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INSDSG 602: The Adult as Learner -- Bellnier

Why start with learning theories?

Why are we starting with learning theories - particularly ones that may start with looking at children?  These two resources make the connections between learning theories and the practice of instructional design.


Models of Adult Learning

There are a handful of models that attempt to apply learning theories to frameworks for examining learning design. Below are a few that are commonly seen in instructional design, depending on your context.


Bloom’s Taxonomy

You will likely hear about Bloom’s taxonomy as it is the dominant framework for talking about learning, especially in education. It speaks to the fact that learning can involve different depths – is it enough to ‘recall’ information or do you need to know it well enough to ‘apply’ it to a situation or to ‘create’ a novel solution.

Dorner, W. (2020, July 22). Bloom’s Taxonomy - Faculty Center. Faculty Center.


Webb’s Guide

While Bloom’s may be the most well known and used framework for describing learning  and learning goals, there are a few others to be familiar with. Bloom’s focusing on what learners are able to do with their knowledge (describe, apply, synthesize, create), it does not reflect the level of complexity of that action (e.g., E.g., What kind of description? How detailed? How integrated?). Webb’s approach looks at the depth of knowledge and complexity of the task. 

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Guide Career and Technical Education Definitions. (2009).


Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels

Kirkpatrick’s model for evaluating training is more pragmatic, considering what is measurable (satisfaction, knowledge, change in behavior, and, ultimately, did it change business results).

 Ardent Learning. (2020). What is the Kirkpatrick Model? Learn the 4 Levels of Evaluation. 


Fink’s Significant Learning Taxonomy

A different challenge to Bloom’s taxonomy is its focus on cognition. L. Dee Fink created a taxonomy of significant learning that expands from Bloom’s to add areas related to learning about oneself, about learning (metacognition), and the affective (emotions, attitudes, interests). If this brief description and the article on applying it to learning design interests you, I recommend investing in the book Creating Significant Learning Experiences.

Fink, L. D. (2005). What is Significant Learning. 

The Power of Significant Learning during Course Development

Applying Significant Learning to learning design can be a complex effort with six dimensions to consider. This article can give you a brief overview.

The Power of Significant Learning during Course Development | Faculty Focus. (2021, June 28). Faculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching & Learning.

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