All About Learning Objectives
Think back to the last eLearning course or training program you took.
Did the session begin with a long list of bullets outlining what you’d learn in the experience?
Chances are, it did.
And chances are also pretty good that whoever wrote the list called them “learning objectives.”
We often see learning objectives set up in a predictable way:
“After completing this course, learners should be able to…” followed by a list of bullets.
Ideally, these bullets begin with verbs that detail what we should do with the information we’ll be learning, such as “Dance the macarena” or “Bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies.”
But more often than not, there’s a misalignment between the learning objectives and the learning content.
There tends to be a whole lot of information-dumping about the thing, and not nearly enough time spent practicing doing the thing.
For example, a workshop could provide a whole historical background about the history of the macarena, but if learners didn’t get a chance to see it danced–or to try dancing it themselves to get feedback–that’s going to be a problem if they’re asked to perform it.
Especially if whoever commissioned the workshop is expecting competent macarena dancing from learners after they participated in the experience.
As instructional designers and learning professionals, a key part of our roles involves creating learning objectives–aka goals–for a training program or learning experience.
But because this is so often done poorly–if at all–just about everyone tends to scowl whenever they hear the word “training.”
But fear not. Benjamin Bloom is here to help with his tip-top Taxonomy.
Find out more in the video below!
What’s Bloom’s Taxonomy?
Created by Benjamin Bloom in the 1950’s, Bloom’s Taxonomy is a way of classifying learning objectives for educational and training situations.
Bloom’s helps us design effective learning experiences by first identifying what we expect learners to do with the information after the training is over, and then building our content around those goals.
Do we expect beginning art students to simply remember a piece of information–such as the fact that Michelangelo sculpted the David between 1501 and 1504 in Florence, Italy?
Or do we expect them to create a sculpture of their own from a raw piece of marble after a single lesson?
By using Bloom’s–and also by communicating well with our stakeholders–we can figure that out in advance and design our curriculum accordingly.
This level-setting helps course designers and learners alike.
By clearly establishing learning objectives from the get-go, we’re creating measurable goals for learners to reach–while also providing ourselves with a clear map forward to design content that gets them there.
We can then build the curriculum around these goals to:
- Creating the conditions for learners to receive the information required;
- Get practice with feedback taking the actions we want them to take;
- Demonstrate their competency in reaching these goals.
(Macarena dance-off, anyone?)
In essence, Bloom’s is beautiful. Let’s explore why.
The Basics of Bloom’s
Bloom’s taxonomy is broken into three domains or types of learning:
Beyond that, Bloom’s is broken into six categories of learning, which tend to be what instructional designers think of when we’re creating our learning objectives.
Here they are:
These categories build up from the bottom of the pyramid from least to most sophisticated.
Let’s double-click into each to explore.
This refers to a learner’s ability to recall and know facts about specifics. Remembering acts as the foundation for all higher-level thinking.
To create learning objectives around Remembering, use verbs like: identify, list, define, and recognize.
This refers to a learner’s ability to comprehend the knowledge they’ve attained. At this level, learners have grasped meaning from the material and can translate that knowledge into a new context.
To create learning objectives around Understanding, use verbs like: compare, summarize, tell, and explain.
This refers to the learner’s ability to use knowledge in new settings, or using information learned in new ways to solve problems.
To create learning objectives around Applying, use verbs like: apply, use, demonstrate, and classify
This refers to the learner’s ability to break down information into parts, identify patterns, and interpret the data for meaning.
To create learning objectives around Analyzing, use verbs like: analyze, order, examine, and connect
This refers to the learner’s ability to evaluate information based on personal judgments and opinions about its value or significance in a particular situation or context.
To create learning objectives around Evaluating, use verbs like: evaluate, measure, determine, rate
This refers to the learner’s ability to generate new ideas, solutions, or products. This is the most complicated of the categories, and therefore sits at the top.
To create learning objectives around Creating, use verbs like: design, invent, modify, and rearrange.
How can you create learning objectives with Bloom’s?
Using Bloom’s to craft learning objectives is both an art and a science. There’s a formula to follow, but there’s also a little room for improv, too.
Here are three steps to take next time you receive a project request.
1. What’s the goal?
What does the learner need to be able to do after completing this learning experience? Visualizing them taking the action may help.
Chances are you’ll have a handful of goals. Pick one, and that’s your starting point.
2. What its level?
Where does that action fall on the pyramid? Find the corresponding level.
Where should you aim? It depends on the goals.
Cathy Moore suggests shooting for at least one learning objective bullet that involves “application” or higher will help you create a more dynamic learning experience.
(Think back to the macarena example. Stopping at the first or second category would be zero fun!)
3. What’s your verb?
Which word from that level’s category can you use to narrow down your goal into a measurable learning objective? Is there a different synonym that could make your LO even more LO-VELY?
There are countless Bloom’s cheat sheets online.
My advice? Do some searching and find a cheat sheet you like–then bookmark it and refer back during the Analysis and Design phase of ADDIE.
What’s the TL; DR on Bloom’s Taxonomy?
Bloom’s is an essential framework for all learning professionals to use during the early-on stages of course development.
Thinking thoughtfully about our end-goal for a learning experience helps us map out our content
Bloom’s let us level-set with learners from the get-go about what we expect them to be able to do after completing the training.
Then it’s up to us to build something that helps them achieve that goal.
It’s no small feat, but with Benjamin’s help… we can do it!