Targeting the Right Skill Level

Have you ever struggled with determining the appropriate skill level of a training session or module? In the course of writing training objectives, sometimes you can get stuck on how much you can/should accomplish given the audience, available resources, and the overall goal.

This article briefly describes a model that can help you determine what it is you hope to accomplish with your training.

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

It was way back in 1956 that Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues developed a Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for the Cognitive Domain. The Taxonomy described six levels of mental mastery of a topic.

In spite of being well over 50 years old, the original Taxonomy is still widely in use in education and training. However, the Taxonomy was revised in the 1990’s by former students of Bloom’s, and was published in 2001. A key difference between the original and revised taxonomies is the shift from nouns to verbs to label the levels of mastery.

The verbs are organized sequentially, from Lower-Order to Higher-Order Thinking Skills. You can mouse over the terms to learn more about each level.

In Action

I worked with a client to develop a year-long train-the-trainer program for internal subject matter experts. The goal of the program was to enable SMEs to develop and deliver training that was needed within their respective departments from throughout the Operations division of the organization.

Ultimately, since the program objective was for participants to develop and deliver their own training, we were designing for the highest-level thinking skill – creating. However, based on the hierarchical nature of the six skill levels, and the gap between the participants’ current skillset and desired performance, the program included objectives at all the levels. Sessions included objectives such as:

  • Remembering – Describe the procedure for requesting instructional design support.
  • Understanding – Explain how different learning modalities can be addressed through variety in instructional design
  • Applying – Use the Criterion Referenced Instruction Model to construct behavior-based objectives
  • Analyzing – Identify different types of “difficult classroom behaviors” and develop strategies for responding to them
  • Evaluating – Use the Training Feedback Tool to provide actionable feedback on peer presentations
  • Creating – Develop a 15-minute training module which includes visual aids and handouts

Your Turn

If you would like to put the Taxonomy into action on a current or forthcoming training project, try out this simple Skill Level Assessment I put together. The template helps you think through the training objectives in light of the Taxonomy.

Now What?

You may have noticed how helpful the Taxonomy can be in identifying and constructing objectives. There are many resources on the Internet that tie performance verbs to the Taxonomy to facilitate designing effective objectives; this one from the University of West Florida is good.

This article from the University of Texas provides some more background on the original and revised taxonomies, and includes a few verbs.

This post is one in a series that highlights different instructional and performance technology theories — concisely explaining them in a way that can help you put them to work immediately or just enhance your credibility when speaking with colleagues or clients. 

What do you think?