Definition of an E-Learning Curve – Bloom’s Taxonomy

A colleague recently asked me “So, what’s this ‘e-learning curve’ that you name your blog after, Michael?”

Well, when I originally started the E-Learning Curve Blog in 2007 my primary objective was to create and maintain an engaging, interesting, erudite e-learning related blog. Technology in Education is a sophisticated, dynamic and evolving discipline, but understanding all its facets takes time, effort and reflection, so I had (and still have) no interest in writing sound-bite (word-bite?) posts or articles. I choose to write serially rather than episodically; I think that this approach aligns very well with my broadly Constructivist philosophy. Oh yes, the title should catch my potential audiences’ attention; a name that implied that the content of the blog would be a learning journey in the ascendent – a narrative – for me, as much as anyone.

It is also a nice pun or play on words: I can’t deny it.

While undertaking some research on a different topic recently (learning objects – stay tuned to find out more as I’ll be discussing them soon), the term ‘e-learning curve’ cropped up with a certain frequency. Those occurrences, as well as my colleague’s query have prompted me to write a short series on Curves (not the geometric kind).

Now read on….

I’m sure you know the old joke about the lost tourist in New York asking a cop how to get to Carnegie Hall.

Lost Tourist: Excuse me officer, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?

Cop: Lady, ya gotta practice real hard.

Going back to the fundamentals of education, when we talk about learning, we can say that we’re discussing ways to acquire new skills, knowledge or expertise in some shape or form. When we use learning curves, we’re looking at approaches to measuring the growth or development of these abilities in the individual or group. In our work as learning professionals, we are perhaps most familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (PDF download) are a means of evaluating a learner’s current knowledge- or skill assets, and creating content accordingly to enhance and develop their current cognitive abilities(see Table 1).

As is traditional, I will now elucidate all three domains, only to ignore two of them from this point forward…

Bloom identified three domains of educational activities:

  • Cognitive: mental skills (Knowledge)
  • Affective: growth in feelings or emotional areas (Attitude)
  • Psychomotor: manual or physical skills (Skills)

Table 1. Bloom’s Taxonomy in the Cognitive Domain

Competence Level

Skills Demonstrated


Recall data or information.

observation and recall of information

knowledge of dates, events, places

knowledge of major ideas

mastery of subject matter

Associated verbs: list, define, tell, describe, identify, show, label, collect, examine, tabulate, quote, name, who, when, where, etc.


Understand the meaning, translation, interpolation, and interpretation of instructions and problems. State a problem in one’s own words.

understanding information

grasp meaning

translate knowledge into new context

interpret facts, compare, contrast

order, group, infer causes

predict consequences

Associated verbs: summarize, describe, interpret, contrast, predict, associate, distinguish, estimate, differentiate, discuss, extend


Use a concept in a new situation or unprompted use of an abstraction. Applies what was learned in the classroom into novel situations in the work place.

Use information

use methods, concepts, theories in new situations

solve problems using required skills or knowledge

Associated verbs: apply, demonstrate, calculate, complete, illustrate, show, solve, examine, modify, relate, change, classify, experiment, discover


Separates material or concepts into component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood. Distinguishes between facts and inferences.

Seeing patterns

organization of parts

recognition of hidden meanings

identification of components

Associated verbs: analyze, separate, order, explain, connect, classify, arrange, divide, compare, select, explain, infer


Builds a structure or pattern from diverse elements. Put parts together to form a whole, with emphasis on creating a new meaning or structure.

Seeing patterns

organization of parts

recognition of hidden meanings

identification of components

Associated verbs: analyze, separate, order, explain, connect, classify, arrange, divide, compare, select, explain, infer


Make judgments about the value of ideas or materials.

compare and discriminate between ideas

assess value of theories, presentations

make choices based on reasoned argument

verify value of evidence

recognize subjectivity

Associated verbs: assess, decide, rank, grade, test, measure, recommend, convince, select, judge, explain, discriminate, support, conclude, compare, summarize

When designing content, the taxonomy can be used as part of a holistic approach learning and development, rather than as a linear model (see Figure 1).

Bloom's Rose

Figure 1. Bloom’s Rose

Bloom’s taxonomy is hierarchical: learning at the higher levels is dependent on the learner attaining prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels (Orlich et al. 2004). Similarly, the verbs associated with Bloom’s taxonomy must enable the learning professional to elicit a measurable result from the learner. From this perspective, we can say that learning can be quantitatively assessed and tracked, and these assessments can be represented on a graph, which leads us neatly to learning curves.

More next time.



Bloom B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay Co. Inc.

Orlich, C., Harder, R., Callahan, R., Trevisian, M., & Brown, A. (2004). Teaching strategies: A guide to effective instruction. (7th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

St. Edward’s University Center for Teaching Excellence. (2004) Task Oriented Question Construction Wheel Based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. [Internet] Available from: http://www.edselect.com/Docs/wheel.pdf [Accessed 15th July 2017]