Taxonomies of Learning Outcomes

Taxonomies of Learning Outcomes can provide a structure to help you think through your course goals and objectives, which then provide the basis for everything else in the course, particularly the assessments. A taxonomy such as Bloom’s can help you determine what learning objectives are most appropriate for each module and the course as a whole.

GW's Office of Academic Planning, Institutional Research and Assessment is the place to go for more information on learning outcomes and developing teaching strategies. Its website includes information on the taxonomies of learning outcomes, which provide organizational schemas for formulating educational goals. Check with your department as well to see if they prefer particular approaches.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (1956)

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives is the oldest and probably the most widely known taxonomy.  When it was proposed in 1956, it was hailed for its delineation of cognitive, affective, and psychomotor learning domains and identification of five or six levels of performance for each domain, with each level building on the next.

Bloom's Taxonomy Revised

Bloom's Taxonomy has been revised to reflect contemporary understanding of how students learn. The diagram below compares Bloom's original taxonomy to a revision by Anderson and  Krathwohl (2001). The revision changes Bloom's six major categories from noun to verb forms, to communicate a goal of active learning. Additionally, the lowest level of the original, “knowledge,” was renamed and became “remembering.” Finally, “comprehension” and “synthesis” were re-titled to “understanding” and “creating.” In an effort to minimize the confusion, comparison images appear below.

Chart showing Bloom's original taxonomy, which moves from these lower-order to higher-order thinking skills: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation. The revised taxonomy moves from these lower-order to higher-order thinking skills: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

Other taxonomies

Depending on your course goals and teaching methods, you may wish to examine other taxonomies as well. Examples include: