Revisiting Bloom’s and Making Sense of Outcomes

After attending a learning outcomes assessment workshop led by Diane Harvey in June I was left pondering three things: Bloom’s Taxonomy, ACRL Literacy Standards, and information behavior theory.

As a library science student I regularly refer to theories and models related to information seeking behavior, both to reflect on my own learning processes and to improve my teaching. One of the (many) theories I often refer to is Brenda Dervin’s theory of sense-making. You may be familiar with her neutral questioning approach to reference interviews or her unique illustrations, but more on Dervin later in the post.

While conducting research after the workshop I came across an interactive model of Bloom’s Taxonomy created by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Iowa State University.  I would encourage exploration of this tool if you find yourself stuck designing a learning outcome, or want to ensure that your outcomes build upon skills students should have gained in previous instruction sessions. By viewing the intersecting concepts we see that, for example, students in a basic information literacy class accessing information from a database and extracting records will be operating at both factual and conceptual levels of analysis. Let’s imagine those same students come to a follow up session in which they would like to integrate those resources with information they are learning in another course in order to summarize their findings and create a new theory or workflow-according to the model they would be moving from procedural analysis to creation.

It isn’t realistic to always consider outcome creation at this level of detail, but couple the interactive tool with Dervin’s model and you may find a new way to consider individualized learning outcomes. I could easily see using this with a student you find yourself working with for an extended period of time. As you gain awareness of their research support needs (values, emotions, past experiences) you can hopefully reduce unique barriers to information acquisition and along the way refine your outcome writing skills.

So far we’ve integrated Bloom’s taxonomy and Dervin’s model, but what about the bold words in this post? They relate to ACRL Literacy Standards, which you may also want to refer to during your outcome design process. If you have already refined your outcomes with Bloom’s consider exploring curriculum mapping, which Emily blogged about in May!