Learning objectives can vary significantly depending on the individual and their situation. While one person may be learning to solve a specific problem, another may be trying to improve their performance of a particular skill. Learners may be motivated to improve their employability, to achieve personal fulfillment or to become the best in their field. Generally, learners are trying to improve their performance by increasing their level of mastery. Achieving mastery requires deep engagement with the topic or skill.
For several decades, educators in the United States of America have used a taxonomy to think about the level of engagement and cognitive processing that takes place during learning. Bloom’s taxonomy was named after , who chaired the conferences at which the first version was developed. The taxonomy is a framework for thinking about learning objectives and how to achieve them. It identifies six categories of cognitive processing with increasing levels of complexity. The first objective — for learners to remember knowledge (factual, conceptual, procedural or metacognitive) — is least complex. The ability to remember knowledge is foundational for all learning, but it is unlikely to lead to mastery on its own. Five further categories of cognitive processing enable deeper engagement with the topic. The six categories of the taxonomy are:
- Remember: Retrieve relevant knowledge from memory
- Understand: Create meaning by integrating new knowledge with prior knowledge .
- Apply: Using the new knowledge to solve a problem or perform a task.
- Analyze: Disassemble knowledge into its components and examine their structure and purpose.
- Evaluate: Assessing the knowledge according to criteria such as quality, consistency, and effectiveness.
- Create: Can involve developing a solution, making a plan of action, then carrying out the plan to implement the solution, and hence producing something new.
To achieve mastery, a learner must engage in learning activities that promote deeper engagement. Depending on the objective, different learning strategies should be used.