Self-guided learning II: The Knowledge Dimension

In the previous article, we looked at what Bloom's Taxonomy was and where it is used. We began to look at ways a solid grounding in the taxonomy can help learners to scaffold their own learning (by knowing, given any specific topic, where they are in the taxonomy, and by providing a route to higher levels of proficiency), and how educators and curriculum developers use the taxonomy to craft learning objectives. In the article after this one, we will look at some of the tools we can use to construct learning scaffolds which link learning objectives together. In this article, we'll look at another aspect of the taxonomy – the Knowledge Dimension – and how we can use metacognitive knowledge to develop appropriate strategies for rapid learning. We'll also look at some examples of these strategies, and how the taxonomy helps us to select the right ones to use in particular learning contexts.

The Kinds of Knowledge (Knowledge Dimension)

Before embarking on learning a particular topic, try to recognise what sort of knowledge you are being asked to acquire. The 2001 revision of Bloom's taxonomy splits topic knowledge into four 'kinds':

Unlike the taxonomy of cognitive processes, no 'kind' is 'harder' or 'more complex' than any other. In addition, these 'kinds' are not exclusive to the Knowledge level of the cognitive process taxonomy: for example, you can Analyse your own self-knowledge, or Evaluate another's explanation for a specific skill.

Of the kinds of knowledge, D (metacognitive knowledge) is most important for self-guided learning (and especially adult learning). This is supported by cognitive science, information processing, neuroscience, educational theory, and so on.

Using Bloom's Taxonomy and Kinds of Knowledge in self-guided learning

Understanding and applying Knowledge Dimension D (metacognition, first proposed in 1979) allows learners to structure their learning meticulously. Paraphrased:

D. Metacognitive Knowledge - Knowledge of cognition in general as well as awareness and knowledge of one's own cognition.

- Da. Knowledge of useful learning strategies
- Db. Knowledge of when is the right context to apply them, and why
- Dc. Knowledge of which strategies work best for you & what motivates you best

Let's look at each of these, concretely, and how you can use them.

Da. Learning Strategies
Db. Knowing the right context

To use learning strategies effectively, you have to know when's the right time to apply them. This process is pretty intuitive:

Other, non-taxonomic contexts can influence which learning strategies are appropriate. For example, working in a team on an analysis problem may first involve definition of that problem using Modelling, where a single student might be able to jump straight to Organising the solution.

Dc. Knowing what works for you

Finally, knowing your own aptitudes for particular learning strategies can inform which one is right to use.

Helpful things to consider are:

You can then change up your use of learning strategies or taxonomic levels to adapt.


Motivation is critical to learning – drudging through a task you hate doing will leave you much less likely to remember how to complete it. Part of self-knowledge involves knowing how your own motivation varies depending on:

To solve motivation problems, adjust your use of learning strategies, and practice different approaches to certain tasks.

Wrapping up

Self-guided learning is the ideal learning scenario. Effective self-guided learning involves high metacognitive ability (i.e. knowing how you think and actively directing your learning in response to this). There are some practical tools you can use to improve and scaffold self-guided learning:

In the next article we'll look more deeply at Taxonomy tables. We'll see how the insights from Bloom's taxonomy can be used to craft curricula that scaffold students rapidly up the taxonomy, while placing as much of the onus on self-guided learning as possible.