December 22, 2020 |

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification system used to define and distinguish different the levels of human cognition i.e., thinking, learning, and understanding. It was developed in 1956 (later modified in 2000) as a framework to use in both teaching and creating lessons and assignments and remains a useful tool to consult for anyone who needs to impart knowledge or teach a new skill.  The levels on a sliding scale are remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating and finally creating.  While not all trainers, educators or instructional designers are aware of its existence as a formal concept, it is highly likely we use aspects of it unconsciously in creating our learning content.   I think it is also fair to say that depending on the length and depth of the knowledge we are seeking to impart, that not all levels will be moved through in a “lock step manner”. For example, teaching or developing a half day PowerPoint course you would be looking for remembering and understanding, definitely applying and if time allowed creating.  Just as an aside, it is good to remember that all course planning is done “backward”, starting with the development of required learning objectives which are hopefully measurable, realistic and achievable and for this Bloom’s Taxonomy can provide a good touchpoint for consideration during the planning process of learning events.

Most commonly, those teaching adults are concerned with learning in the cognitive domain. This domain measures the development of knowledge and intellectual abilities (Bloom, as cited in McDonald, 2007). Common performance indicators for this domain include multiple choice exams, true false exams, fill in the blank etc. If the learning objective is for students to master a motor skill, (e.g., change a tire), you would design a performance indicator for the psychomotor domain by requiring a demonstration of the skill or performance of a simulation. If you wish to measure learning in the affective domain (also known as the emotional domain), Bloom’s Taxonomy indicators should seek to measure the development of interests, attitudes, and values: examples include essay exams, reflective journal entries, or creative writing assignments.

The levels are commonly shown in a pyramid format as shown below, with Creation being the pinnacle and overall goal:

Blooms Taxonomy Pyramid

Anderson, L.W. & Krathwohl, D.R. (2001). A taxonomy for teaching, learning, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York, NY: Longman.
Bloom, B.S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. New York, NY: Longmans, Green.

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November 16, 2020 |

Graphics in Learning Material (part 2)

The number one rule is that graphics should not distract the learners from your content. So, you should pay attention to the subject, colours, size, and placement of your images and while it might sound obvious, make sure you are using the appropriate images at the right time -there is no need to bombard your learners with images just to fill in space or make it look exciting. The images you use should link to the contact and are intended to reinforce and support your training material, so before using an image ask yourself whether it is relevant or indeed helpful to the learner in how they consume the material.  The famous advice of Coco Chanel in regard to what you wear of which goes along the lines of: “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off” is equally useful in when thinking of how you incorporate and use graphics.


Once your graphic has been chosen, the next step is to select an appropriate size and format. Among the most common file types that in are: jpg, .png, .bmp. tiff and .gif and you need to keep in mind the image’s file size as if it is too large it could impact the way your pages load.

If the course material will be online it is worth remembering that while high-resolution graphics looks nice and crisp, they can take a considerable amount of space. As well, high-resolution graphics may take a long time to load and that can cause annoyance and frustration for learners, so you risk alienating them to the actual course content. Probably the best approach is to start with a high-resolution graphic and then resize and squeeze it down as much as possible.  This doesn’t work as well with scaling small images up as the graphic may appear pixilated, so best to start with the bigger, better resolution and downsize it.

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November 4, 2020 |

Using Graphics in Learning Material

The main job of an instructional designer is to create instructionally sound courses and there should be no expectation that learning specialists are also professional graphic artists. However, to make our courses more visually appealing to learners we need to be aware of basic graphic design principles.  Ruth Clark and Chopeta Lyons (2010) have identified 7 types of graphics specifically in relation to *eLearning, but I think these principles can just as easily be utilised for training material which is delivered in other formats such face or face or when creating course handouts.

The 7 types of graphics are defined as Decorative, Mnemonic, Representational, Organizational, Relational, Transformational, and Interpretative.

  • Decorative graphics: their purpose is aesthetic, and while they can look appealing, they are not intended to add any specific instructional value so are typically used on book or course material covers as opposed to within the body of learning material.
  • Mnemonic graphics: used to represent factual information. By looking at images which represent relevant facts, learners are helped to retrieve facts from memory.

