Three domains of learning: Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor

Everyone learns differently, with various motivations, environments and deliveries providing people with alternative methods of receiving and retaining information. Teachers use different approaches to learning to target different types of learners, making their lessons engaging and stimulating. Learn how learning happens and how to use domains to improve your design.
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The three learning domains are an established set of learning objectives that encourage a more holistic approach to learning. Understanding them can help you teach more effectively. In this article, I outline the three domains, their key features and their importance in teaching.

The three domains of learning: 

  • Cognitive Knowledge or Mental Skills describe the six cognitive or educational skills that learners develop over time as their abilities increase.
  • Affective Attitude or Emotions relates to feelings or emotions and emotional learning skills.
  • Psychomotor or Physical Skills focus on physical and motor skills and their role in learning.

Cognitive Knowledge

This model was proposed by Benjamin Bloom and revised later by other researchers. In general, the following revised taxonomy is used:

  • Remembering
  • Understanding
  • Applying
  • Analysing
  • Evaluating
  • Creating

I have already covered that in a series of posts, and you can read more here:

Affective Attitude

The Affective Domain includes five areas of emotional response, categorised as simple to complex ways of processing feelings and attitudes. Bloom arranged them the following way:


This is when we notice things around us and pay attention. It’s like listening or looking at things. It is the most simple emotional response to stimuli – passively paying attention. Instructional verbs: feelsense, capture, experience.


Here, we actively pay attention and want to learn. We might enjoy what we’re doing and feel satisfied. It’s like being interested and motivated. It refers to the learners’ active attention to stimuli and his/her motivation to learn. Instructional verbs: contributeenjoy, satisfy, cooperate.


This level is about what we believe is important and valuable. It’s like having preferences and caring about certain things. We accept these values and might even commit to them. It refers to the learner’s beliefs and attitudes of worth. Instructional verbs: respectpersuade, search, believe, justify.


This is when we really make these values a part of us. We think about them and put them in order. It’s like arranging and explaining our beliefs. This refers to the learner’s internalisation of values and beliefs involving arranging and elaborating on information. Instructional verbs:  examineclarify and systematise.


At this level, our values show in how we act. Our behaviour reflects what we believe and care about. We act in ways that match our values. . Instructional verbs: reviewconclude, resolve judge, review, conclude.

Psychomotor Domain

The Psychomotor Domain, which focuses on physical skills, was identified by Bloom and later expanded by other educators. There were several approaches. The one presented below is based on Anita Harrow’s taxonomy.

Reflex movements

At this level, we’re talking about automatic actions that our body does without us thinking. These can be quick movements in one part of the body, like when you touch something hot and your hand pulls back without you deciding to do it. These movements are either there when we’re born or develop as we grow up.

Fundamental movements

In this category, we’re looking at skills like walking, running, jumping, pushing, pulling, and moving things around. These are like the building blocks for doing more complicated actions.

Perceptual abilities

This part is about being good at using our body’s senses. It includes how we move, see, hear, feel when we touch something, and coordinate all of this to understand what’s happening around us and respond to it.

Physical Strength and Abilities

Here, we’re focusing on things like how long we can keep going without getting tired (endurance), how flexible we are, how quick we can move (agility), how strong we are, how fast we react, and how well we can use our hands and fingers.

Skilled movements

This section is about learning more tricky movements that are needed for activities like games, sports, dances, or artsy performances. These are the skills we need to practice and get better at.

Nondiscursive communication

In this area, we’re talking about using our bodies to show how we feel or what we want to say. This can be through how we stand, move our hands, show facial expressions, or even do creative movements like acting out a story without speaking. It’s like using our bodies to communicate without words (Expressing Without Words).

Understanding learning domains is important when creating online courses for both educators and learners. For instructors, these domains serve as tools to accommodate various student needs, enabling effective personalised learning. By recognising these domains, online educators can craft courses that optimise academic success and capitalise on learners’ strengths.

Note, that this post provides general information about three domains of learning.

It is important always to consider the specific context and requirements of your learning projects. If you have any questions or would like to delve deeper into the topic, please email me or book a free online consultation via my contact page.

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Make sure to check out my other posts related to planning online courses, designing and developing learning content and delivering training. I share strategies and tools that you can use and many practical tips. 

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