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A Guide to Bloom’s Taxonomy in Coaching

Bloom's Taxonomy is a widely used framework that categorizes learning objectives into different levels of complexity. Developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues at the University of Chicago, it provides a structure for educators and trainers to design instruction that promotes a deeper understanding of a subject (Anderson, 2000).



Bloom's Taxonomy is often visualized as a pyramid or ladder, with six hierarchical levels of learning objectives:

  1. Remember: This is the most basic level, where learners recall factual information. (e.g., "What are the three branches of the U.S. government?")

  2. Understand: Learners grasp the meaning of information and can explain it in their own words. (e.g., "Why is the separation of powers important?")

  3. Apply: Learners use their knowledge and understanding to solve problems or complete tasks in new situations. (e.g., "How can the concept of separation of powers be applied to a school setting?")

  4. Analyze: Learners break down information into its component parts, identify relationships, and see the bigger picture. (e.g., "What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current system of separation of powers?")

  5. Evaluate: Learners judge the value of ideas or information based on specific criteria. (e.g., "Is the current system of separation of powers effective in preventing abuse of power?")

  6. Create: Learners generate new ideas or products by combining existing knowledge and skills. (e.g., "Design a new system of checks and balances to address the challenges of the modern world.") (Armstrong, 2010)



The hierarchical nature of Bloom's Taxonomy suggests that learners need to master the lower levels before they can progress to the higher levels. For example, understanding a concept is difficult if you can't remember the basic facts.


Bloom's Taxonomy is a valuable tool for educators, trainers, and coaches alike. By understanding the different levels of learning, you can create questions and activities that challenge learners to think critically and develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter.


A Deep Dive Into Bloom’s Taxonomy

In the upcoming paragraphs, we’ll explore each step of Bloom’s Taxonomy hierarchy and its application during coaching sessions. We’ll discuss its significance in your coaching practice and provide four questions that can assist your clients in progressing through the various stages of learning.


Remember (the foundation)

Coaches should start by identifying the client’s overall goal and assess their current knowledge level. Once the desired goal is established, coaches can analyze their understanding of how to achieve that outcome. By grasping the foundational knowledge of clients, coaches can better formulate the next set of questions and goals. Questions coaches could ask include:

  • Describe what happens when…?

  • How would you define…?

  • How would you identify…?

  • What is (are)...?


Understand (the why)

In the second stage of Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is the “understand” stage, both the client and coach focus on developing a deeper understanding of the client’s goals. For instance, if a client’s main goal is to leave a successful business for their children to inherit, the coach can explore the underlying reasons behind this goal. By understanding the client’s motivations—whether it’s to prevent family poverty, maintain a family legacy, or prioritize family over career—the coach can tailor their guidance to address potential obstacles effectively. Questions coaches could ask include:

  • Describe what happens when…?

  • How would you define…?

  • How would you identify…?

  • What is (are)...?


Apply (the knowledge)

Once clients and coaches understand the goals and their underlying reasoning, they can begin formulating a plan based on this newfound understanding. In the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, he emphasizes that true learning involves not only acquiring knowledge but also applying it. If clients and coaches remain in the lower tiers of Bloom’s Taxonomy—knowledge and understanding—their insights won’t be effectively put into practice. This challenge often arises in coaching sessions, where information learned isn’t consistently applied afterward. To address this, coaches can encourage clients to complete measurable tasks between sessions that directly apply the knowledge gained. For instance, keeping a journal for self-reflection and contemplation three days a week ensures clients apply their new insights beyond the coaching session. Questions coaches could ask include:

  • How would you demonstrate…?

  • How would you solve…?

  • Why does … work?

  • What would be the result if…?


Analyze (the outcome)

Once clients remember and establish their goals, understand the reasoning behind those goals, and apply their knowledge to their current life, they can analyze the outcomes of their decisions. For instance, if a client successfully journaled three days a week between coaching sessions, they can reflect on the impact of this practice. Did journaling change their interactions with employees? Did it bring them closer to their goals or enhance their self-awareness? Coaches who guide clients in analyzing outcomes encourage active progress toward their goals. Questions coaches could ask include:

  • Discuss the pros and cons of ….

  • How is … connected to ....?

  • What can you point out about…?

  • Why do you think…?


Evaluate (the decision)

In Bloom’s Taxonomy, evaluation is the fifth step. At this stage, coaches use questions and conversation to help clients assess the effectiveness of their actions. During evaluation, clients express concerns, ask questions, and share ideas about the executed plan. They can suggest changes based on their experiences. This active participation encourages clients to pursue their goals. Moving beyond steps three and four—where a set plan defines the outcome—clients evaluate whether the effort was worthwhile. If the outcome was valuable, this stage motivates them to continue. If not, clients collaborate with their coach to create a new plan. Coaches play an active role in this collaborative process. Questions coaches could ask include:

  • Predict the outcome if…

  • How would you improve…?

  • How would you elaborate on the reason…?

  • What alternative would you suggest for …?


Create (new ideas)

After guiding clients through steps one to five, coaches take a pivotal step. Coaches transition from providing solutions to teaching clients how to create their own methods and plans for achieving goals. Clients who reach this level of reasoning can formulate fresh solutions in response to evolving situations. With their coach’s guidance, they gain the tools needed to achieve success independently. Coaches who foster creativity and teach clients to generate new ideas have a profound effect on their clients’ overall growth. Questions coaches could ask include:

  • What choice would you have made if…?

  • What criteria would you use to assess…?

  • What would you suggest to someone else that…?

  • What would you do if…?


Bloom's Taxonomy for Powerful Coaching Conversations

The chart below provides practical examples of using Bloom's Taxonomy in coaching sessions. Each category aligns with the different levels of learning in Bloom's framework (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Evaluation, and Creation). This chart acts as a roadmap, guiding coaches and clients towards deeper levels of understanding throughout coaching sessions. Here’s how to use the chart:

  1. Identify the Stage: Determine the current level of understanding between you and your client.

  2. Targeted Questions: Use the corresponding category to craft questions that challenge clients at that specific level. (e.g., If you're at the "Application" stage, ask questions like "How would you use this strategy?").


Sarfraz (2017)

The main takeaway

Bloom’s Taxonomy provides coaches and educators with a framework for creating purposeful and reflective learning experiences for their clients. By following these guidelines during coaching sessions, coaches can help clients progress toward their goals while also fostering self-awareness, critical thinking, and skills that can benefit their careers in the long term. We encourage coaches to utilize these steps and sample questions to enhance their clients’ understanding of their thought processes and facilitate goal achievement.


References

Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2000). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessment. A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. Addison Wesley Longman.


Armstrong, P. (2010). Bloom's Taxonomy. Vanderbilt University. https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/.


Sarfraz, H. (2017). Strategic leadership development: Simplified with Bloom’s taxonomy. Industrial and Commercial Training, 49(1), 40-47. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.uttyler.edu:2048/10.1108/ICT-08-2016-0056, Original source: Bloom’s Taxonomy: Teachers Plan (2013).


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