Mnemonic graphic

  • Representational graphics: these are used to represent text. The idea is that learners should be able to understand what the text is about just by looking at the graphic, so that might be a screen capture or a photo of a specific piece of equipment.
  • Organizational graphics: their purpose is to help orient learners to the structure and sequence of lesson content. An organizational graphic shows the qualitative relationships among the main ideas in a lesson, e.g. this might be course map or geometric visuals to show the sequence and content so the learner has an overview of what the learning is intended to provide.
  • Relational graphics: these show the quantitative relationship of variables, so charts and graphs are the best examples as they organise data and information in ways that should make it easy to compare and contrast information and allow learners to visualise the relationship between the numbers presented in the content.
  • Transformational graphics: used to show changes over time, so these would include timelines, before and after images, or a video to show a process.
  • Interpretative graphics: these illustrate abstract theories or principles and might include things such as a schematic diagram, simulations or animated images to mimic how something works.

Tip: Once your graphic has been chosen, the next step is to select an appropriate size and format. If the course material will be online it is worth remembering that while high-resolution graphics looks nice and crisp, they can take a considerable amount of space. As well, high-resolution graphics may take a long time to load and that can cause annoyance and frustration for learners, so you risk alienating them to the actual course content. Probably the best approach is to start with a high-resolution graphic and then resize and squeeze it down as much as possible.  This doesn’t work as well with scaling small images up as the graphic may appear pixilated, so best to start with the bigger, better resolution and downsize it.

*I have chosen to use the term eLearning, however depending on personal preference and the organization you work for, it might also be termed e-learning, e-Learning or elearning (just as we have dropped the dash in e-mail to the more common email, I think the hyphen in e-learning will soon be redundant).

For more on this topic see: Clark, R.C. and Lyons, C. (2010). Graphics for Learning: Proven Guidelines for Planning, Designing, and Evaluating Visuals in Training Materials. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.


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October 12, 2020 |

Learning Assessment

In-house training sessions in the workplace typically tend not to have an assessment component, with formal assessment tending to be more a hallmark of an e-learning event or some type of certification training.  However their may come a type when you as a trainer will be called upon to create an assessment tool.

Assessment stress

When assessment is done, the objectives of the learning event will govern the type of types of assessment actions chosen with the assessment ensuring they are appropriate to your specific situation. As a broad principle, concentrate on the learners’ ability to apply content rather than their ability to recall facts when creating assessment items. In the type of most IT based/technical training that I deliver this tends to be the most common way of achieving this.  For example, if it is a PowerPoint course, the latter part of the session will be asking the attendees to put their new skills to use in creating a specific type of presentation.  This is basically a free form activity that allows the learner to assess their own abilities and gives them a chance to work out if there are any gaps.  The activity is not “scored” or judged, but instead is a litmus test to help the learner self-assess their progress. This is non-confrontational for adult learners to experience some feedback and assessment and fits in with the principles of Adult Learning Theory (Malcolm Knowles,1970) as it allows for a more self-directed than didactic approach.

But, if an assessment instrument is necessary (e.g. for an e-learning module), then the following should be kept in mind:

The assessment itself should be valid. To achieve this need to write test questions which accurately assess the knowledge and skills specified in the learning objectives. The assessment questions should obviously be clearly written and easy to understand. If the question is poorly worded and the learners (through no fault of their own) misinterpret the intended meaning of a test question, the results would no longer be valid. To improve validity, you should write assessment items that focus on the application of knowledge rather than just comprehension levels. As you create the questions you should consider having professional colleagues (e.g. SMEs, other L&D professionals or instructional designers) review them for you and then if necessary, they can be revised based on the reviewers’ feedback.

The most common types of assessment questions are:

  • multiple choice: probably the most popular type of assessment in eLearning. Multiple choice questions require learners to choose the best response from several options.
  • true/false: typically measures understanding of facts such as names, dates, and definitions.
  • fill-in-the-blank, also known as completion items. This type of question requires learners to finish a sentence by filling the correct word or phrase in a blank.
  • matching: consists of a list of questions or statements and a list of responses, with learners required to find a match or association between each question and response, and
  • free responses or short answers or essays: not as commonly used, this type requires learners to understand the content in order to answer the question. and require a higher level of thinking, analyzing, and logically presenting information.


