Setting Bloom’s Taxonomy Aside

For decades, Bloom’s Taxonomy has been a go-to framework that has helped educators and training professionals think through goals and objectives for their programs. A lot of time and effort and even consternation has been spent over what verb is the right verb for the right level of this framework when creating learning objectives.

In today’s podcast, I offer some thoughts on a more important question to ask: What is the purpose of your training program in the first place? Is it to help people grow awareness of something? Is it to build advanced-level skills?

In next week’s podcast I’ll return and talk about a variety of ways you might accomplish what it is that you’ve set out to accomplish.

Introduction 

Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, I’m your host. I’m also the Co-founder of Endurance Learning. And today your guest is me—I’ll be talking straight through this entire episode. Today’s podcast is going to focus on moving beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy and all those verbs that go with it.

But before I get to that, I do need to mention that our podcast is brought to you by Soapbox, which received Training Magazine’s Choice Award for Authoring Tools for the second year in a row! Soapbox is an online tool that you can use for 5 or 10 minutes, and you can take care of about 50 or 60% of the work when it comes to developing live, instructor-led training. You tell the computer how long your presentation is, how many people are going to attend, whether it’s in-person or virtual, what your learning objectives are, and you get a lesson plan and slides instantly. Don’t just take my word for it. Go ahead right now and sign up for your free trial at www.soapboxify.com.

All right. Let’s talk about Bloom’s Taxonomy and getting beyond Bloom’s. But before we get there, let’s talk about Bloom’s Taxonomy for a minute, just so that we can levelset, especially for people who aren’t quite as familiar with this idea of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The Origins of Bloom’s Taxonomy

So Bloom’s Taxonomy actually comes from the world of classroom and K-12 education. It’s a framework that was developed back in 1956 by a guy named Benjamin Bloom, thus the name, and he had several other collaborators, but it’s his name that’s on the taxonomy, right? And the purpose of this was to break education goals up into six different categories, and those categories were: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. It’s a hierarchical model, and in order to analyze something, you first need knowledge about it and you need to understand it. That’s kind of how this framework works. There are entire books that are written about the topic. If you want to know more about it, go ahead and Google “Bloom’s Taxonomy” after you’re done listening here.

Bloom’s Taxonomy: Revised

But this framework was actually revised in 2001. The idea is the same—it’s a framework to clarify learning goals. And as frameworks go, I personally like this. But if you get into the world of social media and learning & development professionals, you’ll see that some people have really strong opinions about how this taxonomy has come to be applied in our work.

One of those areas that people have gotten very upset about are the verbs that are associated with Bloom’s Taxonomy. You’ve probably heard about them if you’ve done any work at all with learning objectives. Since Bloom’s was a framework focused on goals, it’s natural that it was used to help teachers and training designers begin to put together learning objectives. We all know what learning objectives are and how they rely on key verbs.

If you’re at the knowledge level, for example, then perhaps you want your learners to simply know something. (LAUGHTER) Just kidding! I wanted to make sure you were paying attention. We obviously never use the word “know” in a learning objective because it’s very difficult to observe whether your learners actually “know” something. But at the knowledge level, perhaps we want our learners to define a term or show us that they’ve memorized some facts—those kinds of verbs that are used with Bloom’s. And it’s almost become dogmatic—we have to find the right verb at the right level. And so I’m thinking we might want to go beyond this framework and those associated verbs, just as we start to think about training projects.

Find the Purpose of Your Learning Program

Honestly, I love the idea of a framework. I’m not sure that Bloom’s Taxonomy, with its revised form even, gives us in the world of training the best framework when it comes to learning goals, at least. In the world of learning and development, I do think that we as instructional designers need to first declare the purpose of the learning program we’re designing before we begin worrying about specific learning objectives. I’m suggesting that if you place your next learning program into one of the following eight categories, and each category is kind of a question that you’ll have to ask yourself, you’ll be better able to decide how to meet your learning goals.

Eight Categories of Learning Programs

These are the eight questions that I would suggest you ask yourself.

  • Is this learning program intended to create initial awareness or share information?
  • Is it intended to help people learn a new skill?
  • Is it intended to help people build upon a foundational knowledge and build advanced skills?
  • Is it intended to remind or refresh people’s memories on something they’ve already learned, but need to keep in mind?
  • Is it intended to facilitate some sort of change on your team or across the organization?
  • Is your learning program specifically to provide just-in-time or on-demand information?
  • Is your learning program supposed to serve as pre-work in advance of a larger training program?
  • And finally, is it supposed to serve to boost people’s awareness and knowledge following a training program?

So there are eight different categories of learning programs that you might need to choose from to decide, first of all, what’s even the appropriate intervention before we get into what are the learning objectives? It may not even be a formal learning program that you want to put together. The first thing you need to do is to ask yourself one of those questions and see if the answer is “yes.”

Beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy: The Summary

In sum, I feel that Bloom’s Taxonomy has a place as a framework to keep in mind and put into an instructional designer’s toolkit. But before we start thinking about learning objectives, we really do need to stop and ask ourselves the question: what is this training program really supposed to accomplish? In today’s podcast, I’ve shared eight different things a training program might want to accomplish.

In next week’s podcast, I’ll be joined again just by myself, and I’ll return to this framework and I’ll expand upon the different kinds of training activities you might want to consider based upon what you said you want to accomplish. So if you wanted to accomplish, for example, creating initial awareness or share information, you might not need an instructor-led training or an eLearning. You might just want a job aid. So next week I’m going to be talking a little bit more about how to approach some of these different programs based on what it is that you say that you want to accomplish.

In the meantime, if you’re listening or perhaps reading the transcript of this podcast on www.trainlikeachampion.blog, and you think that there’s still some sort of purpose for training that isn’t included in one of these eight categories that I’ve listed, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Go ahead and send me a note at brian@endurancelearning.com and let me know if I’m missing anything.

Thank you so much for listening. If you’re looking for some inspiration on how a variety of elements can combine to form a stellar training program, maybe you’d like to pick up a copy of my book, What’s Your Formula? This book has 51 different elements all laid out in a neat little periodic table of learning, and it can be found www.amazon.com. If you want to be sure that you’re notified of a new podcast when it’s hot off the press, please subscribe at Apple or Spotify, wherever you listen to your podcast. And until next time, everyone, happy training.

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