Assessing Learning

In my last post I talked about Analysis and some data pertaining to unconscious competence and the impact that that can have upon a business (a risk to health and safety, compliance and reputation). In this post I want to look at how we know learning has taken place.

Bloom’s Taxonomy has been the distinct tool of choice for the setting of measurable learning objectives in both training and teaching circles for many years. The below graphic shows the Taxonomy;


(University of Arkansas, 2017)

We can use the taxonomy to measure and assess the level of employees/learners when they learn information or skills within the workplace and as such how well they are able to recall and apply the knowledge. In my experience of workplace eLearning, this generally involves reaching the ‘Apply’ level of the taxonomy. We want to see our employees applying the skills that they have learnt to their working environment.

The main issue with workplace training and Bloom is the need to train in behaviours to address unconscious incompetence within workforces. This, for me, falls outside the remit of what Bloom’s Taxonomy can provide for us. Whilst we can use Bloom to some extent, it does not address the need to assess that the learner is actually applying the learnt behaviours in a work environment.

It appears that Bloom may not be the best approach for workplace learning. Sugrue (2002) argues that there should be no taxonomy, instead “..learners will practice or be assessed on the particular performance in representative task situations.” (Allen, 2016) Allen’s analysis of this style of assessment divides knowledge into 5 areas, defined below with the information presented to the learner;

  • Fact – The fact is needed.
  • Concept – The definition, critical attributes, examples, non examples.
  • Principle/Rule – The principle/rule, examples, analogies, stories.
  • Procedure – List of steps, demonstration.
  • Process – Description of stages, inputs, outputs, diagram, examples, stories.

(Allen, 2016)

The key to this process is the assessment process. This is split into two sections, remember and use. For example, where the fact is concerned, the learner may be asked to recognise or recall the fact in order to show remembering. To show use they will be asked to recognise or recall the fact whilst performing a task.

For me Sugrue’s principles, as applied by Allen, make for better learning experiences that are less theory based than a typical Bloom-driven experience. The focus is clearly on the use of the knowledge gained in order to perform a clear, work-based task. I also believe that this is more measurable in the workplace as we can assess learning by either simply asking for recall of facts and processes or by observing the use of the process, be this in the workplace or in a role-play or scenario-driven environment.


Allen M, (2016), “Michael Allen’s Guide to E-learning”, Second Edition, Wiley.

Sugrue B, (2002), “Problems With Blooms Taxonomy. Performance Express, December. (Sourced from Allen, 2016)

Sugrue B, (2013), “A Learning Science Alternative to Bloom’s Taxonomy”, Learning Solutions Magazine, March (Sourced from Allen, 2016)

University of Arkansas, (2017), “Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Write Effective Learning Objectives”,, last accessed 8/4/2017.



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