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Bloomin’ Theories

At this point in my EACE Trending blog series on assessment, you have:

  • Found your institution’s strategic goals or priorities and highlighted any language that pertains to your office’s work.
  • Created a mission statement using some or all of that language culled from institutional priorities and divisional goals as well as keywords obtained from discussions with your staff about the work you do with your students.

Today, meet my buddy, Bloom.

Way back in 1956, a guy named Dr. Benjamin Bloom developed an idea that highlighted several levels of learning that he felt were involved in the educational process.

Bloom’s Taxonomy was born.

Generally, when I talk to people about Bloom’s Taxonomy, they slowly back out of the room or change the subject. But I have been playing with Bloom’s for a while and I hope, today, I can show you why I like this theory and how it can work for Career Services offices that are investing in assessment.

So – when you look at the triangle shown above, you see six levels. Bloom believed that each behavior was important to learning. He also felt that Remembering was a good type of learning but, if educators wanted students to really retain and adapt what they were learning, they needed to develop learning experiences that promoted behavior listed at the above-listed higher levels.

This means – when we are teaching workshops, building career development courses, creating programming – we should offer opportunities for students to not only Remember the material, but also Apply, Analyze, Evaluate and/or Create.

Let me give you an example:

You have developed a Working a Job Fair PowerPoint presentation with beautiful graphics and solid text. You schedule this new workshop a week before your office’s annual job fair and 40 people show up. You click through each slide, presenting your “engaging” spiel to your captive audience. Knowing how important an elevator speech is, when you get to that designated slide, you increase the volume of your voice and point to the screen, but when you turn back to the audience, all eyeballs facing you look glassy and out of focus. Two students have their heads on the table, with their eyes closed, and one is drooling.

Chances are, very little learning has taken place.

But – if we add other elements to the workshop – we may push this audience into a better learning zone.

The next time you hold this workshop, you once again click on the elevator speech slide – but this time, you hand out a worksheet and have them quickly create their own elevator speech, based on questions asked on the slide.   Next you make the students stand up and pair with another student. You give them a minute or two to present their newly developed speech to each other. You then let one or two students present their elevator speech to the group and you briefly critique them.

By adding this little active learning component to your presentation, you have moved your students from the bottom of the triangle – possible Remembering something you have said – to mid-level learning – Understanding and even Applying.

If you present this workshop in a career development course and ask them to submit a video of their elevator speech related to their field of interest for a grade, you have now pushed learning way up to the Creating level of Bloom’s triangle!

So – next time you create a workshop or program, ask yourself the following questions and make Dr. Bloom happy:

  • Can I create an opportunity for students to practice a skill during this workshop/program?
  • Can I add time for some or all students to respond to questions during this workshop/program?
  • Can I find a way to get the students to adapt a method/technique/tool to their own career interests during or after this workshop?
  • Can I extend the learning through take home materials, on-line resources or mandatory assignments?

During the next blog, I will introduce you to more of Bloom’s great ideas for learning!

About the author: Carol Crosby is Assistant Director in Career Services at Bridgewater State University (BSU) in Bridgewater, MA. Her work in higher education has spanned 20 years and she has worked in career services offices for 12 years. She has a M.S. in College Student Personnel from the University of Rhode Island and has attended the HERS Institute at Wellesley College, NACE’s Management Leadership Institute, and the Fulbright International Education Administrators Program in Germany. She has been a member of BSU’s Student Affairs Assessment Committee and has participated on the program review team for accreditation for her office. She presented her office’s approach to assessment as it relates to students’ skill development at NACE’s 2015 Annual Conference in Anaheim, California.

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