Bloom(‘s) where you’re planted: Leveraging technology to frame terminal and enabling learning objectives

Concurrent Session 10
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Supporting and teaching about the creation of learning objectives for online courses can be difficult for even the most experienced instructional designers. This Express Workshop walks attendees through usage of a macro-enabled spreadsheet designed and developed to scaffold the easy and elegant framing of high-quality terminal and enabling learning objectives.


Joseph DiPietro, Ph.D., PMP, serves as the Chief of Academic Technologies at National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C. He and his team oversee the day-to-day operations and professional development for digital learning systems and educational software applications across all NDU components (e.g., the National War College, the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, the College of Information and Cyberspace, etc.). Joe is a former public school teacher, instructional designer, and university professor with a passion for all things educational technology-related. He has over 16 years of experience in managing the planning, delivery, support, and evaluation of online, blended, and face-to-face learning experiences in federal, private sector, postsecondary, and public education environments. Dr. DiPietro is an expert in assessing and promoting the quality of online and blended/hybrid offerings; in maximizing comprehensibility of technology-mediated course structures; and in ensuring alignment between learning objectives and various federal/national accreditation standards. He has vast experience using research- and learner-based needs analyses to engage with and lead collocated and/or virtual design teams to meet deadline-driven specific learning outcomes. Joe began facilitating online professional development in 2004 and taught his first online course in 2006. He has made mastering his craft the focus of his work, and his areas of interest focus most keenly on the fields of online teaching and learning; best practices of technology-mediated instruction; efficacy of professional development; efficiency in project management; and instructional design innovations.

Extended Abstract

Supporting faculty members in the creation of high-quality instructional materials is the primary duty of countless instructional designers (IDs). Given that many of the faculty members IDs support may possess an expertise outside of the field of education, a shared vernacular is critical. Awareness of these issues became increasingly clearer to the presenter as he transitioned from a career in academia to service in the federal government. In both roles, the presenter supported instructional faculty in the design, development, and facilitation of online courses. However, the presenter quickly learned that there was far less schema, professional development, and/or experience in relation to framing exemplary learning objectives that connected learning activities with desired course outcomes within the world of federal service as compared to within academia.

To better support faculty in the creation of online courses that employ best practices of research-based learning theories, including those relevant to enabling learning objectives (ELOs) and terminal learning objectives (TLOs), the presenter developed a macro-enabled Excel spreadsheet. This spreadsheet guides faculty members through how to deconstruct a higher-level competency or TLO into constituent ELOs. Quite simply, it is a digital graphic organizer preloaded with appropriately leveled Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs and guiding prompts. It scaffolds faculty in how to break down their big ideas about what students should be able to do upon successful completion of a course into smaller, and more measurable, chunks.

The impetus for the creation of this spreadsheet and Express Workshop submission are rooted in supporting the Pentagon’s Functional Integrated Process Teams (FIPTs). Essentially, these teams decide what a person in a particular career field should be able to do and/or what they should know in order to be successful. These insights become guidance called competencies, and the entire process is not too dissimilar from how curriculum committees operate in higher education. IDs and instructional faculty then collaborate to break down competencies into TLOs and supporting ELOs for dissemination and assessment within online courses. Trying to get faculty to understand the various levels of cognitive complexity (i.e., Bloom's Taxonomy) appropriate for learning tasks/activities was arduous at best, and the macro-enabled spreadsheet vastly improved the presenter’s ability to support faculty in successfully decomposing FIPT competencies into TLOs and supporting ELOs. It was met with great acclaim at the presenter’s host institution and was adopted at an enterprise level.

To facilitate this workshop, the presenter will leverage Google Classroom to walk attendees through recommended usage of the macro-enable spreadsheet. Regardless of level (i.e., K-12, higher education, government, etc.), attendees who engage actively with this session will leave with new knowledge and valuable resources that will help them better support faculty members in the creation of high-quality online content through the better framing of TLOs and ELOs. It will also help instructional faculty who are interested in learning more about the ID-related perspective of how to best frame TLOs and ELOs for their respective online courses.