Monday, October 31, 2011

Let Bloom guide your learning design

When I design a course, I start by trying to get a feel for the prospective learners. Who are they? What do they expect from this course? What do they already know? Then I start thinking about how to design learning suited to their needs - learning that's interesting, effective, and on point.

If the learners are new to the subject matter, I'll start by getting them to discover pertinent information about the topic. This is the lowest level of   Bloom's Taxonomy; before you can understand or apply a concept or theory, you first have to possess the information, and work at finding ways to understand it. Bloom called this lowest level Knowledge, but most of us now use the updated term 'Remember'. The images below document the changes, the biggest of which is a change from using nouns to verbs to describe the levels:

Traditionally, educators - from K12 to post-secondary - presented information to learners through lectures or reading assignments. I find those methods a bit too static, and truth be told, boring! I flash back to my undergraduate days, when my economics prof used to read to us - from the book - in the dullest of monotones. I swore I'd never do that to my learners.

So how can we design learning that will get the required information to the learners without boring them silly? Well, one thing we can get them to do is to search out the information themselves, using the net, the school library, family, friends, magazines, videos, books...whichever way works best for them. When they've gathered the information, get them to discuss it. If this is a F2F class, use a discussion circle, a buddy system, or small groups. If you're in an online class, use the discussion board - or - better, use your web conferencing system to hold a group discussion. In either case, you can have your learners create videos, slide shows, or audio to help them present their findings. As they gather and subequently discuss and present their findings, they will have a much better understanding of it, which is the second level of Bloom's Taxonomy.

The third level of Bloom is Apply. We can't apply information until we've gathered it, remember it, and understand it. Take the case of a group of students learning group counsellimg skills (this is from a course I'm working on). First, I have the students find information related to group management, facilitation strategies, team dynamics, personalities, etc. Then they discuss what they've found and come to an understanding of what they need to know to become effective counsellors. The information is no good to them in a vacuum. They need to apply it. What better way than to lead a group? After they've each led the group, they'll get feedback from the course facilitator and the other group members.

FYI, years ago, when I took a 'train the trainer' type course, the facilitator took a video of each of us as we presented so we would be able to see how we looked and sounded. It was a great learning tool.

The next three stages of the taxonomy focus on analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Next post we'll concentrate on these HOTS - higher order thinking skills.

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