One of the best ways to determine if a trainee understands course content and material is to ask them questions. Oral or written Q&A can be an important tool in a training facilitator’s tool kit. Educational psychologist, Dr. Benjamin Bloom, researched and coined what is known as Bloom’s Taxonomy. Dr. Bloom’s theory has been around since the mid 1950’s and includes three domains: Cognitive, Psychomotor, and Affective.
In the cognitive domain, Bloom suggests using six levels of questioning to promote higher forms of thinking and learning. Since these levels can be incorporated in the instructional design process, and usefully applied in a training environment, I’ll provide you with an overview and an example of each level of questioning.
The first level of questioning from Bloom’s cognitive domain is the knowledge question. A knowledge question allows you to check the trainee’s basic understanding of information. It may require the trainee to recall a wide range of information such as specific facts, dates, or events.
Some helpful verbs used to frame a knowledge question might include “list,” “state,” “identify,” or “name.” For example: Can you name the 13 provinces and territories of Canada?
A comprehension question allows you to determine if the trainee fully understands or comprehends basic information. It goes beyond simply recalling or remembering the material. In a comprehension question, the trainee may have to interpret information, predict outcomes, or explain information using his or her own words.
The use of the verbs “interpret,” “translate,” or “explain” may be appropriate to frame a comprehension question. For example: In your own words, explain what you feel are the main differences between training and education?
The next level of questioning in Bloom’s cognitive domain is the application question. The way a trainee responds to an application question suggests that he or she can apply the information to the real world. Application questions might be framed with the phrases “How is this an example of...?” or “Why might this be significant?”
I’ve used application questions to determine if a trainee could apply a policy, concept, or procedure to a real-life scenario. For example: Based on the organization’s attendance policy, how would you apply it to an associate who fails to report to work?
When responding to an analysis question, the trainee is encouraged to dissect, analyze, or break down the material into parts. Analysis questions indicate if the trainee understands both the content and the structural form of the material.
Analysis questions can be framed with phrases such as “What are the features of...?” or “How would you classify...?” Verbs such as “differentiate,” “compare,” or “distinguish” can also be used to position an analysis question. For example: Can you compare the differences in the instructional design of an instructor-led course versus an e-learning course?
The purpose of a synthesis question is to see if the trainee can extrapolate from known information to create a new course of action. A response to a synthesis question determines if the trainee can put parts of the content together to form a new whole.
Framing a synthesis question might include using the verbs “construct,” “develop,” or “create.” Phrases that are useful in positioning a synthesis question might include “What ideas could you add?” or “What could you substitute?” For example: Besides lecture, what alternatives might exist when considering ways to present course content?
The last level of questioning in Bloom’s cognitive domain is the evaluation question. The purpose of this type of question is to determine if the trainee can judge the outcome and decide on a course of action from the information.
“Evaluate,” “justify,” and “judge” are all common verbs used to frame an evaluation question. This type of question could also be positioned with phrases such as “How would you decide?” or “What criteria would you use?” For example: How would you evaluate your training program to determine if it’s more knowledge-based or more skill-based?
Dr. Bloom provided us with a very valuable process to encourage deeper learning in our trainees. It’s up to us as facilitators to incorporate his six levels of questioning. If we do, we may find that our trainees have a greater understanding of the material, higher retention rates, and eventual performance improvement.
For more details on how to apply Bloom’s Taxonomy to the “design tests” step in the instructional design process, check out this past blog.
Greetings from Chicago! My name is Jeff Welch and I’ve been a Course Leader with Langevin Learning Services since December, 2000. However I’ve been involved with Langevin since the mid 90’s. I attended Langevin courses as a participant before becoming an instructor.