Blooms Taxonomy of Learning Domains: explained in simple words!

I was asked via twitter recently what I thought about Blooms Taxonomy?

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains. What a title! The first thing that struck me when I decided to write an overview post on the Blooms model was that I needed to keep it simple. This model uses very academic language that is perhaps not the most accessible for us to quickly grasp as busy professionals.

What follows is my simple interpretation of the Blooms Taxonomy of Learning DomainsThis model was first published in 1956 by Dr Benjamin S Bloom. However, it has been altered and added to by others over the years. .

What is all this ‘Domain’ talk?

In simple terms, the Blooms model suggests that learning can be divided into 3 different types:

1) Learning that is transferring knowledge

2) Learning that is developing attitudes

3) Learning that is generating a skill

In the language of Blooms these 3 areas are called ‘domains’ (meaning an area under one rule). The model uses more complicated language to capture each of these areas:

1) The Cognitive Domain (meaning knowing and perceiving). In a simple learning context – knowledge.

2) The Affective Domain (meaning affections and emotions). In a simple learning context – attitude.

3) The Psycomotor Domain (meaning movement). In a simple learning context – skills.

Ok, that helps with Domains, what about the ‘taxonomy’ bit?

This bit is not too complicated either. Taxonomy simply means the classification or something. Or in other words, in this context, the list of things that make up each of the 3 learning types that we have described above.

To explain further….the Blooms model suggests that for each learning type (knowledge, attitude, skills) there are a series of levels that should be considered when designing, delivering and evaluating learning. When considered collectively, the full list of those levels (and the information provided with each level) create the ‘taxonomy’ for that particular learning type (or domain).

Can you explain more about the levels?

In the knowledge domain there are 6 levels and 5 levels in both the attitude and skills domain. The Blooms model offers a descriptive word to summarise each level and provides an indication of the behaviour that should be demonstrated and ways that learning could be measured at each of those levels as the learning progresses.

Key to the model is the principle that there is a hierarchy to the levels. Therefore, when designing learning you should construct the programme so that the relevant knowledge (for example) for your particular situation is developed, tested and achieved at level 1, before you progress to achieving the more complex aims of learning at level 2 and 3 and so on. For some learning, you my be able to progress through the levels very rapidly, for others it may take some time. Either way, the design of the learning should consciously address each of the levels.

I will cover what is involved in each of these levels in future bite sized posts – there is quite a bit of detail to each.

So is the Blooms model still useful today?

Well to answer the question that was originally asked of me via twitter – in my view, like the Kirkpatrick model, the Blooms Taxonomy of Learning Domains still has practical use today, despite been initially introduced over 50 years ago.

What I like about the model is that it offers a framework that you can use as a start point when designing your learning. Crucially, it can help you determine how you will assess that the learning has occurred, to the level that you need, for it to have a positive impact on the business.

Whilst I have tried to simply the Blooms model – these things always require intelligent application. Consideration will need to be given to the particular circumstances that you are prevented with. Be alive to the fact that your particular aims may span different domains, requiring attainment to different levels dependent on the domain in question.

The model doesn’t provide the answers. However, what it can do is help frame your thought process – which domains are applicable to me? In each of those domains, after reading the detail of each of the levels, which levels are applicable to my learning design? Which examples of behaviour that each of the levels suggest should be demonstrated are relevant to what I am trying to achieve?

The model can be a very useful tool to help set you off in the right direction. I’m not suggesting that you should be a slave to it – but it should offer some food for thought in enabling you to determine how you might design learning and subsequently demonstrate that it is meeting its intended objectives.

Neither am I suggesting that this model should only be used in isolation. Developing an understanding of what we can take from this model, along with for example the Kirkpatrick levels of evaluation will help us design learning and evaluation strategies tailored to our own particular business needs. In my opinion, there is a connection between Blooms Taxonomy and Kirkpatrick levels 2 and 3. It is possible that the Blooms model might offer some suggestions of how you can gather evidence to demonstrate that learning (level 2) has occurred in the training environment and how this might be judged to have been transferred (or otherwise) into behaviour (level 3) in the workplace.

Conclusion and Questions

In short, don’t be put off by the complicated sounding name of this model – understand it and use it where you decide it is relevant, with other models if you like, to help shape your approach to learning and evaluation. Whatever approach you adopt, document it into a coherent evaluation strategy.

Have you used Blooms Taxonomy of Learning Domains? Does this simple explanation make any sense? Any views would be very welcome in the comments section below.

photo credit: alvaro tapia hidalgo via photopin cc

9 Responses to Blooms Taxonomy of Learning Domains: explained in simple words!

  1. Ken at 3:01 pm #

    Hi Richard,
    Congratulations on a concise and humanised explanation of Bloom’s taxonomy. You’re right – the name is off-putting (Benjamin Bloom sounds like he’s from the 19th century!). I tried to sum this up in two pages of my book ’101 Learning & Development Tools’ (Kogan Page, 2011), but you’ve done a much better job.

