional areas (attitude or self). This is the part that taps into our emotions.

Psychomotor

This relates to our manual or physical skills. These are the actions (what we do with our hands).

Therefore, when we are teaching/training, we must think about which domain we want to reach and how we can get our learners to progress through the five stages. It will help if you know which domain you want to reach before you start to plan the aim and objectives for your teaching/training session. For example:

Cognitive Domain

By the end of the session, the learners will explain what causes global warming.

Affective Domain

By the end of the session, the learners will discuss methods to reduce global warming.

Psychomotor Domain

By the end of the session, the learners will plant a tree.

Levels of Learning

Bloom (1956) identified six progressive levels of learning. These levels have specific verbs assigned to them to denote what learners will be able to know or do.

These are:

Knowledge – the learner can remember and recall facts i.e. to state.
Understanding – the learner comprehends i.e. to discuss.
Application – the learner can apply what they have learned to real situations i.e. to illustrate.
Analysis – the learner can think more deeply and work things out i.e. analyse.
Synthesis – the learner can compile ideas and generate new ones i.e. construct.
Evaluation
– the learner can make and substantiate their judgements i.e. assess.

We can use Blooms theory to help us to produce objectives that are at the correct level for our learners. We also use them to produce objectives for learners who are at different levels within the same session. For example, all of our learners will be able to state (to demonstrate knowledge, most might be able to discuss, to demonstrate understanding) and some might be able to illustrate (to demonstrate application and so on, depending on the level being studied.

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