Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Write Effective Learning Outcomes (2023)

Posted by Jessica Shabatura | Jul 26, 2022 |

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of the different objectives and skills that educators set for their students (learning outcomes).

What is Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of the different outcomes and skills that educators set for their students (learning outcomes). The taxonomy was proposed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist at the University of Chicago. The terminology has been recently updated to include the following six levels of learning. These 6 levels can be used to structure the learning outcomes, lessons, and assessments of your course. :

  1. Remembering: Retrieving, recognizing, and recalling relevant knowledge from long‐termmemory.
  2. Understanding: Constructing meaning from oral, written, and graphic messages throughinterpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing, andexplaining.
  3. Applying: Carrying out or using a procedure for executing, or implementing.
  4. Analyzing: Breaking material into constituent parts, determining how the parts relate toone another and to an overall structure or purpose through differentiating, organizing,and attributing.
  5. Evaluating: Making judgments based on criteria and standards through checking andcritiquing.
  6. Creating: Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole;reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, orproducing.

Like other taxonomies, Bloom’s is hierarchical, meaning that learning at the higher levels is dependent on havingattained prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels.You will see Bloom’s Taxonomy often displayed as a pyramid graphic to help demonstrate this hierarchy. We have updated this pyramid into a “cake-style” hierarchy to emphasize that each level is built on a foundation of the previous levels.

You may use this graphic for educational or non-profit use if you include a credit for Jessica Shabatura and citation back to this website.

How Bloom’s can aid in course design

Bloom’s taxonomy is a powerful tool to help develop learning outcomes because it explains the process of learning:

  • Before you canunderstanda concept, you mustrememberit.
  • Toapplya concept you mustfirst understand it.
  • In order toevaluatea process, you must haveanalyzedit.
  • To create an accurate conclusion, you must have completed a thorough evaluation.

However, we don’t always start with lower order skills and step all the way through the entire taxonomy for each concept you present in your course. That approach would become tedious–for both you and your students! Instead, start by considering the level of learners in your course:

  1. Are lots of your students freshman? Is this an “Introduction to…” course? If so, many your learning outcomes may target the lower order Bloom’s skills, because your students are building foundational knowledge. However, even in this situation we would strive to move a few of your outcomes into the applying and analyzing level, but getting too far up in the taxonomy could create frustration and unachievable goals.
  2. Are most of your students juniors and seniors? Graduate students? Do your students have a solid foundation in much of the terminology and processes you will be working on your course? If so, then you should not have many remembering and understanding level outcomes. You may need a few, for any radically new concepts specific to your course. However, these advanced students should be able to master higher-order learning objectives. Too many lower level outcomes might cause boredom or apathy.

How Bloom’s works with learning outcomes

Fortunately, there are “verb tables” to help identify which action verbs align with each level in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

You may notice that some of these verbs on the table are associated with multiple Bloom’s Taxonomy levels. These “multilevel-verbs” are actions that could apply to different activities. For example, you could have an outcome that states “At the end of this lesson, students will be able to explain the difference between H2O and OH-.” This would be an understanding level outcome. However, if you wanted the students to be able to “…explain the shift in the chemical structure of water throughout its various phases.” This would be an analyzing level verb.

Adding to this confusion, you can locate Bloom’s verb charts that will list verbs at levels different from what we list below. Just keep in mind that it is the skill, action or activity you will teach using that verb that determines the Bloom’s Taxonomy level.

Bloom’s LevelKey Verbs (keywords)Example Learning Outcome
Createdesign, formulate, build, invent, create, compose, generate, derive, modify, develop.By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to design an original homework problem dealing with the principle of conservation of energy.
Evaluatechoose, support, relate, determine, defend, judge, grade, compare, contrast, argue, justify, support, convince, select, evaluate.By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to determine whether using conservation of energy or conservation of momentum would be more appropriate for solving a dynamics problem.
Analyzeclassify, break down, categorize, analyze, diagram, illustrate, criticize, simplify, associate.By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to differentiate between potential and kinetic energy.
Applycalculate, predict, apply, solve, illustrate, use, demonstrate, determine, model, perform, present.By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to calculate the kinetic energy of a projectile.
Understanddescribe, explain, paraphrase, restate, give original examples of, summarize, contrast, interpret, discuss.By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to describe Newton’s three laws of motion to in her/his own words
Rememberlist, recite, outline, define, name, match, quote, recall, identify, label, recognize.By the end of this lesson, the student will be able to recite Newton’s three laws of motion.

