Effectively using taxonomies to structure an amazing learning experience!

Last year I wrote about a course mapping process that I created to help any individual structure a learning experience that would include measurable outcomes (cognitive), proficiency, and true engagement (affective).

Once the scope of a course is established, a frequent next step is to select action verbs to ensure participants know what they will measurably achieve (cognitive taxonomy). However, measuring cognitive understanding is not the same thing as becoming proficient in practice. As such, setting up a graph such as below (cognitive levels on the y axis and proficiency levels on the x axis) and tightening up the themes is important.


Once those themes are determined, then the affective levels can be assigned for how the learners should be engaged. The course mapping process that I prepared outlined the levels of each taxonomy. However, as I used this for my own “qwik-design” approach, it seemed appropriate to delve into more detail around each taxonomy, resulting in my designing the following three infographics.

Using the Cognitive Taxonomy for Developing Skills
Click on link to download 800*2000 size infographic.


Besides the convenience of seeing each level and it’s intended function, there are some specific recommended steps to perform any time you are selecting actionable and measurable outcomes (left side). My overarching goal with this infographic, however, was showing the inverted way of setting up a learning experience. Do you want them to have a learning journey of self-discovery and mutual negotiation? Then it is extremely beneficial to set up a learning sequence that starts with creating an artifact and work through the levels backwards. They experientially work through each level, eventually get to the point of the Remembering level where they are listing important takeaways that are personally relevant … instead of doing keyword tests before learning how to describe the concepts, which is starting at the Remembering level and working up.




Using the Proficiency Taxonomy for Increasing Competencies
Click on link to download 800*2000 size infographic.


The images in this infographic are designed to identify the conceptual understanding of where we really are when it comes to proficiency. When we are at the Familiarity level, we are really only swirling in our brain. When we are at the Conscious Effort level, we tend to have checklist type behaviours.

My biggest goal here is to show common emotional tendencies across these proficiency levels. As we get certified or are in learning stages of a process or concept, the tendency is to feel quite buff about it, even though our toes are just in the water. As we start practicing effectively and working towards proficiency, it’s easy to experience Imposter Syndrome as quantifiable successes are “excused away” or you have a fear that you’ll be “found out”…. By the time we are well into proficiency, we start struggling to understand why people aren’t getting it. Even if we do understand why, we are usually strong influencers in the field.




Using the Affective Taxonomy to Drive Motivations and Attitudes
Click on link to download 800*2000 size infographic.


The affective taxonomy is a bit different. When designing with writers, it is my recommendation to write outcomes that focus on the mindset or value level they want learners to achieve, even if it’s not specifically measurable. Each of these levels amplify one of the cognitive levels, making the learning to be whole person oriented: connecting the mind and feelings.

However, there are ways for facilitators and trainers to measure it through observations of internal and external behaviours. The questions listed on the left help us notice if the affect is truly working within the learning experience.

There is no magic pill for structuring amazing learning experiences. There are a lot of guidelines, frameworks, and practices … using these three taxonomies to structure a robust learning experience is one such practice. Using just one of these may improve your current structure. Adding a second one may improve it. The value I want to contribute are options for you to consider as all of us work to educate and motivate each other.

Crossposted at LinkedIn.


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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.