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A Learning Science Alternative to Bloom's Taxonomy

by Brenda Sugrue

March 6, 2013

Tip

by Brenda Sugrue

March 6, 2013

“The method combines acquisition of the procedural and declarative knowledge components required for task performance. Procedural knowledge is non-verbal, enables task performance, and has the potential to become automated with repeated practice. Declarative knowledge can be verbalized and enables reasoning and transfer to novel situations.”

In 2002, I proposed two alternatives to Bloom’s Taxonomy for classifying objectives in order to design appropriate instruction and assessment (Sugrue, 2002). One was based on Merrill’s content performance matrix (Merrill, 1983). The other I called the “pure performance” alternative, which did not require any classification.

Since then, I have merged both alternatives into an approach that is aligned with the learning science behind the Pittsburg Science of Learning Center’s knowledge-learning-instruction framework, recently published in Cognitive Science (Koedinger, Corbett, and Perfetti, 2012).

The method combines acquisition of the procedural and declarative knowledge components required for task performance. Procedural knowledge is non-verbal, enables task performance, and has the potential to become automated with repeated practice. Declarative knowledge can be verbalized and enables reasoning and transfer to novel situations.

Verbs

When writing performance objectives, you can use a simple verbs table (Table 1). Use the verb that describes the task as the verb for the performance objective. For example, if the task is to assemble a bicycle, then the verb is “assemble.” If the task is to decide between physical therapy and surgery for patients with lower back injuries, then the verb is “decide.” The verb “decide” works for any decision task.

Table 1. Performance objectives verbs table

Table 1: Performance objectives verbs table

For supportive knowledge’ components (concepts, facts, processes, and principles that must be known or understood to perform the task), there are just a few verbs that describe the actions that can be performed if one possesses each of the four knowledge component types. For example, if a person has procedural knowledge of a concept, such as “tire,” they can identify examples of it; if a person has declarative knowledge of the concept “tire,” they can explain why a particular object is a tire. If a person has acquired knowledge of multiple related concepts, such as different types of bicycle tires or tire treads, they can distinguish among them (procedural knowledge) and explain why (declarative knowledge).

Instructional events

Once you have written the performance objectives, you can use the knowledge component—event map (Table 2) to determine appropriate instructional events (information, examples, and practice/assessment). For the procedure involved in the task/performance objective, the map tells us to provide opportunities for learners to practice performing the steps, following presentation of a description and demonstration of the steps. To deepen declarative knowledge of any knowledge component, and to integrate declarative and procedural knowledge, the map tells us to provide opportunities for learners to explain when, how, and why. We do this by prompting learners to reflect, self-explain, and discuss what they are learning.

Table 1. Knowledge component—event map

Table 2: Knowledge component—event map

References

Koedinger, K. R., Corbett A. T., and Perfetti, C., (2012). “The Knowledge-learning-instruction Framework: Bridging the Science-practice Chasm to Enhance Robust Student Learning.” Cognitive Science, 36(5).

Merrill, M.D., (1983). “Component Display Theory.” In C. Reigeluth (ed.), Instructional Design Theories and Models. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.

Sugrue, B., (2002). “Problems With Bloom’s Taxonomy.” Performance Express. December.


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