LEARNING - 9 January 2014
Venus Setting at Sunset - Piedras Blancas, California
This article will be a bit less conclusive than the others I’ve posted because I don’t have the answer to the question I’m about to ask. The question is, “Can Bloom’s Taxonomy be used to help define how best to train pilots to identify and recover their aircraft from upsets?” This question is a continuation of previous articles I’ve written about training pilots. It’s just now I’m introducing Bloom’s Taxonomy into the equation.
For those who don’t know, Bloom’s Taxonomy was an attempt in the late 1950's by educational psychologist Dr. Benjamin Bloom to promote higher forms of thinking about education by using something more systematic than simple memorization. Since its introduction, his method has been widely used throughout the education world and is even referenced in the FAA’s Instructor Handbook. The taxonomy was slightly updated by one of his students in the early 2000’s. That's the version I’m using for this article. The updated levels of learning are as follows:
Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, Creating
From the lowest level to the highest, these verbs are used to describe how a student learns. For example, a student who simply remembers elements in a subject area—rote memorization—operates at the lowest level, while a student who creates with those elements operates at the highest. It’s an interesting concept that seems to fit. It also helps when designing course material.
There are further distinctions to each of these levels to demonstrate that a student has to be more “learned” to operate at the higher level. For example, remembering is simply “recalling previously learned information.” Analyzing involves “…distinguishing between facts and inferences.” The higher the level of learning, the more complex the task the student is able to perform.
For us aviators, we constantly operate at the first three levels of this taxonomy. We remember our critical actions. We demonstrate our understanding of what we’ve been taught by restating our lessons in our own words. We apply our understanding of the material to effectively operate in the aviation environment. An interesting question is: do we need to operate at higher levels when we’re just doing our day-to-day flying thing?
I bring this up because I wonder: when you encounter a situation or a set of circumstances beyond your specific training, how do you resolve the situation without operating at the higher levels of learning? In other words, if your procedural training had you do certain things in certain situations but never required you to consider things beyond those situations, how would you know what to do without operating at a higher level of learning? I'm thinking of the crew of the Air France Airbus accident a few years back. It seems they did not comprehend what was happening for many reasons. One reason that could've contributed to their confusion despite the training they received was the lower level of learning they were operating at.
This leads me back to the original question I asked. I think Bloom's Taxonomy CAN be helpful. For example, if the level of learning requires the pilot to be able to separate inferences from fact, you’ll likely have to train to the analyzing level. This would lead to certain training levels to ensure the students were operating at the right levels.
I already apply some of Bloom’s Taxonomy in my work in developing the curriculum at the Test Pilot School. As I consider this, I’ll likely use this technology to solve a couple of pointed issues currently challenging us at the school. I'm far from being an expert at using this so the methodology for applying the technology will be learned on the fly. I'll keep you posted how it goes.