Bloom’s Taxonomy for Learning


image“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss

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:

  1. Cognitive domain (Intellectual) – knowledge, comprehension, and thinking.
  2. Affective domain (Emotional) – attitudes, emotions, and feelings.
  3. 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:

Cognitive Affective Psychomotor
Knowledge Attitude Skills
  • Recall
  • Understanding
  • Apply
  • Analyze
  • Synthesize
  • Evaluate
  • Receiving
  • Responding
  • Valuing
  • Organizing
  • Characterizing
  • 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.

    Additional Resources

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        1. Thinking, Feeling, doing is big for me – helps me relate to this post as well as all my learnings in general.

          With my startup, I am seeing the more formal learning taxonomy applying too – the learning seems more formalized since the thinking and doing are a lot more externalized. Does that make sense? It is beyond just thinking and doing ….it is about making it happen.

        2. Loved “when you learn something at the physical level, you bake it into your body”. That is why I am such a big lover of checklists. They help moving well learned stuff into your “subconscious” making room for more thoughtful stuff. 😉

        3. Hi JD,

          Remembering the basics like Bloom’s taxonomy sure helps. The challenge in blogging or any kind of work, I think, is moving beyond the intellectual to the emotional level. People remember blogs, work, people who move them rather than those who merely educate. I keep telling myself this.

        4. @ Maya

          Yes, it makes sense. You’re testing your ideas against reality and getting feedback. This feedback is especially important because it’s real results and real emotions.

          @ Alik

          It’s amazing how once you stop using your brain as a collection point and start clearing space for creativity, your imagination flows. Now that I’ve seen the difference, I’m a big fan of checklists and having places to dump my brain as needed.

          @ Daphne

          So true! Emotional impact makes things sticky.

        5. I certainly agree that nothing beats experience. The more we are experiencing, the deeper the sense of knowing.

        6. […] Intellectual, emotional, and physical. When you learn a new habit, think in terms of a progression.  First you learn it intellectually so you understand it.  Next, you get first-hand experience, and have an emotional connection for or against it.  Next, you burn it into your body (your basal ganglia and muscle memory) to the point where your body just knows what to do (e.g. when you smack the alarm clock with your eyes closed, or shift gears without thinking about it.)  This progression can take time and repetition, especially burning it into your body.  If you’ve ever practiced an instrument or taken a martial art, you can remember the awkward stage until your body knew what to do.   This is where repetition, deliberate practice, and your technique really come into play.  See Bloom’s Taxonomy for Learning. […]

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