Revisiting Learning Outcomes

As you developed learning outcomes or objectives for your Unit of learning, and as you focus in on identifying the same for your chosen protoype activity, take a few moments to review the tools you can use to identify the type and level of learning you envision.

Taxonomies of Learning

Over time, instructors have tried various approaches to developing meaningful learning experiences for students. Some of the most well-known and well-used taxonomies are Bloom's Taxonomy,  L. Dee Fink's Taxonomy of Significant Learning and John Bigg's Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO).

Taxonomy of Significant Learning

1.  Foundational knowledge (understand and remember information and ideas)

2.  Application - Skills (engage in critical, creative, practical thinking)

3.  Integration - (connect ideas, people, realms of life)

4.  Human Dimension (learning about oneself and others)

5.  Caring (develop new feelings, interests, values)

6.  Learning how to learn (become a better student, inquiring, self-directed learning)

Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO)

This structure described by Kevin Collis and John Biggs, allows instructors to organize learning outcomes in terms of the complexity of learning. SOLO can be used to help design a course and to ensure that assessment strategies are aligned with the intended learning outcomes. The different levels of understanding are organized into:

  • prestructural - nothing is known about this area
  • unistructural - one relevant aspect is known (e.g. List, Name, Memorize)
  • multistructural - several relevant, independent aspects are known (e.g., Describe, Classify)
  • relational - aspects of knowledge are integrated (e.g., Analyze, Explain, Integrate)
  • extended abstract - knowledge is generalized into a new domain (e.g., Predict, Reflect, Theorize)
Blooms Taxonomy

A widely used, although narrower in scope, taxonomy is Bloom's Taxonomy. Many instructors have learned to frame learning experiences and course design by identifying intended levels of learning through the use of Bloom's Taxonomy, Based on the observations and experience of Dr. Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues in 1956, the taxonomy he developed identified three types or domains of learning:

  • cognitive (knowledge)
  • affective (changes in feelings or attitudes)
  • psychomotor (physical skills).

The cognitive domain was the first to be developed and broadly applied and focused on a perceived continuum of learning from lower to "higher order thinking" skills:

  • knowledge
  • comprehension
  • application
  • analysis
  • synthesis
  • evaluation

The framework was often criticized for the assumption that all learning progressed from knowledge to the higher level skills. In 2001 a group of cognitive psychologists, theorists and instructional researchers revised the taxonomy and the wording to describe the cognitive processes that learners encounter with different kinds of knowledge (Factual, Conceptual and Procedural). The new categories were:

  • Remember (involves recognizing and recalling)
  • Understand (interpreting, exemplifying, summarizing, etc.)
  • Apply (executing, implementing)
  • Analyze (differentiating, organizing)
  • Evaluate (checking, critiquing)
  • Create (generating, planning, producing)

As this taxonomy has been widely used by instructors in K-12 and higher education, many additional resources are available to aid in developing learning outcomes and activities that address each level of learning. A popular tool, Alan Carrington's Padagogy Wheel combines Blooms Taxonomy with the importance of motivation (through a central focus on autonomy, mastery and purpose) and the use of technology to develop different products or learning activities.


O'Neill, Geraldine and Feargal Murphy (2010) Guide to Taxonomies of Learning, University College of Dublin, Teaching and Learning Resources. Retrieved from

Armstrong, Patricia (2017) Blooms Taxonomy, Vanderbilt University, The Center for Teaching, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Retrieved from

Biggs, John. SOLO Taxonomy, Retrieved from

Carrington, Alan (2014) The Padagogy Wheel V4.0, Designing Outcomes. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License,  Retrieved from