Nailing Practical Skills Design

How do you teach practical skills in an eLearning context? A review of Bloom’s Taxonomy can help you in that quest.

The cornerstone of the theory is that learning a psychomotor skill even as simple as changing a tyre or driving a nail into a thick plank requires a stepwise approach.

Bloom’s Taxonomy exists on two levels:  knowledge and cognition.  In other words, what do you need to know to perform a task and how do you reach that understanding through the thinking process? Each learner is different but they share common traits.

Most people like to know what they are getting into before they start, especially involving practical skills training.  So driving home the point with our nail and plank example–the learner needs to be presented with a clearly stated objective like:  At the end of this module you will learn how to drive a nail into a plank safely and how to choose the right nail for the type of plank you are using.

Always start with the facts:  To perform this procedure you will need a claw hammer, a treated nail, and two 2×4 pine planks. Choosing the right nail for the job may require a conceptual understanding of how different nails work to fasten two pieces of wood together and how each nail has a head on it that works best with a particular hammer.

Then comes the “how to” part.  Measure where you want the nail to go and mark it with a pencil, then place the tip of the nail on the mark and drive the nail in with smooth even strokes so it goes in straight and fastens the two planks together.  Examine the two planks that have been nailed together to make sure they are flush and the tip of the nail is not sticking out of the bottom plank.

But what if you make a mistake?  Then you can use the claw part of the hammer to remove the bent nail and start again.

And what if you smash your thumb in the process?  There are first aid tips to follow.

These are the first steps to building a fence in the learning process.

On the cognitive side of the equation learners will call on their long term memory to contextualise the skill:  I watched my Uncle Bob hammer two planks together last summer when he was building his fence.  Then comes the understanding from the instructions:  I need to select the right hammer and nail.  This is followed by applying this knowledge by practicing the procedure with mentoring or guidance which helps learners analyse and internalise the process.  The evaluation process then follows to re-enforce an understanding of the procedure and then the learner reaches the point of assembling all the elements of the learning process in a new, learned pattern of behaviour.

So take the first steps toward building your fence by leaning on Bloom’s Taxonomy.




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