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September 25, 2020 |

Motivating Learners

The ARCS Model of Motivational Design was developed by John Keller (Keller, 2009).  The intention behind the use of Motivational design theory in learning and the ARCS Model specifically, is to connect the instruction to the goals of students.  Keller combined the elements from many motivational designs into 4 major categories which he called the ARCS Model of Motivational Design. The acronym stands for: (A)ttention, (R)elevance, (C)onfidence and (S)atisfaction and he believes that all of these aspects must be addressed for a successful learning event to have occurred.

Learner Motivation

In this model you are encouraged to think about and address the following aspects when designing your instructional session:

Attention: capturing the interest of learners and stimulating their desire to learn.  Ask yourself: how can I make this learning experience stimulating and interesting.  Depending on your audience this might be through, This can be done through games, role-plays, humor, visuals, discussion or rhetorical questions.

Relevance:  ensuring the learning is applicable to the learners’ knowledge and addresses their learning needs. In designing the learning event ask yourself how will this learning experience be valuable to my students? Ensure you explain the importance and usefulness of the content by providing relevant examples and learning goals so they can make these connections themselves.

Confidence: helping the learners to steer the learning and feel they will succeed and have control their success. To facilitate learner success you would design challenging but doable activities and ensure you are providing evaluation and feedback.

Satisfaction: this results when the learner finds the overall experience positive and worthwhile and feels good about their accomplishments. To ensure this step is met you need to make sure that you offer reinforcement of what they already learned and provide opportunities to practice the newly acquired knowledge and skills. It might include some type of reward or acknowledgement such as a certificate of achievement.

For more information see: Keller, John (979) Wikipedia

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August 31, 2012 |

When You’ve Got It…

When I first started out on my own, The Royal District Nursing Service were a client for their first rollout of Microsoft Software (probably Windows 3.1).  They were at Fawkner Towers, the same building as me, but up one floor.  Now 20 years later we are still being called upon to do onsite training and bespoke problem solving.  The lovely Kevin Rizzoli was in there yesterday to do a custom session for the executive on how to best work on shared documents, feedback went like this:

Kevin was great – he answered all our questions and some we didn’t even know we wanted answered!

A nice way to end the week!

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August 10, 2012 |

October is Express Training Month at City of Boroondara

We have decided to trial a number of our day courses in an express, half day format during the month of October for the City of Boroondara.  The content of express classes will cover the key information and concepts of the relevant program, but given their shorter length are  ideal for staff requiring MS Office product training, but who find it difficult to be released from duties for a full day. Attendees will be provided with the full one day course manual so they can follow up on the topics that cannot be included in the shorter version class.

Staff who prefer their training in a longer format, which allows for more content and the opportunity for more hands-on practice, will still be able to  to attend our traditional one day format classes, as these will not be taken off the schedule.

If we get enough interest in the half day express format classes after trialling them,  they will become a regular offering on the monthly IT training schedule alongside the one day classes.


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August 31, 2011 |

Retaining Learning

When giving IT classes, I’ve always worked with the premise repetition fosters retaining the skills learned.  This is not a fashionable view, as rote or repetition learning is considered old-fashioned and behaviorist. However I can tell it works- and works beautifully –  particularly when it is done in a fun and creative way; for example by getting individuals to complete exercises, work in collaboration with the other learners to create something to model it on how they would use it in the workplace.  So,  it was interesting for me to read this blog post in The Training Zone by Gary Platt on Herman Ebgginhaus’s work , a small excerpt as below:

Ebbinghaus discovered that even with this simple task memory failed at analarming rate. His findings are often illustrated by a graph showing how memoryand recall deteriorates over a short space of time. The X axis (horizontal)measuring time and the Y axis (vertical) measuring recall.

But again these figures do not represent the research that Ebbinghausproduced, but do represent the concept he was proposing in chapter eight of hiswork, Retention as a function of repeated learning. Put simply: each revisitingof learnt material reinforces its retention.

Read Gary Platt’s full article here :… it is pretty obvious to me that the smartest things that trainers can do is to creatively work towards  increasing retention by allowing time in the day for the revisiting of learning and allowing people the opportunity to think and play –  and therefore remember.  Many trainers simply focus on getting through the material and therefore consider that to be a success, however if the learners cannot remember and then apply what they have learned one day, two days or two weeks after attending the training event there is hardly any point to the trainer patting him or herself on the back because they ‘delivered the content’.