Train the Trainer: Taxonomy of a Wine Class

In a previous blog post we learned all about Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Objectives, and how using this concept in the design and implementation of your classes (even your wine classes) can lead to improved student learning (and engagement and retention.)

If you didn’t catch the first post in this series, you can read it here:

https://bubblyprofessor.com/2012/02/25/train-the-trainer-blooms-taxonomy-of-learning-objectives/

As promised, here are some sample learning objectives for a class on food and wine pairing, for each  each level of the hierarchy. You can read the source material here

Additionally, as faculty often find it a challenge to develop effective test questions above the level of “knowledge” or “memory”(particularly multiple choice questions), I offer sample MCQ’s at each level.

Level 1: – Knowledge – Remembering

  • Learning Objective: List the three most important concepts to consider when pairing food and wine.
  • At this level, one simply requires the recall of information.  Warning!  A test at this level can be passed by a night of drunken “cramming” before a test, and the information forgotten by the next night of drinking!!
  • Please do not: Use this level for more than 50% of your test questions.

 Sample MCQ:  Which of the following represent the three most important concepts to consider when pairing food and wine?

  • A . Fruit, Flavor, and Tannin
  • B.  Taste, Flavor, Texture
  • C.  Fruit, Flavor, and Texture
  • D.  Taste, Flavor, and Tannin

Level 2:  Comprehension – Understanding

  • Learning Objective:  Identify what components of the food and wine equation  are almost always the most important consideration in a food and wine pairing and explain why.
  • At this level, knowledge of the three components is assumed and one tests for understanding of this knowledge.

Sample MCQ:  What components in a food are almost always the most important consideration in a food and wine pairing?

  • A.  Taste components, because specific tastes in foods will change the way wine is perceived in a predictable manner.
  • B.  Taste components, because they can be either matched or contrasted.
  • C.  Flavors, because tastes can only be matched while flavors can be matched or contrasted.
  • D.  Flavors, because “natural affinities” are among the best food and wine pairings.  

Level 3:  Application – Applying

  • Learning Objective:  Determine what is the most important element to consider when pairing wine with a specific dish, demonstrated by the following dish:  Grilled Halibut with Lemon-Caper sauce served on a bed of Asparagus Risotto. 
  • Note that at this level, knowledge of the background to the question is assumed to be both known and understood, and students are expected to apply this knowledge and understanding.  In this case, we are looking for the student to apply a known set of food and wine pairing principles.

 Sample MCQ:  When choosing a wine pairing for Grilled Halibut with Lemon-Caper sauce, what is the most important element to consider?

  • A. The lemon flavor of the sauce.
  • B. The flavor intensity of the grill marks.
  • C. The saltiness of the fish.
  • D. The acidity of the lemon sauce.

Level 4:  Analysis –Analyzing

  • Learning Objective:  Break down the various components of a dish or menu and determine what components are dominant and the effect each would have on a wine pairing. For instance, what impact would the acidity in a dish have on a white wine?
  • Note that the student is assumed to know and understand the information and to apply the information.  This objective stresses the ability to break down the food and wine in question into their component parts and assume an outcome.  Note that this question does not require the student to create a pairing (level five) or evaluate whether or not this is a good pairing (level six).

 Sample MCQ:  What effect would the Grilled Halibut with Lemon-Caper sauce produce when paired with Sauvignon Blanc?

  • A. It would make the acidity in the wine more pronounced.
  • B. It would make the acidity in the wine less pronounced.
  • C. It would bring out the bitterness in the wine.
  • D. It would make the fruity flavors of the wine pop.

 

Level 5:  Synthesis (Creation) – Creating

  • Learning Objective: Design a wine pairing of three different wines to complement the grilled halibut dish.
  • At this level, the student needs to have the knowledge and the comprehension of the principles of food and wine pairing, be able to apply it to a real-world example, and be able to analyze the components of both the food and the wines before he or she can create the pairing.

 Sample MCQ: Which of the following wine flights would make the best pairing for Grilled Halibut with Lemon-Caper Sauce, based on the proper taste components and a potential flavor bridge?

  • A.  Oaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer
  • B.  Unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer
  • C.  Unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier
  • D.  Unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling

Level 6:  Evaluation – Evaluating

  • Learning Objective:  Evaluate specific wine choices for a specific dish, and give your opinion on the quality of the pairings.  For instance, evaluate whether an oaked chardonnay a good choice for the grilled halibut dish in the previous question, and discuss why or why not. 
  • At this level, the student is expected to know, comprehend, apply and analyze the principles of food and wine pairing, and, describe the outcome of the pairing, and form an opinion on whether or not this is a good match.

Sample MCQ:  Is oaked chardonnay a good choice for Grilled Halibut with Lemon-Caper Sauce?  Why or why not?

  • A.  Yes, because the acidity is a good match and the saltiness of the capers will work well with the oak.
  • B.  No, because while the acidity is a good match, the saltiness of the capers will potentially clash with the oak.
  • C.  Yes, because the flavors of the lemon in the sauce will work well with the lemony flavors of the wine.
  • D.  No, because the flavors of lemon in the sauce will clash with the tropical flavors of the wine.

