Learning Objectives and Bloom’s Taxonomy

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Unit 2: Learning Objectives and Bloom’s Taxonomy

Defining and Writing Learning Objectives

Learning goals and objectives help you develop a set of performance expectations, which then enable you to develop content that is appropriate for your instruction. With skills to prioritize and organize learning goals, you can build a teaching foundation to ensure that you can guide and measure student learning.

Thus, it is critical to know:

  • What should students learn? 
  • How will students demonstrate what they have learned?
  • How will students learn for future learning?

To properly assess student learning, it is essential to create defined and attainable outcomes.

Learning objectives measure behaviors and anticipated outcomes as a result of instruction and require that a teacher: 

  • Decide what activities and behaviors will be monitored.
  • Give students the opportunity to demonstrate what they know.
  • Discuss with students how they did on assessments.

With these ideas in mind, you will have a frame and a guide to assessment. This process will inform your teaching practice.

Writing Learning Objectives

One way to think about writing learning objectives is to think about it in the following process:

A (audiences), B (behaviors), C (conditions), D (degree)

(A) Audience: Who are you addressing? What are the individual learning needs as well as any group needs? Example: the incoming class of grade eight students will be able to understand how the library classifies books.

(B) Behaviors: What do the students have to do in order to show that they have learned the lesson?  Example: identify parts of the library to answer questions about using it as a resource for learning.

(C) Condition: What, for example, are the conditions or steps necessary for identifying how a student will identify the parts of the library. For example, after participating in a 50-minute orientation session, the students will:

  •  Name the services available to help them with their information needs.
  •  Locate the library resources.
  • Access the online catalog and index pages. Practice searching in the library.

(D) Degree: As a teacher, you have to decide what level your students are at.  Under what circumstances will the learning take place? What skills will be demonstrated to show that learning is occurring? What is the expected level of accomplishment?

Try to be as realistic as possible with the degree of competence. You don’t want to aim too low, but you want the tasks to allow for a margin of error and improvement. In this case, the objectives of the lesson will be met when students can access the library indexes and the catalog.

Often, when writing learning objectives, we are tempted to use the words “understand” or “appreciate” to say what the learner will be able to do. These are vague terms and not easily measurable. For the most effective assessment of the learning experience, use only measurable action verbs that clearly describe what you expect from the learner. When this information is shared with the students, they will have a strong understanding of what is expected of them and how they can demonstrate it.

In this particular example of a learning objective, the verbs “name”, “identify”, “locate”, “access”, and “practice” are activities and behaviors that are measurable.  We suggest that you write your learning objectives using action verbs.

A great deal of scientific studies and teacher experiences has focused on a taxonomy (or scale) that describes how students learn.  We call this cognitive learning.  Though building a memory and recalling facts are all important factors in being an educated person, cognitive learning also has to do with how students gain skills in learning through:

  • Comprehending information.
  • Organizing ideas.
  • Analyzing and synthesizing data.
  • Applying knowledge.
  • Choosing from alternatives in problem-solving.
  • Evaluating ideas or actions.

Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains - The Three Types of Learning

Benjamin Bloom, working with his colleagues, identified three domains of educational activities:

  1. Cognitive: (mental skills, intellectual capability: knowledge, thinking)
  2. Affective: (feelings, emotions, behavior: attitude, feeling)
  3. Psychomotor: (manual and physical skills: skills, doing)

Teachers tend to look at this taxonomy of learning behaviors as the goals of teaching, which means that the goal of our work is for the learner to acquire new skills, knowledge, and/or attitudes. Other systems and hierarchies have been developed, but Bloom's taxonomy is easily understood and is probably the most widely applied one in use today.

Cognitive Domain

The cognitive domain involves knowledge and the development of intellectual skills. Listed below are the six major categories in this domain. They start with the simplest – stating and recalling facts – and proceed to the most complex – assessing and appraising. These categories are often described as varying degrees of difficulty. In other words, they have to be mastered one after the other, not at the same time.

  • Knowledge: arrange, define, state, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce.
  • Comprehension: classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify, indicate, locate, recognize, report, restate, review, select, translate.
  • Application: apply, choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, practice, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write.
  • Analysis: analyze, appraise, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experience, question, test.
  • Synthesis: arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, manage, organize, plan, prepare, propose.
  • Evaluation: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose, compare, defend, estimate, judge, predict, rate, select, support, evaluate.

Affective Domain

This domain focuses on feelings, values, and attitudes. Affective learning is demonstrated by behaviors indicating attitudes of awareness, interest, attention, concern, responsibility, and ability to listen to and respond in interactions with others. This refers to emotions, attitudes, appreciation, and values – such as “enjoys”, “conserves”, “respects”, or “supports”. The five major categories in this domain are listed below starting with the simplest and ending with the most complex.

