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Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Write University Courses

Course Writer - Bloom's Taxonomy

When employers look at graduates to employ for their organisations, they want to know these alumni have the skills to make their business thrive. In other words, they need graduates to attain a certain level of expertise and competence which allows them to excel in a business environment. When writing a course for students, you need to ensure it meets these high learning outcomes.   

Below, we look at how using Bloom’s Taxonomy allows you to write university courses which exceed these expectations, by considering what Bloom’s Taxonomy is, how university courses are typically written, and how to design the perfect curriculum using this concept. 

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Graduate Attributes

Graduates have very specific expectations of a course, particularly at university level. They want:

  • A degree which they will enjoy and which stimulates them. 
  • Course content which is easy for them to follow and enables them to produce a logical course map and outline–especially for revision purposes.
  • Educators and course writers who are knowledgeable and whom they can trust to write accredited content.
  • Degrees which not only support their interests but further their career goals and make them attractive to employers upon graduation. 
  • Transferable skills which they can apply to their lives more generally–particularly the ability to form opinions. 

Courses, then, typically try to cater to these needs through a variety of practical and theoretical assessments, presentations, lectures, tutorials and private reading. Ongoing assignments to check progress periodically throughout a university term are also popular, although class weaknesses or course shortcomings cannot always be identified this way. 

Traditional course structure, based on purely deep academic knowledge, is becoming more balanced now institutions understand graduates need more than this to succeed. 

Bloom’s Taxonomy-what it is 

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a fairly straightforward concept. Basically, it is a model which is designed in a uniform way so that it’s understood by academics and other learning providers across the globe. Every university should be familiar with its principles. 

Its aim is to offer a consistent, reliable framework for measuring graduate outcomes and course usefulness. The principle is simple–higher-level, evaluative thinking which builds upon a solid foundation of lower-level knowledge. 

Learning is assessed against specific cognitive levels, which are:

  • Knowledge–factual awareness, recall, and recognition of basic principles and concepts
  • Comprehension–explaining and summarising information, and making some effort to predict outcomes
  • Application–applying this knowledge more broadly and to a wider range of situations, which shows some independent thought
  • Analysis–the student can compare and contrast, and point out strengths and weaknesses of various points of view
  • Synthesis–applying information in a new way and showing creativity
  • Evaluation–the highest level, with value judgments and an ability to transfer higher thought to other areas 

An alternative way, then of looking at the Bloom’s Taxonomy levels are:

  • Remember
  • Understand
  • Apply
  • Analyse
  • Evaluate
  • Create

Either way of describing the categories is correct. The best course writers understand this model and have sufficient vocational training to know how to write a course relevant for today’s market. This is your task if you want to write accredited courses at university level. 

We will look at each of these cognitive levels below in more detail to illustrate how to write a suitable course which covers each of these levels. 

The advantages of designing a course this way 

What are the benefits of building your course curriculum around these principles? Educators now understand there are many

  • It gives educators the chance to see what level the students are at and adapt a course accordingly to address any weakness. 
  • It encourages higher-level thinking from the earliest stages, meaning it becomes second nature to graduates. 
  • Graduates are sufficiently prepared with the right skills they’ll need to thrive in the workplace, build their careers and support their employers. 
  • Teachers can use the same basic course material but alter the outcomes depending on the student body level. 
  • Following the “steps” of Bloom’s Taxonomy ensures curriculum designers don’t leave anything out, because they can check their course content against outcomes promoted by the principle. 

A major benefit of using Bloom’s Taxonomy to write a university course is that you can make changes to the curriculum at any time if it appears there are deficiencies in meeting core competencies. This is an advantage over less regular check-ins, assessments, and purely conceptual knowledge. 

Creating a university course based on this principle 

Designing a course based on these principles requires both a thorough appreciation of the outcomes and of how to assess progress as well as how to meet graduate and market expectations. 

