The Three Learning Domains Serve Education Essay

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Many people would highly likely cite a desire to learn as the main reasons for committing many years to attaining an education. However, what do we mean when we use the term learn? Learning is something we all do from the moment we are born, so most of us likely take this very thorny process for granted. Though many of us have a general idea of what it basically means to learn, there are many assumptions involved. Teachers commonly assume that because they are teaching, students should be learning. Students also assume that just because they have read and memorized facts, then they have learned something. This paper presents a discussion on how the three domains of learning serve the learning process.


Ever since the 1950s, scholars in education and cognitive theory have used Bloom's taxonomies of learning. In various landmark papers, Bloom recognized three learning domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. The cognitive domain is demonstrated by an individual's intellectual skills. Cognitive learning behaviors are characterized by both noticeable and unnoticeable skills like organizing ideas, comprehending information, and analyzing information and actions. The affective domain includes emotions, feelings, values, attitudes and motivations. In the affective domain, levels "…range from initial awareness to a commitment to values, which guide decisions and behavior…" (Bloom, 1956). The psychomotor domain of learning includes physical coordination, movement, sensory and motor skills. Though broadly used by instructors for student assessment and course design, Bloom's taxonomy does not include some of the new types of learning deemed significant today such as leadership and communication skills, learning how to learn, adaptability, and so forth.

Without a doubt, the most broadly used of Bloom's taxonomies is the cognitive domain. Bloom classified this domain into six stages of understanding in a hierarchical sequence. Bloom (1956) states that the acquisition of knowledge or facts marks only the commencement of understanding. Facts have to be understood before they can be applied to new applications or situations. In addition to this, knowledge should be organized and patterns reorganized before it can be used to generate new ideas. Lastly, to discriminate among competing evidence, a learner should be able to evaluate the validity and relative merits of ideas or information. Evidently, to accomplish the level of understanding, which makes evaluation possible entails notable time and effort by the learner. Such a sophisticated scale of understanding is not easily accomplishable by just reading a book or listening to a lecture. It necessitates active reflection and thought.

To discern if significant learning is occurring in the classroom, it is important to be able to recognize when it happens. Learning in the dictionary is defined as: acquiring skill through experience or education or knowledge of a subject; to gain information about something or somebody or to memorize something. The last definition is not exactly insightful though it seems that learning can be used to describe the acquisition of both skill and knowledge, and that acquisition can be of various means including experience, education or memorization (Felder, 2004). Still, there is no clear understanding of what it actually means to acquire skill or knowledge. Other things that individuals acquire are gained by physical means. Then how does this relate to learning? Taking a different view, Bruner ( 1960) describes learning as "…a relatively permanent change in behavior, which results from practice…" On the other hand, Bastable (2011) points out that the objective of learning has recently shifted from surface learning, which is being able to recall information, to deep learning that is being able to find and use it.

Till some decades ago, most teachers believed that teaching basically involved filling a student with information. Such thinking and practice are decisively established in most classrooms in spite of the fact that the inefficiency of lecture based teaching has been known for some time (Bastable, 2011). According to contemporary cognitive psychology, learning is not a receptive process, but a constructive one. This theory of learning that is constructivism implies that understanding comes through interaction and experiences with the environment and that the learner uses a foundation of preceding knowledge in order to construct new understanding. As a result, a learner, not the teacher has the crucial responsibility for understanding and constructing knowledge. In a constructivist classroom, a teacher no longer has the authority, but is rather a facilitator or guide who helps students in learning.

Feelings and emotions are crucial to how learners feel. These feelings and emotions are a great part of the relationships and interactions, which form in the classroom. According to Leamnson (1999), in the classroom, relationships directly affect the learning process and environment. Learning is fundamental for learners to hone their skills; however, if the affective domain is overlooked, then the cognitive areas will also be greatly affected. If one feels sad, threatened, stressed and so forth, the learning process can break down (Leamnson, 1999). A significant element of a healthy classroom environment, which supports the learning process, is respect of individual differences.