  • Receiving Phenomena: ask, choose, describe, follow, give, hold, identify, locate, name, point to, select, sit, erect, reply, use.
  • Responding to Phenomena: answer, assist, aid, comply, conform, discuss, greet, help, label, perform, practice, present, read, recite, report, select, tell, write.
  • Valuing: complete, demonstrate, differentiate, explain, follow, form, initiate, invite, join, justify, propose, read, report, select, share, study, work.
  • Organization: adhere, alter, arrange, combine, compare, complete, defend, explain, formulate, generalize, identify, integrate, modify, order, organize, prepare, relate, synthesize.
  • Internalizing values: act, discriminate, display, influencs, listen, modify, perform, practice, propose, qualify, question, revise, serve, solvs, verify.

When working in this area, it is best to use verbs that fit the situation.  For example, the student accepts, attempts, challenges, defends, disputes, joins, judges, questions, shares, supports.

Psychomotor Domain

Psychomotor learning is demonstrated by physical skills; coordination, dexterity, manipulation, strength, speed, etc.; actions which demonstrate the fine motor skills, such as use of precision instruments and tools, or actions with evidence of gross motor skills, such as the use of the body in dance or athletic performance. Verbs that apply here include bend, grasp, handle, operate, reach, write, and perform. The categories in this domain are as follows:

  • Perception: choose, describe, detect, differentiate, distinguish, identify, isolate, relate, select.
  • Set (readiness to act): begin, display, explain, move, proceed, react, show, state, volunteer. (This category of the Psychomotor Domain is related to the Responding category in the Affective Domain).
  • Guided Response: copy, trace, follow, react, reproduce, respond.
  • Mechanism: assemble, calibrate, construct, dismantle, display, fasten, fix, grind, heat, manipulate, measure, mend, mix, organize, sketch.
  • Complex Overt Response: assemble, build, calibrate, construct, dismantle, display, fasten, manipulate, measure, mend, mix, organize, sketch. (The activities are the same as for the Mechanism category, but they will be modified by adverbs or adjectives that indicate that the performance is quicker, better, or more accurate).
  • Adaptation: adapt, alter, change, rearrange, reorganize, revise, vary.
  • Origination: arrange, build, combine, compose, construct, create, design, initiate, make, originate.

Knowing Bloom’s Taxonomy allows us to ask specific questions in order to test different categories of our students’ intellectual skills. The Taxonomy helps us organize our questions into different levels of cognition. However, research has shown that teachers tend to rely too much on knowledge-based questions only and do not explore other categories of the cognitive domain frequently enough.

Let’s look at some examples of different types of questions for each of the categories in Bloom’s Cognitive Domain.

The Knowledge level of questions requires merely that students recall information. All students need to do is re-state the content they have been given by the teacher or in a textbook. Some of the common Knowledge questions are as follows:

  • What is the biggest city in South Africa?
  • Who wrote Macbeth?

Comprehension level questions require that students go beyond simple recall and combine information together in order to arrive at an answer. For example:

  • How would you illustrate photosynthesis?
  • What is the main idea in this story?
  • What will happen if we combine these two shapes?

At the Application level, students are asked to apply something they already know to a new situation. They have to use their knowledge in a different context. Some examples of application questions are as follows:

  • How would you use your knowledge of latitude and longitude to locate Iceland?
  • Can you think of another instance where you could use this formula?

Teachers ask Analysis questions when they want students to break down something into its component parts or to identify reasons, causes, or motives and reach conclusions or generalizations. For example, a teacher could ask:

  • What are some of the factors that cause oxidization?
  • What factors prompted the United States to enter World War II?
  • What was the underlying theme of this novel?
  • What were some of Hamlet’s motives behind his actions?
  • What was the turning point of his life?

When teachers ask Synthesis questions they do so to engage students in creative and original thinking and to invite them to produce original solutions, ideas, and attempt problem-solving. Here are some examples of synthesis questions:

  • Can you see a possible solution to this new problem?
  • What kind of compromise could you devise here?
  • Create a new product for teenagers and plan a marketing campaign for it.
  • Write a TV show script or a play about your challenges with this unit.

Evaluation questions require that students make a judgment about something. This is what happens when teachers ask them to judge the value of an idea, a work of art, or a solution to a problem. Students engage at this level when they are invited to make their own decisions and solve problems. Evaluation questions could include:

  • What do you think about this novel so far?
  • Which poem did you like the best?
  • Do you think our president did the right thing?

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource. fred. (2008, June 13). Education for the New Millennium. Retrieved May 04, 2010, from TWB Courseware Web site. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. http://i.creativecommons.org/l/by/3.0/88x31.png