February 5, 2021

Taxonomy...the hidden science behind learning

Take a moment and remember your best ever learning experience. Why was it so rewarding? What did the teacher or instructor do to make it memorable?

Most of us can recall our favourite teacher or instructor. In some cases, an educator might have played a defining role in your personal or professional development.

But what is it that the best teachers or instructors actually do, that can have such a profound effect on us?

GWO is in the business of achieving learning objectives. We provide instructors and educators in the field of health and safety with the tools to generate that effect. We want all GWO instructors to be able to help people achieve learning objectives, because the knowledge, skills and abilities they acquire on a GWO course will save many lives.

Understanding different kinds of learning

The GWO Taxonomy is a tool kit that helps instructors plan the right kinds of activities in their classes.

The Taxonomy begins by defining the "domain" or area you want someone to learn something in. These domains are:

  1. Knowledge - your understanding of a topic
  2. Skills - for example practical or cognitive skills
  3. Ability - your capacity to act responsibly, safely and independently

In the Taxonomy within each of these three areas, Knowledge, Skills and Ability, GWO has defined three levels of complexity: Basic, Intermediate & Advanced

Combining these two elements, you have the foundation of a learning objective. For example:

  • Knowledge at a Basic level means you are familiar with a given topic. You might be able to recite a fact about something
  • Knowledge at an Intermediate level means you know how to perform or to utilize tools and techniques. You can account for how things are done and what to do in commonly known situations in the professional context
  • Knowledge at an Advanced level means you understand the topic in its entirety so you can apply it based on an understanding of the pros or cons, risks or advantages

Once the domain and level of the learning objective are defined, the GWO Taxonomy provides specified words (Action Verbs) to help you plan your lessons and be sure that desired effect (the learning objective) is being achieved.

Action Verbs

Action verbs are words like 'describe', 'apply', 'take responsibility'. When creating a lesson using a GWO Standard the instructor can use these words to guide him or her in observing the learning process as it happens. If the standard tells the instructor that a participant must 'describe' something, this is the action that has to be observed and assessed.