This Guest paper series was originally published by the Cutter Consortium Agile Product & Project Management Advisory Service in 2009. It is reproduced here, with permission from the publishers (

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Part 1 published here September 2014.

Introduction | Expertise Defined | The Stages of Learning
A Template for Learning | The Training Gap | PART 2

The Stages of Learning

A well-established model for understanding the progression of learning that leads to the development of higher-order thinking skills was developed by Benjamin Bloom in 1956 and subsequently updated by a team led by Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl in 2000.[5][6] , The model is commonly referred to as Bloom's Taxonomy and although it was originally intended as a classification system to help educators establish learning objectives, the model also provides a useful representation of the different levels passed through as a person develops a skill. The updated model can be summarized in the following six levels:

  1. Remembering — the memorization of basic facts, terminology, and concepts
  2. Understanding — the extraction of meaning from the basic knowledge
  3. Applying — the ability to see how to apply learned material to real-world situations
  4. Analyzing — the ability to see internal structures, components, and cause and effect
  5. Evaluating — the ability to make subjective value assessments and judgments
  6. Creating — the ability to create new ideas or strategies based on observations and insights

Watching children learn to play soccer is a good illustration of what happens as a learner passes through the different stages. Young children start by learning the game's key elements and basic rules. Once the child has gained that basic understanding, they start applying their knowledge by playing a game. At this point children have only been exposed to the taxonomy's first two levels.

Anyone who has watched young children play soccer for the first time have witnessed a raw example of what can happen when learning is restricted to that level. Rather than being a game of passing the ball between carefully positioned players who gain strategic advantage by reading ahead of the game, you get a single pack of children all enthusiastically running after the ball at the same time.

As players mature, the process of developing the higher-order thinking skills needed to play soccer at a more advanced level begins. In Level 4 (analyzing), young players begin to understand the game's strategies and structure (e.g., why different players are assigned different positions on the pitch). As players develop still further, their ability to see and evaluate the constantly changing dynamics of a game allows them to better judge where they need to be on the pitch. This is in order to anticipate where the ball may be heading (Level 5 — evaluating).

And finally, players start to form their own ideas about strategy and what to do next (Level 6 — creating). By age eight, you can already hear team members yelling at other players about what they ought to be doing! Levels 4-6 are an ongoing iterative process that involves the synthesis of both training and experience. The more practice a person has and the better the quality of the training they receive from their coach, the more soccer players are able to develop their skills.

Expertise Defined  Expertise Defined

5. Ibid.
6. Anderson, Lorin W., David R. Krathwohl, Peter W. Airasian, Kathleen A. Cruikshank, Richard E. Mayer, Paul R. Pintrich, James Raths, and Merlin C. Wittrock, A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Allyn & Bacon, 2000.
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