Learning Types

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Here is an explanation of the Learning Types we include in our Learning Design Tool, which is a job aide for instructional designers to use during the Design phase of course development.

Written by our chief product architect, Rich Michaels.

Learning Types

Learning Types are my instructional sub-classifications or categorizations of the content to be taught. They can help the instructional designer choose the appropriate learning and assessment strategies and activities.  

Since they are my classifications, you won’t find anything written about them in the broader global arena. Here’s what I have to say about them and their purpose in our Learning Design Tool. I have to start by discussing what Learning Levels define.

 

Learning Levels

Learning levels generally define stages and expectations of a person’s ability to perform but they don’t quantify very well the complexity of what must be learned or taught.

Then there is the reality that instructional designers might not recognize when using the learning level taxonomy in their course designs, that certain enabling portions of an overall learning outcome may not require the same level of competency.

Bloom and others put labels on these performance expectation levels to try and help define them, but I think sometimes the labels get in the way. To really understand their purpose and how they relate to learning objectives, both Terminal and Enabling, it’s much simpler to just give them a number… A “degree of proficiency” as it were. In the Knowledge domain there are 6 degrees of proficiency and in Skill and Attitudinal domains, they each have 5 degrees of proficiency.

 

Framework for Learning Levels

With these degrees of proficiency in mind, you can look at your Terminal objectives and decide what’s the expected performance outcome when students complete the learning strategy that your course design lays out.

Then, as you begin to craft the Enabling objectives, which are required to achieve the master objective, I know you will often find that certain enabling objectives don’t require the same level of proficiency as the Terminal objective might. 

For example, if I am designing a course that has a single Terminal objective, which is for the students to learn how to drive a car, I might categorize the learning level outcome to be a desired 4 out of the 6 degrees of Knowledge proficiency. As I think about my design, I realize that to achieve this expectation, the design also needs three Enabling objectives that the students must master. One is “Rules of the Road” with a proficiency requirement of 4, “General Vehicle Maintenance” with a proficiency level of 2, and a “Driving Practicum” with a proficiency level of 4. A rule to keep in mind is that an Enabling objective’s learning level cannot be higher than its parent Terminal objective learning level… it can be equal to or less.

 

Framework for Learning Types

With the framework that Learning Levels are about a degree of proficiency that the learner is expected to achieve, then the framework for Learning Types is about the degree of difficulty/complexity of the subject matter, content and possibly even the learning environment, which ultimately impacts how learning is achieved.

It’s easier and less complex instructionally to teach and assess a learned Fact versus teaching and assessing the internalization of a Concept. Then there are Processes that often combine Facts and Concepts, and of course, are complex to teach and validate learnings.

Hopefully you see where I am going… Facts, Concepts, Processes, Procedures, Principles, and Strategies are the labels I have chosen to use as descriptors for the 6 degrees of Knowledge Learning Types. The Skill and Attitudinal domains also have their own Learning Type “degree of difficulty” labels.

 

The labels I have chosen for the Learning Types by domain are:

Knowledge

1.    Facts
2.    Concepts
3.    Processes
4.    Procedures
5.    Principles
6.    Strategies

 

Skills

1.    Replicating
2.    Performing
3.    Mastering
4.    Adapting
5.    Creating

 

Attitude

1.    Forming
2.    Norming
3.    Performing
4.    Transforming
5.    Motivating

 

At first blush, when looking at Learning Levels and Learning Types, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume there is a one for one alignment.

  • Knowledge > Facts
  • Comprehension > Concepts
  • Application > Processes, etc.

And for many types of content instruction that alignment of proficiency and difficulty might be correct… it’s just that it’s not always correct.

Most examples of the un-alignment that I have seen come from the Knowledge domain, but I don’t want to rule out that it can occur for instructional systems in the other domains… especially if you begin designing your courses to address all domains of learning.

 

A person’s ability to competently perform can be generalized by this formula:

Ability = (Knowledge + Skills) * Attitude

I hope that you, and all instructional designers using the the Learning Design Tool, will incorporate this formula and its meta-framework into your learning designs. I firmly believe a Learning Design that incorporates contributions from all domains, when implemented, will achieve superior outcomes versus a single domain architecture.

 

About the attitudinal Learning Type descriptors…

In doing the research required to build this tool, I was least impressed with the published descriptors for both the Skills and Affective domains concerning Learning Levels. My intent, by adding Learning Types to the Learning Design Tool, is to stimulate your thinking about “how to” teach and verify achievement. And because I didn’t want to confuse you by using the same descriptors that define Learning Levels, I ultimately looked for different words to use for my Learning Types.

I have spent decades teaching people how to be effective working in teams and one of my learnings about team effectiveness is that it’s all about team member’s attitude. To label team members attitudes at various stages of the teamwork process, the words Forming, Storming, and Norming have been published and it’s from these that I chose two of the descriptors.

 

Regarding attitudinal achievement questions you should consider asking yourself as you complete your Learning Design…

1st Degree (Formative) – what can I do to expose learners to new ways of thinking/feeling about something with the goal of influencing them that this might be a better framework of an attitude?

2nd Degree (Normative) – what can I do that allows learners to positively align their attitude, belief, values with others in their team/group? Let them tell us how it feels and what they still feel a bit uncomfortable with doing.

3rd Degree (Performing) – what can I do that allows a full demonstration/discussion of why they chose this course of attitudinal behavior and how it contributed to their success or failure… in their own words.

4th Degree (Transformation) – what can I do that shows/documents individual transformation to a new altitudinal belief or value?

5th Degree (Motivational) – what can I do in the learning setting that allows individuals who have embraced this new attitude the opportunity to convince others that they too should follow?

I hope my ramblings about Learning Types and the Learning Design Tool help…

Rich