Domains of Learning

Initial Publication Date: October 4, 2005

How We Learn

Humans are lifelong learners. From birth onward we learn and assimilate what we have just learned into what we already know. Learning in the Geosciences, like all learning, can be catagorized into the domains of concept knowledge, how we view ourselves as learners and the skills we need to engage in the activities of geoscientists. As early as 1956 Educational Psychologist Benjamin Bloom divided what and how we learn into three seperate domains of learning.

Cognitive Domain

Cognitive Domain - This domain includes content knowledge and the development of intellectual skills. This includes the recall or recognition of specific facts and concepts that serve developing intellectual abilities and skills. There are six major categories, starting from the simplest behavior (recalling facts) to the most complex (Evaluation). The University of Washington's Geography Department website Major Categories in the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives has a detailed explanation of Bloom's Six Levels of Cognitive Development ( This site may be offline. )

Affective Domain

Affective Domain- How does one approach learning? With confidence, a can do attitude. The Affective domain includes feelings, values, appreciation, enthusiasms, motivations, and attitudes. The University of Dayton, School of Law Affective Domain website describes each catagory in the domain and provides illustrative examples and keywords for the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains.

Psychomotor Domain

Psychomotor Domain- The psychomotor domain includes physical movement, coordination, and use of the motor-skill areas. Development of these skills requires practice and is measured in terms of speed, precision, distance, procedures, or techniques in execution. For a more detailed treatment of this domain see the Penn State Teaching and Learning with Technology website Psychomotor Domain Taxonomy

Connecting Learning and Assessment

To see how assessments are built from these domains of learning and to learn how to build effective assessments go to the Hallmarks of Effective Assessment page.


Bloom Benjamin S. and David R. Krathwohl. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, by a committee of college and university examiners. Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. New York, Longmans, Green, 1956.