Bloom's Taxonomy and Online Education: Overview of Education Theory

Bloom's Taxonomy is an instructional design theory rooted in how students learn. This theory has been applied to numerous online courses and programs.

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Understanding Bloom's Taxonomy can be valuable for online educators as they plan their courses.

Bloom's Taxonomy: Overview

Bloom's Taxonomy is framework for understanding the way students learn. This taxonomy is one of the most widely used taxonomies in the field of education and is also one of the easiest taxonomies to understand. According to Georgia Southern University, Bloom's Taxonomy serves as the starting point for all instructional design, including online instruction.

Although Bloom's Taxonomy was developed in the 1950's before students began using computers on a regular basis, it is relevant for online learning today. Bloom's Taxonomy can be used in virtually all parts of the online learning process, from writing course content to coming up with topics for online discussions.

Bloom's Education Theory

Bloom's Taxonomy was developed on the premise that there are six levels of cognitive learning. All of these levels together represent a hierarchy. In order to reach the next level, you must master the previous level. Bloom's levels are:

  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Evaluation
  • Synthesis

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Relevance for Online Education

With Bloom's Taxonomy, online instructors can define learning objectives and formulate questions and assignments based on each level of cognitive learning. Instructors can use interactive activities, like blog writing, scenario simulation games and case study analysis, to move students to higher levels within Bloom's hierarchy of learning. For example, when students use the Internet to conduct research for their classes, they can move beyond the basic 'knowledge', or fact-gathering, stage and apply analysis to the information they find. Students can even develop their own websites to carry out a class project.

Determining a Student's Level in Bloom's Taxonomy

When working with students in an online setting, it is helpful for instructors to understand which level the student is at in order to best help them advance to the next level. Presented here are some ways to know when a student is at each level:

  • Knowledge: At this level, the student is able to remember basic concepts.
  • Comprehension: At the comprehension level, the student has a slightly higher level of understanding of an idea, such as what a text means or how a process or technology works.
  • Application: After reaching this level, a student can apply the knowledge they have gained in a real-world setting.
  • Analysis: At this advanced level, students can break down a concept into its individual components and study the pros and cons of different aspects.
  • Evaluation: Once a student has reached this level, they are able to take a concept, verify its credibility, form an opinion about it, and defend their stance.
  • Synthesis: At this level, the student has the expertise needed to create technologies and procedures of their own.

Ultimately, the level that students are expected to reach depends on the online class. Some basic classes only require students to meet the Application level in order to pass, while more advanced courses may expect students to reach the Evaluation or even Synthesis level.

As in traditional classroom courses, the principles of Bloom's Taxonomy can be applied to understand how students learn in online formats and to support their academic success.

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