Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Course Design > Frameworks & Taxonomies of Learning
In the past few decades, higher education has seen a paradigm shift: the idea of college as a place for providing instruction has largely been reimagined as a place for producing learning (Barr and Tagg 1995). Research in the emergent and interdisciplinary field known as the learning sciences has been a key factor in this shift. Scholars in this field have been able to identify and advance a more scientific understanding of learning and cognition by drawing from disciplines as diverse as cognitive neuroscience, human-computer interaction, linguistics and sociology.
As a part of this changing landscape, experts in curriculum design and other fields have designed a number of teaching and learning frameworks or models. These frameworks are informed by research and can serve as guidelines or conceptual maps for instructors and departments engaging in designing or redesigning courses. Two teaching and learning frameworks that complement each other well are Backward Design and Universal Design for Learning.
Many instructors begin designing their courses with a focus on content, such as the texts and readings you will ask your students to complete. This process typically looks something like the following:
But as Wiggins and McTighe argue in their book Understanding by Design, this approach to course design has two limitations:
In order to overcome these shortcomings, Wiggins and McTighe argue for a curriculum planning process they call "backward design," which involves three steps:
If you'd like more information on Wiggins and McTighe's work, you might want to start by reading
an introduction to the Understanding by Design framework published by the ASCD.
Universal Design for Learning framework, which grew out of the larger universal design movement, has been shown to be an effective approach to designing learning experiences that are accessible to all students, including English language learners, students with disabilities, and students with differing educational and cultural backgrounds. The framework involves three domains and a number of specific guidelines. Instead of listing each guideline below, some examples of how the guidelines might be followed are given.
Representation: Present information and content in different ways. Some examples:
Action & Expression: Differentiate the ways that students can express what they know. Some examples:
You can learn more about this framework by visiting the
UDL Guidelines website, the UDL On Campus website, or reading Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice, either
on the web for free (requires registration) or
Bloom's taxonomy was revised in 2000 by Lorin Anderson, one of Bloom's former students, and one of Bloom's original collaborators, David Krathwohl. The revised taxonomy is, generally speaking, what most educators refer to when referencing Bloom's taxonomy. One of the more significant changes was their placement of "creating" at the top of the pyramid3. In Bloom's original taxonomy, "evaluation" was considered the highest level of cognition, with "synthesis" immediately below it. To reflect changes in teaching and learning scholarship and practice, Anderson and Krathwohl renamed synthesis to "creating" and moved it to the top of the cognitive hierarchy.
Understanding key ideas, information, and perspectives
Cultivating critical, creative, and practical thinking skills
Recognizing connections between information, ideas, perspectives, and lived experiences
Learning about oneself and others
Developing new feelings, interests, and values
Becoming self-directed, lifelong learners
Barr, R., & Tagg, J. (1995). From teaching to learning—a new paradigm for undergraduate education. Change, 27(6), 12-25.
Englehart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., & Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, The Classification of Educational Goals, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. (B. S. Bloom, Ed.). New York: David McKay Company.
Hall, T. E., Meyer, A., & Rose, D. H. (2012). Universal design for learning in the classroom : practical applications. Guilford Press.
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.