Teaching: intentional and reasoned act

I’ve talked about Bloom’s taxonomy of learning objectives before but I have to admit that I’ve only gone back and read the original Bloom (1956) book and the revised taxonomy by Anderson & Krathwohl (2001) very recently. And it has been so worth it!

I’ve spent the better part of last year coaxing people at work into writing learning objectives, and there has been a lot of opposition to doing so, mainly because people didn’t see the point of writing down learning objectives when they could just write down the content of their courses instead. But what we need to remember is that everybody does have learning objectives, even though they might not have formulated them explicitly.

In the Anderson & Krathwohl (2001) book there is a quote that I like:

Objectives are especially important in teaching because teaching is an intentional and reasoned act.

Nothing too surprising here, but when you think about it it is really beautiful, and a lesson that many of my colleagues should take to heart.

Of course teaching is reasoned: We teach what we believe is important for our students to learn. What we judge as important to learn might depend on many different factors like it is closely related to our own speciality, or our own speciality builds on it, or a group of experts we trust decided it is important, or it has been on the curriculum forever and we feel like it stood the test of time; but in the end all we teach has been judged important enough by us.

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But then how we teach is also intentional. We provide materials and activities, help students gain experiences, create a learning environment. No matter how much or how little thought is put into creating the learning environment: In the end we all do our best to create an environment that is conductive to learning. Now what we deem important is highly subjective. Some people think that a lecture theatre with blackboards and a frontal lecture is the best environment, others like studio learning on projects in small groups better. But I think it is super important for educational developers to recognize that no matter whether they agree that the learning environments they encounter at work are the best possible ones, they are still (for the most part) intentional. Of course there is usually room for improvement, but I find it really dangerous to assume that people we work with are not intentional in how they approach teaching, and that they might not have very good reasons for doing exactly what they are doing.

So I guess what I am trying to say is this: Please, dear colleagues (and you know who you are!), instead of going on and on about how they are using instructional strategies that you don’t like, give the teaching staff you are working with the benefit of the doubt, and try to support them in a way they would actually like to be supported. And believe it or not: they might even be happy for you to work with them! :-)

Bloom, B., Englehart, M. Furst, E., Hill, W., & Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green.

Anderson, L. &  Krathwohl, D. (Eds) (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing. A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives Pearson Education

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