A Guide to Understanding Bloom's Domains of Learning

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 28, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The domains of learning aid educators and provide them with knowledge to develop teaching methods that are tailored to each student's strengths. These concepts have greatly influenced education because they encourage a more holistic approach to learning and allow students to grow in areas outside academia. Understanding these domains can help you assist students by improving their information retention abilities and allowing them to develop useful skills. In this article, we define the domains of learning, describe their importance, and discuss each type of learning domain.

What are the domains of learning?

In 1956, educational psychologist Dr. Benjamin Bloom created a series of learning objectives and published it as the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, which later became known as Bloom's domains of learning. These domains provided a framework for improving students' learning capabilities by outlining three categories of education. Each category, or domain, typically requires a specific instruction style to achieve its intended outcome. These domains also have features that may engage students and make learning easier and more enjoyable.

Why are Bloom's domains important?

These learning domains are important because they teach students to reason analytically by using customized methods that suit their learning styles. These domains teach each student several ways to approach new concepts. They can also provide teachers with the tools to tailor each student's learning experience based on their talents and specific needs. By assigning tasks to each student with a particular domain in mind, teachers may help their students learn faster and retain more information.

Each domain typically applies to real-life situations and various careers. The domains may overlap, and they may share similar features with one another, allowing students to excel in multiple areas. For example, a student who does well in the psychomotor domain may be more likely to excel as a surgeon or artist.

Read more: How to Improve Your Learning Skills

Types of learning domains

Bloom introduced the concept of learning domains, but it has developed past the structure he created. Many educational researchers have expanded upon his foundation and further built on the domains. Here are the three major learning domains and the areas of student development they influence:

The cognitive domain

The cognitive domain focuses on six intellectual skills that Bloom arranged in the order that students typically develop them. For each of these skills, Bloom used active verbs to describe how individuals apply what they learn in real life. Bloom arranged them in order, from the most basic to the most complex skill:

  • Knowledge: Individuals can recognize and recall any information that they have learned. The instructional verbs associated with this cognitive domain level include label, write, name, and state.

  • Comprehension: Individuals can understand the information they learn and interpret data based on what their teachers previously taught them. The instructional verbs for this skill include describe, explain, summarize, and illustrate.

  • Application: Individuals can independently choose and apply relevant data principles to fix a problem. The instructional verbs for this skill include use, demonstrate, solve, and apply.

  • Analysis: Individuals can understand the assumptions and implications of a question or statement and use them to reach their own conclusion. The instructional verbs for this skill include compare, contrast, and analyze.

  • Synthesis: Individuals can combine several ideas to develop a plan or a new concept. The instructional verbs for this skill include create, invest, develop, and design.

  • Evaluation: Individuals can make their independent assessments based on previously established criteria. The instructional verbs for this skill include judge, justify, and critique.

Revision of Bloom's taxonomy

In 2001, one of this educational psychologist's former students and colleagues, Lorin Anderson, revised Bloom's original taxonomy to better reflect its use in modern educational institutions. Most of the elements remained as they were, but he made two significant changes. First, he changed the domains' names, and second, he swapped the last two elements' positions. As a result, the new version of the cognitive domain is:

  • Remember, formerly titled knowledge

  • Understand, formerly titled comprehension

  • Apply, formerly titled application

  • Analyze, formerly titled analysis

  • Evaluate, formerly titled evaluation

  • Create, formerly titled synthesis

Types of knowledge created by the revised taxonomy

Aside from making the “create” level the ultimate level of thinking, the revised Bloom taxonomy also separated cognition into four distinct types of knowledge, which are:

  • Factual knowledge: This type of cognition focuses on facts and terminology.

  • Conceptual knowledge: Conceptual knowledge focuses on principles, models, and theories, and it involves observing the relationships between several elements within a larger structure.

  • Procedural knowledge: This is the specific process, methodology, or technique required to perform an action.

  • Metacognitive knowledge: This is the type of knowledge related to a student's awareness of their own cognition. Metacognitive knowledge typically determines if students can self-evaluate their abilities and gain an understanding of different skills and techniques.

Compared to the original taxonomy, the revised version can make it simpler for educators to establish clear and achievable goals in their teaching processes. It may also make it easier for students to understand the expectations of their educators and the purpose of their education.

Read more: How to Become an Education Consultant in 5 Steps (With Tips)

The affective domain

The affective domain of learning represents those skills that foster individuals' appropriate emotional responses. In this domain, students can understand their emotions and develop their attitudes and values. The affective domain also has a simple-to-complex structure similar to the cognitive domain, but, in this domain, there are five areas of emotional response. Here's are the elements involved in this structure:

  • Receiving: If they're to learn at subsequent stages, it's important for a student to excel in receiving, which focuses on the passive awareness of emotions. For example, an individual at this stage waits for their turn to talk until someone finishes speaking.

  • Responding: An individual takes an active part in the learning process by feeling an emotion or observing an action and reacting to it. For example, a student participates in a class discussion about a movie they watched for a class assignment.

  • Valuing: At this stage, an individual learns to appreciate a concept by expressing its worth or meaning to them. For example, a student may write an opinion piece about a controversial social topic they feel strongly about and defend their stance on the issue.

  • Organizing: An individual develops a value system by deciding on a priority order for their values and beliefs and arranging them in that order. For example, a student trying to rank at the top of the class academically realizes that studying for an upcoming test is more important than playing games with friends.

  • Characterizing: At this stage, individuals act according to the values they have developed and internalized as their personal beliefs. For example, a student knows and accepts that cheating is unethical, so they complete a difficult assignment independently, refusing to copy the answers from a friend.

Read more: 20 Careers in Teaching and Education (With Salaries)

The psychomotor domain

Bloom created the psychomotor skills domain, but in the 1970s, educators like Dr. Elizabeth Simpson expanded on the concept. The psychomotor domain focuses on physical skills, such as developing and using hand-eye coordination and other motor skills. The skills under this domain can help individuals perform basic physical tasks in their daily lives. Here's a list of the stages within this domain:

  • Perception: Individuals use sensory cues to guide their motor activities. For example, a student may listen to a lesson in class and then take notes on that lesson in a book or on a piece of paper.

  • Set: Individuals motivate themselves to address their challenges and resolve them. For example, a student who wants to do better academically may motivate themself to study harder for an upcoming test.

  • Guided response: Individuals start learning more complex skills, usually through a set of instructions or by a trial-and-error process. For example, a student learns how to build a simple machine or assemble equipment by watching and following an instructional video.

  • Mechanism: Individuals develop basic proficiency at specific tasks, often after practising them several times. For example, a saxophone student feels confident in their ability to play a song assigned by their teacher after practising for several weeks.

  • Complex overt response: Individuals learn to perform a particular task with advanced proficiency. For example, a saxophone student can play a specific song without looking at the songbook.

  • Adaptation: Individuals have developed their skills to the highest proficiency and can adapt them to meet specific requirements. For example, an advanced culinary student knows how to adjust their recipes to accommodate a client's dietary restrictions.

  • Origination: Individuals can develop a new skill by using the principles they gained while learning the original craft. For example, a student who has taken piano classes and learned several songs can write their own original piece for a performance.

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