Bloom's Taxonomy and The Evolution of Learning Activities
A breakdown of Bloom's Taxonomy, each of its six levels, and a thought exercise in developing learning activities and assessment activities for each level.
Last week we defined the two main components of games: mechanics and skins. Then we established the four main categories of edugames and presented examples of game design for learning environments.
While there are many excellent ways to break down the types of learning that we seek in educational environments, Bloom's Taxonomy is the most useful for this discussion because it provides a clear hierarchical framework for seeing the scale and potential for games in aiding cognitive development. This will be useful when we begin connecting games into their educational context.
In Bloom's Taxonomy there are six levels of cognitive learning, beginning with Remembering and increasing in complexity and difficulty until the final stage of Creating.
In most learning environments, the overarching goal of instruction is to maximize the degree to which students move from Remembering towards the top of the pyramid. Instruction is often design around this premise, and the learning objectives which teachers use to mark student progress tend to reflect these six stages as they set up goals for their students.
As an example, let's investigate how a teacher might go about instructing a class on a particular topic through each of the six levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. We'll use a high school physics class for our sample:
Learning objective examples adapted from: Writing Objectives Using Bloom’s Taxonomy
Take a look at the right column which shows the learning objectives from Remembering (at the bottom) all the way up to Creating (at the top). Study the wording of each learning objective, and think about what it would take to prepare a student to accomplish each feat and how you would measure whether they could actually do it.
Done? Good - because we're about to put it into action.
You are the teacher of a class of 40 high school juniors (aged 16-17), meeting in a traditional classroom three times a week in class sessions 1.5 hours long. Based on the curriculum that your school board has approved, all high school physics teachers must ensure that their students should be able to complete all of the learning objectives listed above (right column) in order to succeed on the state-issued standardized test. The school's state funding depends on the math and science testing of its juniors and seniors, so your role as an instructor is vital.
Together, let's go through each of the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy and try to come up with as many activities as possible (in the classroom or out of it) that can help us achieve this hefty goal. I will list several, but attempt to come up with one or two unique ideas for each category.
However, that's not all. Remember, we need to be able to measure whether each student has actually achieved the learning objective. This can get tricky, especially as we move up the ladder of Bloom's Taxonomy.
So in review, here's what we are trying to do:
Create learning activities to help students achieve the each learning objective
Create an assessment activity to help us measure whether they have achieved the learning objective
Simple, right? Well let's get to it:
Learning Objective: Recite Newton's three laws of motion.
Write it down
"Repeat after me"
Learn a jingle
Learn a pneumonic
Write it down
Say it aloud
Round 1 Analysis:
So far, so good - it's very easy to teach students something to the point where they can recite it. It's also quick and easy to test them on that knowledge - just have them write it down on a piece of paper and grade it! It seems like a lot of teachers already use techniques like this, which is good for Remembering content.
Learning Objective: Describe Newton's three laws of motion in her/his own words.
Explain it in different ways
Write it down in your own words
Summarize it to a partner
Draw a picture of it
Create an analogy
Write it down in your own words
Say it aloud in your own words
Round 2 Analysis:
This looks pretty good too - class time can be effectively used to support Understanding, especially when we use classmates as partners in activities. However, there's really no way to evaluate Understanding without writing or speech - for this learning objective, it seems like most teachers would opt to have students write down their own explanation of the three laws of motion in a short-answer or essay, which they would have to grade individually. This might take some time, but is not too big of a burden on the instructor. Most teachers can achieve this level of learning, even with 40 students.
Learning Objective: Calculate the kinetic energy of a projectile.
