How Webb's Depth of Knowledge Took Our Training to the Next Level

Kimberly Glenn - Director ·

For those of us formally trained in education or instructional design, “Bloom’s Taxonomy” is pretty familiar. This framework was introduced back in 1956 and was integral in guiding educators and instructional designers in the creation of learning objectives. Revised many times over the years, this framework consists of three domains and 5 levels within each domain.


For years, this framework has guided instructors and educators as they design lessons and create learning objectives intended to pull learners through, to higher levels of learning. In my role as a Director and Instructional Designer, this framework had been a staple for me for many years. However, about 7 or so years ago, I was introduced to a new model, one created by Norman Webb. This model can be correlated to Bloom's Taxonomy, but focuses more on what is called the "cognitive demand" of a task.



For years I had been designing curriculum and essentially flipping bloom's taxonomy on its head, pushing my trainees to get to the upper levels of Bloom's Taxonomy to achieve higher levels of thinking. In today's workplace it isn't enough to just recall a rule or reproduce a process step-by-step. More and more we are requiring our workers to take what they know and apply it to new situations, to use their knowledge to solve problems and create solutions to new and unique situations based off of prior knowledge. This workplace demand has become commonplace, and the request to elevate training to pull learners through to higher levels of thinking has become the norm.

By using Webb's Depth of Knowledge as our framework for developing and designing curriculum, we have been able work with employers and educators to determine exactly what the end result should be and how to appropriately build knowledge to achieve the desired result. Our goal at EDSI has been to scaffold our learners into those employer-driven critical thinking skills. We start by ensuring our learners have the foundational knowledge to recall information or reproduce a process. We then ensure they can apply the skills they have learned to a variety of situations. We then move into ensuring learners can reason and create plans to use the information in more complex situations, and if the training or employer requires it, we can take learners to the extended thinking level, consisting of complex thinking that requires extended reasoning, planning, investigation and creation.

This has process has produced tiered learning objectives as well as engaging and interactive training designs. Trainees are leaving training with more than just information; they are leaving our trainings with the ability to use that information, apply that information to new situations, problem solve, plan and analyze the situations in ways never before associated with workplace training or professional development. It has been an incredibly journey leading our team of instructional designers, and having a solid framework has allowed us to produce consistent and stellar trainings for all of our customers.

Get the FREE Training Needs Analysis Guide

Conducting a training needs analysis is a critical step in developing a training program- it helps you truly understand the development needs of your staff. Download this guide now to maximize the impact of your training efforts!