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!

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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

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