Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning domains is a map of learning levels.
Bloom chunked learning into 3 domains: Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor (or thinking, feeling, and doing.)
If you think of Bloom’s Taxonomy as a map of learning domains and levels, you can use it to evaluate your expertise in a given topic.
If you create or deliver training, you can also use Bloom’s Taxonomy as a checklist for helping you structure and organize your training material.
Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor
Bloom divided educational objectives into 3 categories:
- Cognitive domain (Intellectual) – knowledge, comprehension, and thinking.
- Affective domain (Emotional) – attitudes, emotions, and feelings.
- Psychomotor domain (Physical) – physical movement, coordination, and motor-skills.
You can also remember the domains using short-hand such as Do-Think-Feel, Knowledge-Attitude-Skills (KAS), .. etc.
Bloom Taxonomy at a Glance
This is a summary view of Bloom’s Taxonomy looking at the domains and levels:
Levels for the Cognitive and Affective Domains
Bloom created levels for the Cognitive domain and Affective domain. A key concept in Bloom’s Taxonomy is that each category or level must be mastered before moving to the next.
For example, in the Cognitive domain, you would first master Recall, then Understanding, next Apply … etc.
In my experience, I think situation or context matters more, and I think you need to factor in an individual’s learning preferences. I just don’t think of learning as that linear.
At the same time, I do like the idea of having a set of steps in learning and I like the idea of graduating from one level to the next. It helps you see what a firm foundation looks like.
Levels for the Psychomotor Domain
Bloom didn’t create subcategories for the psychomotor domain, but others have:
- Simpson – Perception, Set (Readiness to act), Guided Response, Mechanism (Learned responses are habits), Complex Overt Response, Adaptation, and Origination - Simpson, E.J. (1972) The Classification of Educational Objectives in the Psychomotor Domain
- Harrow – Reflect movements, Fundamental movements, Perception, Physical abilities, Skilled movements, No discursive communication – Harrow, Anita (1972) A Taxonomy of Psychomotor Domain: A Guide for Developing Behavioral Objectives
- Dave – Imitation, Manipulation, Precision, Articulation, and Naturalization – Dave, R.H. (1975) Developing and Writing Behavioral Objectives
Thinking, Feeling, and Doing
I like to think of learning in terms of thinking, feeling and doing, or intellectual, emotional, and physical. For example, when you learn something at the intellectual level, you simply know or can recall the information.
Next, at the emotional level, you have an emotional reaction to the information.
Finally, when you learn something at the physical level, you bake it into your body (such as your muscle memory or basal ganglia.) I think this helps explain why experience is such an important teacher. The experience reaches beyond the intellectual level to the emotional and physical.
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways on Bloom’s Taxonomy:
- Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor. Cognitive is about knowledge, Affective is about attitude or feeling, and Psychomotor is about physical or doing.
- Levels of learning. Within each domain, you can think in terms of levels or steps, where mastering one step helps you get to the next.
- Thinking, Feeling and Doing. A simple way to remember the domains is thinking, feeling and doing.
Interestingly, I remember coming across Bloom’s Taxonomy long ago, but at the time it didn’t stick. Not even at the intellectual level.
Now I value the model and I actually have an emotional connection to it because I see how I can use it to reason about my knowledge or skills in a given area.