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Management: Helping Your Team Bloom Where It’s Planted
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Management: Helping Your Team Bloom Where It’s Planted - Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Helping Your Team Bloom Where It’s Planted

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Helping Your Team Bloom Where It’s Planted

If you have knowledgeable, experienced trainers on your team, chances are excellent that they know about Bloom’s taxonomy even without knowing it by name. Named after educational theorist Benjamin Bloom, the taxonomy organizes learning by tiers of understanding: one kind of task demonstrates the simplest, shallowest understanding, another demonstrates a more meaningful understanding, while another demonstrates understanding deep enough to pass knowledge to others, or to expand upon knowledge with original thought.

While the human mind is far too complex for generalizations, and individual learners learn (and demonstrate learning) different ways, the taxonomy gives the trainer a workable model for (first) teaching new concepts and (second) assessing a trainee’s understanding of these concepts. For the manager hoping to impart more abstract understanding upon his or her team, or just to share ideas in a magazine article, Bloom’s taxonomy is not a bad place to start in shaping discussions.

Depending on whom you ask, the names of the tiers differ: more seasoned managers or trainers may have learned the original levels, but they were renamed in 2001 with more accessible (and memorable) titles. We’ll offer a quick look at the new taxonomy, then point to a few real-office applications.

The taxonomy’s 2001 revision names six levels of objectives: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create.

  • Remember: recognize or remember facts, terms, basic concepts, or answers without necessarily understanding what they mean. When your team goes through sexual harassment training, for example, the first objective may be simply for them to know what the policy actually states. Their ability to remember and quote certain parts of it, with or without actual understanding, is a first-level mark of learning the policy.
  • Understand: demonstrate understanding by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, describing, or stating main ideas. To continue with our example, now your team might be asked to share a moment where they witnessed (at another firm!) behavior that would be in violation of your company’s policy.
  • Apply: use acquired knowledge; solve problems in new situations by applying knowledge, facts, techniques, and rules. Use prior knowledge to solve problems, identify connections and relationships, and apply them to new situations. Now your team, faced with a hypothetical situation, might offer solutions for better interpersonal office communication that remains friendly but stays within acceptable bounds.
  • Analyze: examine information and break it into component parts, determining how the parts relate to one another. Identify motives or causes, make inferences, and find evidence to support generalizations. You team can demonstrate deep understanding of the policy when it ranks components of the policy from least offensive to most offensive, or from least likely to be violated to most likely to be evaluated. It’s important here that the actual product of their work may not be important: the actual exercise in ranking is the analysis.
  • Evaluate: present and defend opinions about information or the validity of ideas. Here we might ask the team to take a close look at the policy for realistic, problematic scenarios that might not be covered by the policy, or to debate the importance of certain parts of the policy.
  • Create: build a structure or pattern from diverse elements, or put parts of the material together to form a whole. Your team might rewrite parts of the policy so it covers all the important ground but is readable and brief. Obviously, for legal reasons, it wouldn’t replace existing policy, but if it’s done well, it could be turned into a handout for new hires to help them understand the policy. Alternately, your team could create a meaningful graphic representing acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Remember that simply walking through the tiers as you coach your team doesn’t equal good training. As you work your way through the taxonomy, you will challenge your team to understand the material on increasingly deeper levels, so the model is instructive to the team, while serving as an indicator to you of how well they’re picking up the material. For instance, the team may get frustrated with ranking components of the policy from least offensive to most offensive. This may indicate they can’t tell the difference between different components of the policy. It may be a good moment to re-explain parts of it so everyone’s clear before moving to the next task.

Bloom’s taxonomy is one tool, one model for understanding how people learn (and demonstrate learning). It is never a be-all or end-all, but for testing your team’s understanding, it’s a good framework for seeing how deeply your team understands important concepts.

 

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Management: Helping Your Team Bloom Where It’s Planted - Executive Leadership Articles

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