Demonstrate a problem on the whiteboard
Use a video that demonstrates the problem
Use a textbook that shows variations on the problem
Assign and review a homework worksheet on the problem
Solicit questions from students and respond to their patterns of mistakes with the problem
Demonstrate the problem (in writing or speech)
Multiple choice test (select from answer choices)
Free response test (write out your answer)
Round 3 Analysis:
While it is certain that the best way to measure every student's abilities would be to watch every one of them demonstrate how they would calculate a kinetic energy problem, this would be an incredibly time-consuming thing to do. Instead, teachers opt to use multiple choice tests or free response tests to see if students can make the correct calculations. By asking the same question multiple times (and using different numbers to calculate), the teacher can be reasonably certain that the student will not answer all questions correctly using an incorrect approach. The teacher can infer from this test whether the student can Apply the concept - but in this example they would technically not know the degree to which the student understands the concept.
Learning Objective: Differentiate between potential and kinetic energy.
Venn Diagram (list out similarities and differences)
"This or That?" (provide examples and practice selecting which category they belong to)
Illustration or Analogy
Explain the differences to a partner
Come up with examples of each
Identification test (select the correct corresponding example or property)
Explain the differences (written response)
Provide examples (written response)
Round 4 Analysis:
Fortunately, assessing a student's Analysis is fairly straightforward - have them explain their own framework for analysis (in written form) or simply have them analyze a set of data and check the validity of their response. Unfortunately, coming up with test questions that properly assess analysis is a time-consuming thing to do. That said, these questions are as convenient to distribute and grade as questions assessing Application abilities.
Learning Objective: Determine whether using conservation of energy or conservation of momentum would be more appropriate for solving a dynamics problem.
Friendly prepared debate
Example walkthrough (discussing each approach)
Students try both techniques on examples and reflect
Explain the differences to a partner
Direct test (ask students to select which approach is best for certain problems)
Indirect test (ask students to complete problems for which they must select the correct approach)
Explain the best option for several examples (written response)
Round 5 Analysis:
This learning objective is a dynamic objective - that is, the correct answer changes based on varying circumstances. While students could write out their reasoning behind several answers to varying questions, this would be too time-consuming to assess. Instead, having students apply their reasoning indirectly would effectively prove whether their evaluation skills were sufficient for the learning objective.
Learning Objective: Design an original homework problem dealing with the principle of conservation of energy.
Review foundational content (in this case, conservation of energy)
Collaborate with parters or groups
Peer review content
Discuss criteria of good problems
Design and submit homework problem and solution (written)
Round 5 Analysis:
When Creating anything in an academic setting, it is always useful to take advantage of the synthesis that occurs when students learn from one another and refine their skills in collaboration. Teachers should allow students creative freedom and consistently provide examples to steer their efforts. Grading an assignment like this might be time-consuming, but learning objectives like this can actually be used to help produce content for future classes (like questions on quizzes and tests). Creating also helps students see the full picture and appreciate the teaching and learning experience, thus connecting the feedback loop and possibly motivating further engagement in future units.
Conclusion: What Did We Learn?
Learning Activities take more preparation and planning at higher stages of learning than lower stages
Assessment Activities becomes more complex at higher stages
Assessment Activities often takes more time or resources at higher stages
It is more difficult to create Learning Activities that connect to content at higher stages
Achieving deeper learning and more-engaged students follows the science and art of moving students from the bottom of Bloom's Taxonomy to the top. Unfortunately, most schooling systems fail to get past Understanding (level 2) because of the ways they instruct and assess their students. From this exercise we can see why this is the case:
Learning activities and assessments that achieve higher orders of thinking (Analyzing, Evaluating, Creating) are very time-consuming to develop and implement, and
If they are not implemented in a comprehensive way, they may cause certain students to fall further behind in their schooling due to differences in learning preferences.
However, there is good news - Educational Games pose a solution that can solve both of the problems posited above.
The reason we illustrated and broke down Bloom's Taxonomy is because we are going to attach the four categories of Educational Games (Puzzles, Applications, Simulations, and Gamification) to segments in its hierarchy. From this we will investigate why Educational Games have such an encouraging potential for bridging the gap between student engagement and dynamic instructional practice.
We will dive into Games of Data ("Pattern Puzzles") and connect it with its appropriate place in Bloom's Taxonomy, providing examples of how games are revolutionizing the Remembering process for students and teachers.
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