The GWO Taxonomy – A New Approach To Standards Writing

During 2021 GWO delivered the building blocks for improved consistency in GWO standards writing and across the standards portfolio. The ambition, delivered through the GWO Taxonomy is to better guide instructors in planning learning activities that meet the learning objectives on the relevant levels and in the relevant learning domains.  

Thomas Grønlund, Training Project Manager GWO explains the taxonomy from first principles. 

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.
Thomas Grønlund, GWO Training Project Manager

Understanding Different Types 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 a participant needs to learn something in. These domains are:

  1. Knowledge – a participant’s understanding of a topic
  2. Skills - for example, practical or cognitive skills
  3. Ability - a participant’s 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 and Advanced.

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

  • Knowledge at a Basic level, means participants are familiar with a given topic. They might be able to recite a fact about something or recognise a tool or a procedure
  • Knowledge at an Intermediate level, means participants know how to perform or to utilise tools and techniques. They can explain  how things are done and what to do in commonly known situations in the professional context
  • Knowledge at an Advanced level, means participants understand the topic in its entirety so instructors can evaluate and select an action 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 guidance to help plan 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 learning activity using a GWO standard the instructor can use these words to guide him or her in planning the learning activities and observing the learning process as it happens. If the standard tells the instructor that a participant must be able to 'describe' something, this is the action that has to be conducted and to be observed and assessed.

Next Steps

For the GWO Development Team the move to incorporate the GWO Taxonomy into the existing standards portfolio was a significant project for 2021 requiring the reformulation of every module into consistent taxonomic language. This had to be achieved without fundamentally changing already agreed learning objectives. The results of this project will be launched during 2022. To prepare the training community for the change in approach GWO has prepared a suite of videos on what taxonomy means and how the framework can be used to improve the consistency and quality of GWO certified training.

Watch here the video "Introduction to the GWO taxonomy".