Category Archives for Teaching

Students Wearing Lighted Mind Reading Helmets

How to make anything easier to learn

As a student, or just a regular person going about your daily life, have you ever tried to learn how to do something, that was presented as being easy... and you just could not for the life of you figure out how to do it?

As a teacher, parent, or coach, have you ever tried to help someone do something, that seems so simple to you.... only to watch in frustration as they struggled to "get it".. and failed?

Whether you're on the teaching or learning end of the equation, this type of experience happens to everyone, at some point in time. And when it does, it feels puzzling, frustrating, and annoying. 

This (whatever you're trying to teach, or learn) is supposed to be easy! Why can't we (or they) figure it out?

When this happens, the problem is often that we are expecting our learners (or ourselves) to take mental leaps we are not yet ready for. We are expecting ourselves, or others, to be able to run before learning how to walk.

Once you realize that, the solution is surprisingly simple. Keep reading to learn how to fix this annoying problem, FAST!

Learn the Course Design Formula® !

Create courses that are engaging and easy to learn from.


Bloom's Taxonomy gives us a way to understand the levels or stages of learning that have to happen, in sequential order, before someone can perform a complex task using concepts or information that are new to them.

The stages of learning are divided into two groups: lower order thinking skills, and higher order thinking skills.


lower and higher order thinking skills 1

These skills have to be mastered in step by step order:

  • If you can't REMEMBER what you're supposed to do, nothing else can happen!
  • If you don't UNDERSTAND what you're supposed to do, it all becomes a meaningless jumble
  • If you remember and understand the information, but can't figure out how to APPLY it to your specific situation, you get stuck
  • If you can apply the ideas to your situation, but can't ANALYZE how to adjust and adapt to make it work, everything grinds to a halt
  • If you apply the ideas but then can't EVALUATE whether they worked, you won't know how to proceed
  • BUT... if you can complete all those steps, you are then ready to CREATE something new using the new information you've learned

Think about something you've been trying to learn how to do, or teach someone else how to do, that's been frustrating and hard to grasp. Were you expecting yourself, or others, to use higher order thinking skills before they'd mastered lower skills?

For example: If you ask a learner to write a paper without being sure they remember and understand the subject matter, the paper is not likely to be very good.

If you try to assemble a piece of furniture (create something new) without being able to analyze the instructions to see how they apply to the jumbled mess of parts in front of you, you're likely to end up with .... a jumbled mess of parts.

If you are trying to learn how to dance the salsa, but you can't remember the steps, you won't get very far. But let's say you CAN remember the steps... the way the teacher showed you... but now you have to do them all backwards in order to move with your partner. You'll need to first understand, apply, analyze and evaluate how to reverse the direction you need to move in, before you can create that winning dance routine.

If you're stuck teaching, or learning, something and it feels frustrating, go through each of the stages of Bloom's taxonomy and ask yourself if it's been mastered. If not, go back to that level and get solid on it, before trying to go to the next step.

Let me know how that works for you! I'd love to hear your challenges, reactions, and ideas.

Write to me at and let's talk!

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy showing lower and higher order thinking skills: remember/understand/ apply/ analyze/evaluate/create

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy

9 different colored sticky notes on a blackboard

The 9 Events of Instruction

What has to happen in order to actually teach someone something?

If simply exposing people to information is not the same as actually teaching them, how DO we actually teach, especially online?

Educational theorist and researcher Robert M. Gagné studied good teachers in action, and discovered what they were doing that made their teaching effective.

His research revealed that highly effective teachers were following nine specific steps, which he called "The Nine Events of Instruction".

It's hard to remember nine things at a time (the limits of our short term memory make five to seven things the maximum length for easy mental processing).  

So let's break the nine events of instruction down into three groups, each of which only has three things in it that you need to remember at any one time.  (See what I did there? 🤔 💭 💡⁉️)



In order to teach effectively

in any context

(but especially online):

  • There are 3 things you have to do BEFORE you present the instruction
  • There are 3 things you have to do WHILE you present the instruction
  • There are 3 things you have to do AFTER you present the instruction
One small piece being cut out of a larger pumpkin pie

So that means:

Presenting the instruction  is only ONE of NINE steps needed to teach effectively...

..and if all you are doing is PRESENTING information, you are only doing  A FRACTION of what it takes to effectively TEACH that information.

Here's your main takeaway for today (unfortunately, it's not an actual piece of  pumpkin pie):

In order to teach effectively online (or anywhere, but especially online), there are NINE THINGS you have to do, in the right order.

Presenting the information is only ONE of those nine things.

Next we will talk about the three things you have to do BEFORE you present the instruction, so stay tuned!

hilarious cat dressed in a tie and shirt collar, holding a laptop and decaf as he presents information
Sign in page on computer screen. Desktop computer with login form and sign in button. User account. Modern concept. Creative flat design vector illustration

Teaching vs. exposing people to information

We’ve talked about the difference between being exposed to information (especially online), and actually learning it.

But what about teaching?

What’s the difference between simply presenting information online, and actually teaching it?

You heard right: presenting information is not the same as teaching it.

Just because you’ve said something (using text, video, or audio) doesn’t mean you’ve taught it.

In order to learn new material, people have to go beyond simply being exposed to it.

They have to:

  • focus on it
  • take it in
  •  process it
  •  label it, and
  • store it in long term memory for easy retrieval.

Now wait just a minute”, I hear you saying. “How can I control what someone else does with the information I present online, after I’ve presented it?”

You can’t.

Frustrated teacher standing in front of a chalkboard screaming

Unless you’re teaching online in an academic or corporate setting where learners are required to show up for your course and pass it in order to fulfill a requirement, you have little if any control over whether and how learners consume and process your course material.

As an online course creator working with independent adults, your responsibility for teaching the material ends once you’ve put it out there for people to consume.

So teaching online (as opposed to just exposing people to information) involves putting the material out there for people to consume, in ways that promote learning.

That means you have to present the material in ways that allow your audience to:

  • focus on it
  • take it in
  •  process it
  •  label it, and
  • store it in long term memory for easy retrieval.

In this type of online teaching context, presenting the material is not the first step; it’s the last. If you want to teach online in an effective and engaging way, presenting the material should be the final step in a carefully planned series of steps. That series of steps will guide you in knowing exactly what material to present, and how to present it.

So.. what are the steps you should take in order to present your material online, in order to teach it effectively?

Stay tuned for the next blog post to find out! (Can you stand the suspense? It's a real cliffhanger....)

rock climber hanging on to the edge of a cliff with bare hands (it's a real "cliff-hanger"!)

(If you just can't wait to find out how to teach effectively online, go here.)