Anderson & Krathwol (2001) establishes that the learning process starts when a learner interrelates with the environment. From this experience, sensory information is compared and interrelated with existing knowledge. New ideas, models, and plans for action are formed from this information and lastly, new action is taken. In the brain of the learner, knowledge is structured and organized in networks of interrelated concepts. For that reason new knowledge has to build upon or connect to a structure of existing knowledge. In simple words, learning entails building mental models that consist of new and existing information. Additionally, "…the richer the connection between new and existing information, the deeper the knowledge and the more willingly it can be reclaimed and applied in new circumstances…" (Anderson & Krathwol, 2001). Creating rich links entails an iterative process of building, refining and testing mental models, which categorizes knowledge into conceptual structures. And, if existing knowledge serves as groundwork for new learning, then it is also fundamental that existing preconceptions, misconceptions, and raw conceptions are recognized and corrected in the learning process.

There are deep and surface approaches to the learning process. In deep learning, students have an intention to understand. Students in general engage in dynamic contact with content, relate concepts to everyday experience, relate new ideas to old ones, examine the logic of arguments and relate evidence to conclusions. By doing so, students construct their own knowledge. In contrast, in the surface approach of the learning process, the goal of the student is normally to complete required learning assignments by memorizing information required for assessments. Surface learners should focus on facts without assimilation since they are in general unreflective and they observe learning tasks as external impositions (Bruner, 960).

This brings to mind the question that at what extent is the learning process limited or enhanced by genetics? Even though natural talent is frequently considered to play a notable role in becoming a talented person or an expert, people should engage in considerable practice to reach the master level (Felder, 2004). For instance, people who have mastered chess roughly spend around sixty thousand hours studying chess in order to become experts in playing chess. That is the time it basically takes to develop the required skull to recognize patterns of chess pieces, make the best moves and understand their implications for future results. No wonder spending a semester reading a book often fails to provide the necessary level of understand that students regularly desire (Felder, 2004). It is without a doubt, that considerable learning necessitates significant time investment. Regrettably time on task alone does not warrant that significant learning will happen. Human beings were fundamentally born yearning to learn, however the need for learning is not restricted to young people or children in the classroom. The learning process is more of a lifelong occupation.

In various respects, grades are an unlucky part of the learning process. Majority of students particularly those for example in college, do not understand what it takes to be successful in the school environment. And for others, the focus can easily be shifted from learning to grades. For the lecturer, assigning grades can be at the same time frustrating and rewarding. When a student has worked hard, challenged him/herself, and shown evidence of deep learning, it is quite rewarding for the college teacher to award a high grade (Leamnson, 1999). On the other hand, it is quite frustrating to assign a low grade to a student who has a lot of potential, but who has only displayed surface learning or has made no or little effort to improve. Even if a grade dies not really signify the sum total of an individual's abilities or potential, it is a broadly accepted method for reviewing students' performance in a certain course. In general performance in a course is indisputably a function of various things, but can be distilled down to the motivation and native ability of the student. Though greater effort can result in improved learning or results, this is not always the case. It is critical not to confound these two very significant but different performance dimensions. Effort does not only guarantee success in learning. On the contrary, the most exceptional student in class is not essentially the person with the biggest native ability.

The three domains of psychomotor, cognitive and affective are tightly incorporated element of the human learning process. Many schools only focus on the knowledge and skills domains. Additionally, most trainers of teachers have shied from the affective domain due to its complexity. Regrettably the cognitive domain is like a skeleton without a skin if educational professionals continue to forget to support the affective domain.


In the past, Bloom's taxonomy has provided a foundation for developing learning goals for learners to obtain knowledge even if it was initially designed as an evaluation tool. Irrespective of its intended objective, it has been of extreme help to the overall learning process because each level describes what each student should be doing. Why and how learning objects are used is still unclear since most providers are not documenting why, how, and by whom they are used. It might be that taxonomy of learning object pedagogy drawing from Bloom's taxonomy for teaching might guide and serve a helpful function in the learning process.