Picture this situation. You decide to enrol in a new course and feel excited to be learning about a topic you have been interested in for a while.
You arrive at the first hour-long session, and the teacher begins by talking for thirty minutes. The other half hour is divided into reading and answering questions independently.
While the teacher is highly knowledgeable and experienced in her field, she isn’t well acquainted with pedagogy – the method and practice of teaching as an academic subject.
The lesson she taught was perfectly acceptable as an introductory class to a new course, yet you would have left the room having very limited new knowledge or understanding.
With online learning, the structure, composition and delivery of sessions is equally important. So, in what ways can online learning be structured to be both more effective and engaging?
One methodology widely accepted as making a learning experience more worthwhile is Bloom’s Taxonomy.
In this article, we are going to explore the thinking behind the methodology and look into how you can apply this in your role as a learning and development professional or participant in workplace learning.
What is Bloom’s Taxonomy?
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a concept that has been in favour in pedagogical research since the 1950s, and it is as relevant today as it was then. The theory is used in classrooms and online learning courses across the world.
Developed by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom and his team, the taxonomy was a significant contribution to the classification of learning objectives and to the theory of mastery learning.
Essentially, the taxonomy can be best described as a learning ladder. In order for a learner to reach the higher-order thinking skills, they need to take the steps on the ladder in the correct order.
A well-designed lesson will include tasks starting with lower-order thinking skills to build knowledge, and move gradually towards the higher-order thinking skills.
The following diagram shows the ranking of different thinking skills in the taxonomy, with remembering being a lower-order thinking skill and creating a higher-order thinking skill. In order to create something new, you need to have completed some or all of the other learning steps first to get there:
Image credit: Rawia Inaim
How knowledge of Bloom’s Taxonomy can help you
Whether you are a learning and development professional or employee engaging in online learning, knowing which course types or activities to focus on to make the most out of learning time is hugely important.
It is also helpful to remember that learning tasks in the upper sections of Bloom’s Taxonomy will be far more engaging because participants will be required to use a broader range of thinking skills, meaning more brainpower and focus is required.
In a work context, employees will often have to use their knowledge to create, analyse or evaluate to add value. If they are trained in how to develop these skills in workplace courses, the learning will be all the more applicable in the real world.
The following tips will help you to navigate choosing an online course, or set of courses, that encourage learners to engage in deeper thinking:
- Before selecting a course, review the activity types
When you explore our library, each course comes with a detailed description of the types of activity learners can expect to engage with when they begin.
Whether a course includes reading, watching instructional videos or project-based activities, you will know before you enrol. You can also enquire before you sign up to find out more from the helpful team.
Activities associated with higher-order thinking include: designing, building, constructing, producing, inventing, judging and critiquing.
- Look out for practical stories
Practical stories help to put learning in context, and are particularly important for workplace training. One of the main goals of staff training is for participants to be able to apply their knowledge in a practical context. Acknowledging this during the learning process makes the transition from online to real-life scenarios much easier.
If you know that a course includes practical scenarios, the course content will be more likely to engage learners in higher-order thinking. For example, learners might need to evaluate or analyse when considering how to respond or react in a given scenario.
Stories also give learners a familiar context to work with. They form a great basis for gaining new knowledge and information, as learners can make connections between new information and situations they already understand.