Learning outcome examples adapted from, Nelson Baker at Georgia Tech:

How Bloom’s works with Quality Matters

For a course to meet the Quality Matters standards it must have learning outcomes that are measurable. Using a verb table like the one above will help you avoid verbs that cannot be quantified, like: understand, learn, appreciate, or enjoy. Quality Matters also requires that your course assessments (activities, projects, and exams) align with your learning outcomes. For example, if your learning outcome has an application level verb, such as “present”, then you cannot demonstrate that your students have mastered that learning outcome by simply having a multiple choice quiz.

Course level and lesson level outcomes

The biggest difference between course and lesson level outcomes is that we don’t directly assess course level outcomes. Course level outcomes are just too broad. Instead, we use several lesson level outcomes to demonstrate mastery of one course level outcome. To create good course level outcomes, we need to ask ourselves: “what do I want the students to have mastery of at the end of the course?” Then, after we finalize our course level outcomes, we have to make sure that mastery of all of the lesson level outcomes underneath confirm that a student has mastery of the course level outcome–in other words, if your students can prove (through assessment) that they can do each and every one of the lesson level outcomes in that section, then you as an instructor agree they have mastery of the course level outcome.

How Bloom’s works with course level and lesson level outcomes:

  • Course level outcomes are broad. You may only have 3-5 course level outcomes. They would be difficult to measure directly because they overarch the topics of your entire course.
  • Lesson level outcomes are what we use to demonstrate that a student has mastery of the course level outcomes. We do this by building lesson level outcomes that build toward the course level outcome. For example, a student might need to demonstrate mastery of 8 lesson level outcomes in order to demonstrate mastery of one course level outcome.
  • Because the lesson level outcomes directly support the course level outcomes, they need to build up the Bloom’s taxonomy to help your students reach mastery of the course level outcomes. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to make sure that the verbs you choose for your lesson level outcomes build up to the level of the verb that is in the course level outcome. The lesson level verbs can be below or equal to the course level verb, but they CANNOT be higher in level. For example, your course level verb might be an Applying level verb, “illustrate.” Your lesson level verbs can be from any Bloom’s level that is equal or below this level (applying, understanding, or remembering).

Steps towards writing effective learning outcomes:

  1. Make sure there is one measurable verb in each objective.
  2. Each outcome needs one verb. Either a student can master the outcome , or they fail to master it. If an outcome has two verbs (say, defineandapply), what happens if a student can define, but not apply? Are they demonstrating mastery?
  3. Ensure that the verbs in the course level outcome are at least at the highest Bloom’s Taxonomy as the highest lesson level outcomes that support it. (Because we can’t verify they can evaluate if our lessons only taught them (and assessed) todefine.)
  4. Strive to keep all your learning outcomes measurable, clear and concise.

When you are ready to write, it can be helpful to list the level of Bloom’s next to the verb you choose in parentheses. For example:

Course level outcome 1. (apply)Demonstrate howtransportationis a critical link in the supply chain.

1.1.(understand)Discuss the changing global landscape for businesses and other organizations that are driving change in the global environment.

1.2.(apply) Demonstrate the special nature of transportation demand and the influence of transportation on companies and their supply chains operating in a global economy.

This trick will help you quickly see what level verbs you have. It will also let you check that the course level outcome is at least as high of a Bloom’s level as any of the lesson level outcomes underneath.

Before you begin constructing your outcomes:

Please read our Learning Outcome : Before and After Examplespage.

Additional External Resources:

For a longer list of Bloom’s Verbs– TIPS tip:You can also use the “find” function (press: Ctrl-f or command-f on a mac) in your browser to locate specific verbs on this list.

To see how Bloom’s can be applied specifically to distance education:Digital Approaches to Bloom’s Taxonomy

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