Knowledge (Remember)

Ensuring students can recall and remember the simplest principles of the subject is critical for building a higher level understanding. This should be tested early in the course and adjustments should be made for each individual student if there are problems. That’s the great thing about the Taxonomy–programs are constantly adaptable. 

Course design: Ensure students understand the fundamental principles–early tutorials and lectures should be focused around this. 

Learning tools: PowerPoint, diagrams, handouts, and setting required reading. Lectures and simple podcasts may also help. 

Assessment: Early assessment to check that students can recall basic information, such as biological terms, a mathematical principle or the core of a theory. Lists and labelling as tests are also useful, as is going around a class and asking for “quick” answers. 

Comprehension (Understand)

It’s not enough that students can recall basic terminology–they must be able to show they understand it. This is a critical point in any curriculum design as it’s the first step beyond basic, rote knowledge of a subject. Students should be able to take a few of these basic principles and link them together in a logical manner. 

Course design: Challenge students to show, in early tutorials, that they can make connections between rote ideas or terminology to reinforce this staple knowledge but also develop it. 

Learning tools: Lectures and podcasts building upon each point. Tutorials are also particularly useful for giving students very simple scenarios and having them apply basic recall to form basic ideas. 

Assessment: Completion of more complicated diagrams or linking the principles of a theorem together. Keeping an eye on student participation in groups and tutorials to make sure they’re understanding. Set additional tests at this stage if unsure–question and answer sessions, or quick quizzes can be useful without putting undue early pressure on students. 

Application (Apply)

Once you are confident a student remembers the basic principles and terminology, and that they can make rudimentary links, you need to test their ability to apply this knowledge to a situation or scenario. This can involve applying laws, or a theorem, or a process, to come to a solution. 

Course design: Add in case studies and scenarios which take the student through how to properly apply fundamental ideas. Show this in lectures and podcasts. 

Learning tools: Required reading and homework, worked examples, diagrams, and mapping. Setting out your expectations makes it easier for students to see the level they’re expected to work at.

Assessment: Having students take you through a scenario while showing you their work. Student presentations are particularly helpful–they let educators spot weaknesses and gaps in understanding early enough to support them. 

Analysis

This is the stage when the student’s learning starts to develop into something more high-level. A student will show a basic ability to compare and contrast points and consider on their own what ideas mean. An example is having students compare two legal cases or scientific theories. 

Course design: Make sure students understand the basic format for producing discursive work by encouraging them to engage in analyses and produce sufficiently detailed written work. 

Learning tools: Lectures, reading, tutorials revolving around this skill and essay structure. 

Assessment: Essays or reports, case studies, and comparisons. It’s important at this stage that students can make basic judgments and show some independent thought before they can move on to more detailed thinking. 

Synthesis (Evaluate)

Students need to now start doing their own independent research to support their arguments and show they can properly evaluate the body of knowledge already available. The student is now getting to a place where they can contribute their own ideas to the discussion. It’s important any weaknesses in learning are supported now so students can take that final step to innovative thought. 

Course design: Seeking more student engagement and expecting to see evidence of research. Giving students problems which are more complex to seek solutions with little input from the educator. 

Learning tools: Reading lists, supplementary podcasts, group work.

Assessment: Presentations, detailed essays or projects. 

Evaluation (Create)

This is the highest level of cognitive thinking and what all students are aiming for. This is what employers want to see from university graduates–the ability to innovate and think entirely independently. 

Course design: Case studies, but now less input overall from the teacher.

Learning tools: Debates, worked examples of evaluation and academic-level writing. 

Assessment: Dissertations, group projects, and case studies. 

Whichever degree or qualification the student works toward, designing a university course following Bloom’s Taxonomy is the easiest way to ensure they reach the highest level of learning outcomes, exercise independent thought, and achieve degree satisfaction. 

About Course Writer

The curriculum writers at Course Writer are all highly-trained, experienced and knowledgeable academics who have both practical teaching experience and an understanding of the current market needs. They are fully aware of all developments in educational improvement and can design cost-effective, custom, and fully-accredited university programs to match. 

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