I hope this post gives you some guidance and encouragement to teach to all levels of the learning taxonomy.  I also hope it shows teachers that effective exam questions, even Multiple Choice Questions, can be written at all levels of the learning taxonomy and that we stop giving exams that are basically “wine trivia contests”. 

I realize that this method of teaching and writing tests is not simple, but it does get easier with practice.  However, keep in mind that teaching and testing to the higher levels of the learning hierarchy will enhance the quality of your teaching and the  validity of your exams – guaranteed! 

Cheers! 

Train the Trainer: Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Objectives

Benjamin Bloom  (1913 – 1999) was an interesting gentleman indeed.  Back in the 1940’s and 50’s he held several impressive roles in higher education, including 16 years as the “University Examiner” at the University of Chicago.  In this position, he analyzed and approved the university’s tests to determine if undergraduates had mastered the material necessary for them to receive their bachelor’s degrees. He also wrote or co-authored 18 books on education, all of them with the goal of “enhancing student learning”.

During his time as University Examiner, he discovered that over 95% of the test questions students encountered required them to think at only the lowest possible level…the recall of information.  In other words, most tests – even at the University level – resembled nothing more than a “memory trick.” 

I have to admit, I agree.  In my opinion, this is one of the biggest issues in education, including wine education, today.  A  while back, I was asked to look over a took a wine test written by a friend of mine.  It was intended to be the final exam in a semester-long “Professional Wine Studies”  course she was teaching at a 2-year college as part of a hospitality management program. Much to my chagrin, the test amounted to nothing more than a really long wine trivia contest. She could have sold it to Hasbro as “Trivial Pursuit – Vinous Version“!

The issue I had with the test is that all it really assessed was memorization. Very few, if any, of the questions required even the slightest bit of comprehension, application or evaluation.  Sorry to say, my friend was a member of the dreaded “lazy test writer club.”  The test she was about to give could have been passed by anyone who locked themselves in a closet with a copy of The Wine Bible for two days before the test.  Of course, the day after the test they wouldn’t remember a thing.  (We fixed the test before it went out to the examinees – global wine education crisis averted!)

 

Back to Benjamin Bloom and his solution for all this. 

In 1954, after a series of educational conferences, Bloom was tasked with leading a committee with the goal of improving  the quality of  teaching practices, curriculum development, and the validity of university exams. The result was a classification of learning objectives – the goals that educators set for learners – built around a hierarchy of levels of understanding.  In an ideal learning situation, students would master the lowest levels of learning, such as knowledge and memorization, and then move up to learning at the “higher order thinking skills” such as application, evaluation, and synthesis. If applied properly, this idea should influence or even change the way you teach, and equally importantly, how you design your tests. 

Here is a very quick overview of the six levels of learning, paraphrased in my own words. I hope they meet with Mr. Bloom’s approval.

Level 1:  Knowledge – Remembering

  • Definition:  Student recalls or recognizes information, ideas, or principles in the approximate form in which they were learned.
  • Good for:  Dates, Events, Places, Vocabulary, Key Ideas, Facts, Figures.
  • Please don’t: Write all your test questions at this level.   

 Level 2:  Comprehension – Understanding

  • Definition:  Student translates, comprehends, or interprets information based on prior learning.
  • Good for: Finding meaning, Interpreting facts, Giving examples.

 Level 3:  Application – Applying

  • Definition:  Student uses the information to solve a problem or complete a task.
  • Good for: Use of information in new situations, solving problems, case studies.

 Level 4:  Analysis –Analyzing

  • Definition: Student breaks down information into simpler parts and understands patterns and organization. 
  • Good for:  Recognizing and explaining patterns and meaning, seeing the “parts and the whole”, breaking things down, critical thinking.

Level 5:  Synthesis (Creation) – Creating

  • Definition:  Student originates, integrates and combines ideas into a product, plan, or proposal that is new to him/her.
  • Good for: Building things up, putting concepts together, creating new ideas, plans, or products.

 Level 6:  Evaluation – Evaluating

  • Definition:  Student appraises, assesses, or critiques on a basis of specific standards and criteria.
  • Good for:  Making recommendations and choices, assessing value, critiquing ideas, predicting outcomes.  

Due to its long history and popularity,  the actual wording and order of the “hierarchy” has been  revised, condensed, expanded, modernized, and re-interpreted in a variety of ways over the past 60 years.  However, Bloom’s Taxonomy has clearly stood the test of time.  Every teacher should use this material. 

It’s the year 2012, and a seminar on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Objectives is included in my annual faculty development plan this year, as it is every year.  It’s one of the most important concepts I want my faculty to know..and comprehend, and apply, and analyze and evaluate.

Stay tuned later this week when I’ll provide some examples of “Bloom’s Taxonomy in Action” in wine education and testing.