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

Learn about the theory behind Bloom's Taxonomy. Find out how this educational taxonomy is applicable to online learning, including how instructors can use it to help develop online courses and materials.

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Essential Information

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. These are the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy:

LevelDefinition
Knowledge We learn by memorizing.
Comprehension We learn by understanding and interpreting what we've been taught.
Application We learn by using the course material in everyday situations.
Analysis We learn by examining, comparing and contrasting.
Synthesis We learn by creating new associations between ideas.
EvaluationWe learn by assessing the value of the information we've received.

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 also 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, according to the article Using Learning Styles to Adapt Technology for Higher Education, by Terry O'Connor. Students can even develop their own websites to carry out a class project.

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