Domains of Learning

Creating holistic learning experiences that engage students with different types of learning.

On this page:

What are domains of learning?

There are many categories of learning, each of which fall under three major domains: cognitive (see Blooms Taxonomy of Knowledge), affective and psychomotor.

Each type of learning outcome requires a different type of instruction. The cognitive ability to recall the word for “Hello” in Arabic, the affective social skills that make us good listeners and the acquisition of motor skills needed to ride a bicycle all require different approaches to instruction.

Why should I care about domains of learning?

Most college learning is designed to take place in the cognitive domain, developing mental skills and the acquisition of knowledge. However, depending on your subject, it may be necessary to offer learning experiences that target outcomes in the other domains.

Learning domains and associated learning outcomes

  • Cognitive domain (see Blooms Taxonomy of Knowledge)
    • Intellectual skills, cognitive strategy and verbal information.
    • Learning outcome examples: understanding, problem solving, categorizing, time management, memorization, etc.
  • Affective domain
    • Affective skills and disposition for appropriate emotions and responses.
    • Learning outcome example: A student of psychology may need to know and demonstrate appropriate emotional responses to a future patient’s statements and actions.
  • Psychomotor domain
    • Physical actions, reflexes, interpretive movements and hand-eye coordination.
    • Learning outcome example: A student of medicine studying to be a surgeon will need to know how to perform an incision as well as be able to perform an incision.

Here’s how you might use domains of learning

In order to determine which types of learning outcomes are most appropriate for your subject matter, answer these questions:

  • What cognitive skills, strategies and information should your students learn in this class?
  • What attitude would be useful for your students to cultivate in order to benefit their learning and career in your field?
  • What motor skills do your students need in order to be successful in this class and field of study?

In addition to the many cognitive requirements of a law student, they would also benefit from an attitude that helps them persist in the face of a challenge, confidence to voice an unpopular opinion, and affective skills that make them good listeners and keen observers of human nature. Psychomotor skills relevant to the field could include perceptual abilities to take in visual and auditory information from the environment to read a situation and react.