Bloom’s taxonomy of learning is considered one of the foundational concepts in the field of intellectual skills development and education (Sobral, 2021). It underwent multiple revisions and has been tested in practice for 70+ years, which makes it one of the best-studied frameworks in this sphere. With that being said, it has been criticised by such authors as Forehand (2005) and Soozandehfar and Adeli (2016) who noted its sequential approach to skills development, individualist approach to learning ignoring group dynamics, and the relatively low significance attributed to long-term memory elements that frequently define a learner’s capability to perform higher-order tasks. The early 2020s have seen a sharp rise in the adoption of distance learning that was largely fuelled by the global COVID-19 pandemic (Surkhali & Garbuja, 2020). As thousands of students and educators were forced to embrace new methods of education, the findings produced by these involuntary experiments have highlighted multiple areas of inefficiencies as well as new development niches. As of 2022, multiple US universities have introduced official programmes based on virtual and augmented reality classrooms that seek to solve the problems of access to learning and help students from all over the world to obtain access to high-quality knowledge (Zhou et al., 2022). This essay seeks to explore how these practices may assist or hinder the implementation of different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
2. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning
As shown in the following figure, Bloom’s Taxonomy is formed from six hierarchically organised stages starting with memorisation activities and a general understanding of some subject area and progressing towards the capability to apply some deeply interiorised skill in practical situations (Bloom et al., 1956). This journey occurs over a number of intermediary activities including training via specifically developed exercises imitating the real-life context. This gradual process leads to a deeper level of understanding facilitating the analysis of potential applications and the ability to creatively approach the analysed phenomena. As noted by such authors as Muhayimana et al. (2022) and Zheng et al. (2022), the original understanding of the first model stages as rudimentary ideas should be revised with them being treated as foundations of a ‘taxonomy pyramid’. Specifically, the persons missing the ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’ phases in terms of concepts memorisation and basic understanding may not be able to apply them in practice, analyse the possibilities of their conceptual modification, create redefined strategies of their utilisation or evaluate the potential effectiveness of new strategies in real-life situations.
Figure 1: Bloom’s Taxonomy
Source: Hyder and Bhamani (2016, 295)
The earlier mentioned criticisms of Bloom’s Taxonomy provided by such authors as Forehand (2005) and Soozandehfar and Adeli (2016) also highlight the fact that it does not differentiate between different methods of memorisation and training as well as the possibility of simultaneous processes occurring at multiple levels of this pyramid. For example, specialised exercises may be teaching the students to apply some concepts and analyse their utilisation while also expanding their basic understanding and facilitating their memorisation (Roberts & Inman, 2021). In this aspect, a consequential linear process may take a lot of time and result in ‘knowledge isolation’ where some perfectly learnt facts cannot be flexibly applied to a real-world context. This may be especially problematic considering the increasing obsolescence of modern information. As new facts emerge every five years or less in most industries, ‘knowing’ something becomes less relevant since such knowledge has to be regularly revised in order to stay up-to-date (Mekala & Geetha, 2021). This involves the need for better learning instruments to increase the speed and effectiveness of activities occurring on all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and to help modern learners maintain the relevance of their skills and professional competencies throughout their entire working life.
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality
As noted by Smutny (2022), the promise of augmented reality and virtual reality technologies in education is largely associated with the decreasing prices of the required equipment and the global growth of fast-speed broadband networks as well as 4G and 5G mobile networks. While the software elements of these systems may be more advanced in the entertainment industry as compared to learning programmes, this gap will probably be closed by the end of the 2030s due to a number of benefits offered by them. First, virtual classrooms can be established anywhere to bring together multiple students separated by any physical distance (Daniela & Visvizi, 2021). This allows modern universities to reach all prospective audiences and provide high-quality educational services to talented learners worldwide. Second, these augmented and virtual reality instruments can be used as powerful synchronous learning tools allowing educators to demonstrate complex concepts in real time such as enlarged 3D models of industrial machinery or human bodies (Seo & Gibbons, 2021). Third, such concepts provide unique methods of memorisation, understanding, and application of new knowledge and skills such as the capability to explore some processes from the first-person perspective and repeat such simulations using one’s own hands moving virtual or augmented objects (Kaliraj & Thirupathi, 2021). This level of practical immersion can only be provided in physical settings such as laboratories, which prevented its application in remote learning programmes.