    • Richard at 3:47 pm #

      Hi Ken, thanks very much for your kind words!


  2. Spruce learning at 5:01 pm #

    Well explained. I find Bloom’s model, albeit more academic, brings a more defined learner perspective. I agree with you, in conjunction with Kirkpatrick, the two models when used together produce a clearer needs assessment and evaluation.

    • Richard at 3:10 pm #

      Thanks for your comment and thanks for the question via twitter. I think it’s good practice for us to to look at all the different models and apply those elements that work in our particular circumstances. There certainly seems to be a complimentary connection between Blooms and Kirkpatrick.

      Thanks again for dropping by. If anyone else has any requests for topics to be covered I’m all ears – you can get in touch via the blog or on twitter @EvaluationFocus

  3. Colin Whalen at 4:43 pm #

    Nice explantion. Sometimes we have to work hard to gain access and understanding of some of the more academic models and ideas – but your post helps. And like the Kirkpatrick model – the best ideas endure.

    Colin W

    • Richard at 4:56 pm #

      Hi Colin – I agree, in some cases accessibility can be a problem – which is a shame if the model or idea has lots to offer because the lack of access often limits its use. One of my aims of this blog is to hopefully help explain those concepts relevant to training evaluation, along with offering some thoughts on how they can be implemented. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Cheers, Richard.

  4. Lalmani Baral at 3:41 am #

    I am trying to understand how we could connect Bloom’s Taxonomy in designing the training. I understand that we can easily use it to write the objectives for five levels of learning as Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. The connection between Bloom’s learning domains and Kirk Patrick’s evaluation phases also clear as evaluation of Reaction, Learning, Transfer and Results. I could not understand if we can align Bloom’s learning domains in certain subjects differ with the different position in an organization.
    For example, a midlevel manager’s learning in ‘team building’ is align up to application domain, while a senior level manager’s learning in same subject is align up to evaluation domain. While designing a learning programme, can we say, midlevel manager need to know only up to application domain. By saying so, aren’t we stopping him to learn further up to evaluation domain?
    OR, in certain subjects, senior level manager’s learning is align to comprehension domain while midlevel manager’s learning is align to evaluation domain.

    • Richard at 5:57 pm #

      Hi Lalmani – thanks for your question, my answer may not be specific enough but hopefully it will help with your thinking. I’ve also struggled to keep it short! In my opinion we cannot make a generic claim that certain management positions align with a particular level in Blooms model. What is ‘mid-level’ in one organisation could be ‘senior level’ in another.

      There is perhaps more opportunity for this within one particular organisation, but even then I would proceed with caution. Different environments within the same company may demand different things from managers – even those that are classed as operating at the same level. Perhaps it really depends on what learning you are talking about – in your ‘team building’ example, it may well be that an organisation has pre-defined competencies that it would expect to see at different management grades, irrespective of the area of the business. In this case you may be able to make some common assumptions regarding the Blooms level that you should reach for each of those grades. However, if the learning is more specific to individual environments then this is going to be tricky (and potentially unwise).

      I think a key aspect to this is that when designing a learning programme we need to have a clear understanding of the role in question. Hopefully we have carried out some form of Job Analysis to inform what elements need to be part of the learning programme. It is this Job Analysis that should inform the level in the Blooms taxonomy that the learning should reach, not some broad categorisation of how managers at certain levels should be operating.

      When we have decided, through our Job Analysis, what level of the Blooms taxonomy we’re going to reach in a particular domain, I don’t think we should worry that this then caps that individual from exceeding that level. What we need to do is ensure that our learning is aligned with the needs of the business – the learning should equip individuals with the level they need to perform their job.

      We shouldn’t worry about capping because those more capable individuals within our organisations are then likely to naturally exceed that level, especially after some practical experience. Hopefully the organisation has some way of recognising those individuals (through an appraisal system perhaps) because it is those individuals who then show the potential to progress to the next level of management. It’s all about balance, but in my view, recruiting a certain % of managers from within has to make good business sense. Those that don’t show that extra potential then continue to operate at the level to which the learning was designed – this is all fine too.

      I have covered quite a bit in this lengthy response but hopefully I have offered my perspective on the question you have raised. It would be great to hear if what I have said makes sense.

      I’m sure Lalmani would also find it useful to hear of other readers perspectives – if you have a view, please share it!

  5. Lalmani Baral at 11:09 pm #

    Hi Richard,

    Thank you so much for quick response. Also thanks for insight of my query. You provided details of use of Blooms Taxonomy and really helped me to understand it. I wonder if there are examples of organizations using Blooms Taxonomy for Needs Analysis especially aligning learning subjects and positions in organizations to Blooms domains.

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