Taxonomies of Learning

Bloom’s (1956) cognitive taxonomy are widely accepted and used in both academics and T&D areas of corporate learning. In the spike of learning responsibility across the globe, though, that is a limited number of people with knowledge of its value. Even then, there are few within those groups that apply the affective taxonomy developed twenty years later by Bloom, Krathwohl, and Masia (1973). Despite the challenge, the combined application of these taxonomies is worth the effort to provide a holistic learning experience.

This is in continuation of my blog series on developing effective curriculum.

Why wouldn’t people use both the cognitive and affective taxonomies to produce the effect discussed in the link above? The short answer is that it’s hard. However, that excuse is becoming no longer a viable response as the demand for higher emotional intelligence is rising. Frankly, if people cannot embrace the value of what they are learning, the relevancy for the knowledge has plummeted, and the risk is much higher for your learner to go back to the workplace and perform the same way before your training experience. The solution is to include the affective taxonomy.

Let’s take a look at the taxonomies, how to use them, and how they intertwine.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains

Make sure you check out the revised Cognitive Taxonomy – it is much more language relevant.

Taxonomies are simply classifications. In this instance, Bloom has classified the stages of learning that we experience. Below are some important awareness features you should know when selecting a cognitive level of learning for your educational experience.

  • Knowledge should never or very rarely be used as an outcome. It is simply an embedded aspect to any lesson, exercise, or game that your learners experience. This is a triggering mechanism for your learners memory of information.
  • Comprehension is the most common level targeted by higher education as it focuses on meaningful and integrated learning experiences. This level ensures a learner understands the concept and can interpret it for others.
  • Application is the start of the creative or problem solving area of the taxonomy. This is reaching the higher end of outcomes for single activities within a learning experience.
  • Analysis is the level where we start identifying higher cognitive outcomes on the course or workshop level. Up to this point, the outcomes are perfect for single activities, but Analysis, Evaluate, and Create are all best selected for overall outcomes when the learner is done with the whole experience.
  • Evaluate and Create, again, are best for overall outcomes from the course or workshop. These are best fulfilled by projects that involve iterative progress throughout the learning experience.

The affective taxonomy only has five stages of learning that we experience. However, the integration of them with the cognitive outcomes is essential. We will discuss this in much more detail during the post about fulfilling the selected outcomes. Meanwhile, let’s just go over the relevance of each stage.

  • Receiving is broken down into three sub-groups that include awareness, willingness to receive, and selective attention. As such, this is a stage that is important to motivate students through to being selectively attentive to hear and experience what you are sharing.
  • Responding also has three sub-groups to motivate your learners through. These include agreeable behavior, active behavior, and satisfaction. While satisfaction can take place sooner, it is important to help motivate the learner from the mere agreeable to active behavior.
  • Valuing is a more complex stage where self-reflection of feelings and attitudes come into play. The three sub-groups of this stage include value acceptance, value preference, and value commitment.
  • Organization is the level where we start identifying higher cognitive outcomes on the course or workshop level. Up to this point, the outcomes are perfect for integrating with the single activities, but Organization and Internalization are best selected for overall outcomes when the learner is done with the whole experience. Organization falls into two sub-groups, which are value conceptualization and then value system organization. Before learners can organize their value system, they first have to conceptualize them.
  • Internalization is the ultimate learning experience broken down in the two sub-groups of developing a cluster of attitudes, feelings, and beliefs, and then fully infusing or internalizing those attitudes, feelings, and beliefs at a level where the learner becomes a dominant influencer.

Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives, handbook I: The cognitive domain. New York, NY: McKay Co Inc.

Krathwohl, D. R., Bloom, B. S., and Masia, B. B. (1973). Taxonomy of educational objectives, handbook I: Affective domain. New York, NY: McKay Co Inc.

Reeves, M. F. (1990). An application of Bloom’s Taxonomy to the teaching of business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 9, 609-616.

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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.