How Fink’s Taxonomy Can Improve Your Curriculum

By: Danielle T. Miller MD

We have all had that moment. You have been inspired to make a curriculum for your medical students or residents, but have you ever thought, is my curriculum inspiring? All learners will learn something during a course or curriculum. But wouldn’t it be great if they had significant learning? Let me introduce you to Fink’s Taxonomy.

What is Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning?

L. Dee Fink PhD is an educator and instructional consultant in higher education. In 2003, in his work Creating Significant Learning Experiences, Dee Fink proposed his Taxonomy of Significant Learning. Fink suggested that learning only occurs when there is change, and when there is change there is significant learning.  Fink proposed that there are six areas of learning:

  1. Foundational Knowledge
  2. Application
  3. Integration
  4. Human Dimension
  5. Caring
  6. Learning to Learn

How is this different than Bloom’s or the other taxonomies?

Dee Fink created his taxonomy in direct response to Bloom’s taxonomy, which was developed by Benjamin Bloom in the 1950s. Unlike the previous taxonomies such as Bloom’s, Dee Fink sees significant learning not as this pyramid that learners must ascend up, but rather as this interconnected diagram where learners can have interconnected learning experiences through several domains, which can enhance and launch them into another domain. At the center of the ven diagram is significant learning.

Why do we need a new taxonomy?

According to Dee Fink, the world of higher education and meaningful learning is changing. Adult learners now require instruction on topics such as communication, leadership, ethics learning how to learn, etc. Dee Fink referred to this as new learning that is not captured in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Thus, Fink’s Taxonomy incorporates these affective aspects to learning in its learning domains of “caring” and “human dimension” that previous models have not captured.

What does this mean for your curriculum?

Practically speaking, the curriculum should be designed to incorporate all six areas of learning in Fink’s Taxonomy in order to have the learning outcome of significant learning. 

What is next?

Future blog posts will delve deeper into each of the six types of learning in Fink’s Taxonomy, with the goal to give readers the tools needed to create inspiring curricula for their learners.  

Learn More

Biography L. Dee Fink
Full Text of Creating Significant Learning Experiences
Information about Learning Taxonomies Peak Performance Center.
Application of Fink’s Taxonomy to Medical Education; Image Credit Jeremy Branzetti, Michael A. Gisondi, Laura R. Hopson & Linda Regan (2019) Aiming Beyond Competent: The Application of the Taxonomy of Significant Learning to Medical Education, Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 31:4, 466-478, DOI: 10.1080/10401334.2018.1561368