Our workshops need to be built upon solid learning theories. Bloom’s revised taxonomy is the base upon which we will develop all workshops and classes.
Bloom believed that to learn, students need to move through phases of learning that proceed in an ordered fashion, from lower order thinking to higher order thinking. These phases range from remember to create.
Graphically it can be represented as:
Graphic credit: https://tips.uark.edu/using-blooms-taxonomy/
We can also represent Bloom Taxonomy as a staircase.
Why is Bloom’s Taxonomy so important and foundational to what we are trying to do?
Without this essential framework, we as instructors would be left to struggle as we tried to define the learning objectives and measures of success. By using Bloom’s taxonomy we are able to easily define, what we actually want our students to be able to do, as a result of having participated in this lesson or workshop.
The steps in Bloom’s taxonomy build upon themselves and movement up through the levels of learning is dependent upon mastery of lower level objectives.
- Before you can understand a concept, you must remember it.
- To apply a concept you must first understand it.
- In order to evaluate a process, you must have analyzed it.
- To create an accurate conclusion, you must have completed a thorough evaluation.
What would a learning objective look like for a lesson or workshop ?
Let’s for example say that we want our students, at the end of the lesson or workshop, to have mastered the first step – Remember.
Our learning objective might look like this:
At the end of this workshop students will be able to identify the steps involved in creating an Agile product backlog.
Success would mean that students can in fact identify those steps. Perhaps they report that out verbally, write a short paper, or discuss those steps in a forum.
How do we help our students to do just that?
We move to the top of the Remember step and select and activity that we feel would help them to achieve the desired outcome. So we may show a video combined with short lecture and provide examples for examination.
This is great!
Yes as an instructor this tool provides you with a framework that is based on solid learning theory. You can spend time focusing on gathering resources, constructing workshops, and providing the human centered design connection that is at the heart of what we do.
In short this is how to teach and how people learn.
In a perfect world as instructors and students we will have ample time, unlimited resources, and a comfortable and inviting learning environment in which to teach and learn.
Reality of course often dictates otherwise. This means that every workshop or class we create may not always result in students moving from the lower order of thinking to the highest order of thinking. That is okay.
We can use the understanding we gained through the application of empathy to develop and communicate, realistic outcomes to our sponsor, students, and fellow instructors.
We can also share a representation of Bloom’s Taxonomy as a road-map with our students to hep them understand what we are trying to achieve.
What do all of theses layers actually correspond to when compared to traditional coursework?
If we break down Bloom’s taxonomy we can draw parallels between that and course level numbering typically used in higher education.
A quick review of course levels:
- 100 -200 level classes are typically included in year one and two bachelor program course work.
- 300 -400 level classes are typically included in year three and year bachelor program course work.
- 500 -600 level classes are typically included in master’s program course work.
We can directly map Bloom’s Taxonomy to course levels:
- 100-200 level classwork would map to the remember and understand layers
- 300-400 level classwork would map to the apply and analyze layers
- 500-600 level classwork would map to the evaluate and create layers.
As you can see it would be almost impossible to move students from 100-200 level classwork to 500-600 level classwork in a short workshop or class.
We can do things to help move the entry point for students:
Can We Flip It?
Traditional instructional delivery consists of an instructor delivering knowledge or providing access to knowledge in a classroom setting. We can make our time in class spent together more interesting and productive by “flipping the classroom”. Flipping the classroom, as a concept means that we will provide the students with resources to be reviewed and absorbed prior to the first class meeting. Done well this is a very effective means of accelerating movement through the phases of learning.
We start by deciding what we want the students to able to do once class is over. This the objective for the workshop or lesson.
If we want students to be able to apply facts,rules, concepts, and ideas at the end of the face to face class, we would draw a demarcation at the understanding layer of Bloom’s stack. Anything to do with the Remember and Understand layers can be made available prior to class and is eligible be “flipped”. Anything that would be part of the Apply layer would be handled in class during face to face meeting times. This creates a classroom environment that is active and hands on.
Providing access to learning materials prior to class will require some thought. We can use the understanding developed during the Empathy stage to inform that delivery.
- Do we provide links to web sites?
- Do we package materials in video format?
- Are lengthy readings appropriate ?
- Do our students already have some background in the subject?
These types of questions will be relevant for each and every phase of the workshop or class.
What would this look like if we represented this graphically?
Can we flip every class ?
No it will depend upon the circumstances. You may simply not have the opportunity to identify your students prior to your class or workshop. If the opportunity presents itself “flipping” is a great way to get information to your students prior to you scheduled face-to-face meeting time. The advantage being that you can do a quick review with a Q&A ( because we still want them to show that they achieved the learning objective) and then get right into a higher level layer.
What happens next?
Once we have determined if we can flipped the workshop and identified the starting point, we can focus on the layer that we will present during class or workshop.
If we can start at the Apply layer then we have a very engaging starting point. The application of knowledge to a real world project or problem is a powerful way to engage adult learners.
Instructors should choose an example a problem that is very easy to approach. The class time is then used to demonstrate the application of knowledge using that problem or project.
An example of this might be planning to build a bird feeder while teaching Agile project management . Students might list the steps involved such as research the location, types of birds the client wants to see at the feeder, design considerations based on those types of birds. Students would then build a product backlog using Scrum and prioritize the steps involved.
The project is easily understood and students will focus on applying project management methodologies rather than spending time trying to understand what a bird feeder actually is.
Once they have had a chance to apply the knowledge to a “lightweight” sample project, they are then encouraged to tackle a real world project that they have identified as being valuable. In an ideal situation instructors will be able to divide class time into two or three short sessions.
Students will use the time in between classes to apply knowledge to a real world problem. They would then return to discuss that application of knowledge as a group during the second session. Students would report out on what worked and what did not work for them either individually or as teams.
If further sessions are available they would spend the next period of non class time formally documenting their individual analysis. The cycle repeats itself until the entire ladder of Bloom’s taxonomy has been completed.
Available time and resources will be the roadblock!
As stated earlier the above flow is ideal and not typical. The fact that workshops are typically of a limited duration will mean that we can only help students progress up the ladder to a certain point.
If we spend time outlining Bloom’s taxonomy then we can help students to forge their or path. We can help them to embrace the power of the upper layers and the analyzation and evaluation they represent by introducing the review and reflection principles of Agile project methodologies.
If we follow this outline and create a workshop or class is it a finished product?
No it cannot be. Yes we have understood,defined, ideated and know what our workshop or class might look like. We can then create that workshop. But it will only be prototype until we have taught that workshop or class many times and no longer receive informative feedback that helps us to improve the class. We will be constantly refining and re-framing. That feedback is a result of our next step.
Next Step is Reflect