4. Key Implications
The analysis conducted by Amin & Mirza (2020) among 2,948 Pakistani students revealed that the students using online and distance learning methods demonstrated different sets of preferred activities within Bloom’s Taxonomy in comparison with their peers using traditional learning formats. Their ‘Knowing’ elements included social bookmarking and preliminary online searches followed by advanced searches and Boolean searches facilitating their ‘Understanding’. According to the researchers, advanced visualisation techniques such as virtual and augmented reality could be applied during subsequent phases where they could use virtual simulations to apply the learnt skills and analyse and evaluate different strategies in practical problem-solving scenarios. It should be noted that similar techniques are already applied in police officers’ training where students have to engage in a number of staged situations shown on-screen or using specialised helmets (Potts et al., 2022). These scenarios prepare them for real-life situations where they have to promptly react to emerging threats, react to sudden attackers or handle hostage situations. Their training follows Bloom’s Taxonomy where they are initially exposed to traditional classroom education followed by virtual simulations allowing them to apply their newly learnt skills, analyse different response strategies, create their own optimal methods of conduct, and evaluate the applicability of these new strategies through repeat training sessions (Santoianni et al., 2021).
According to Husain (2021), virtual and augmented reality instruments can also be used to organise tests and examinations in online assessment and learning programmes. This addresses the ‘Applying’, ‘Analysing’, ‘Creating’, and ‘Evaluating’ stages of the Taxonomy where learners may be asked to participate in created scenarios using a first-person view. Similar to video games, they may engage with virtual objects in a manner similar to real-world operations ranging from medical examination to welding or soldering operations (Wyatt-Smith et al., 2021). This approach may greatly expand the currently available range of educational instruments and help learners develop and test more effective strategies for achieving their professional goals. The gradual shift between ‘Knowing’ and ‘Evaluating’ phases of Bloom’s Taxonomy was also associated with the Virtuality Continuum model (Motejlek & Alpay, 2021). As noted earlier by Potts et al. (2022), memorisation and other basic activities frequently occur in the real world while augmented reality, augmented virtuality, and virtual reality mechanisms are used to test learners during later stages where they have to exercise flexibility and creativity.
Figure 2: Virtuality Continuum
Source: Motejlek and Alpay (2021, 416)
This pattern is reflected in the following structure where observation activities matching the first two stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy are performed in real-world settings or using traditional displays (Motejlek and Alpay, 2021). However, more advanced teaching and training processes are shifted to augmented or virtual reality where users can experience accurate simulations of some events or challenges and use their learnt skills and creativity to solve them. This graduality may also be substantiated by the high costs of the physical, interface, and implementation requirements implying that they should be used for tests and examinations rather than basic memorisation (Jagannathan, 2021).
Figure 3: Practical Application of Virtual and Augmented Reality Tools
Source: Motejlek and Alpay (2021, 423)
It can be summarised that virtual and augmented reality instruments may be fully compatible with the activities defined by the late stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Seo & Gibbons, 2021). Specifically, they can be useful for ‘Applying’, ‘Analysing’, ‘Creating’, and ‘Evaluating’ elements where a person may utilise their newly learnt skills and competencies in real-life simulations to experiment with various problem-solving strategies. The relatively high costs and availability of such systems may presently limit their use to examinations and tests rather than other educational activities (Roberts & Inman, 2021). At the same time, their unique features such as the capability to experience instructional programmes from a first-person perspective may be utilised to address the existing problems within Bloom’s Taxonomy noted by such authors as Forehand (2005) and Soozandehfar and Adeli (2016). Its linear pattern of progress and the lack of simultaneous learning occurring at multiple stages of this model could be addressed using advanced AR/VR tools combining multiple elements or speeding up the process of knowledge accumulation and internalisation (Wyatt-Smith et al., 2021). Considering the problems of skills obsolescence and the need for continued education throughout the whole working life of individuals, a combination of Bloom’s Taxonomy with these cutting-edge instruments may resolve some long-term problems and facilitate modern learners in achieving greater success as industry professionals.
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