Unit A – Teaching & Learning Theories

A6. Taxonomies/Domains


A taxonomy is a classification or grouping into ordered categories. (Some people call a taxonomy a domain and some people call the categories levels – your choice.) The most commonly used taxonomies in higher education are Bloom’s. “Bloom’s taxonomy is a set of three hierarchical models used to classify educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity. The three lists cover the learning objectives in cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains (“Bloom’s Taxonomy,” 2021)” Higher education has a primary focus on the cognitive domain. However, the affective domain is often useful when considering transformative learning and the psychomotor domain is important for many programs.

Different Types of Educational Taxonomies

The cognitive, affective, and psychomotor taxonomies are also referred to as skills, knowledge, and attitudes (SKAs). Although called Bloom’s Taxonomies, they were identified by a group led by Bloom. The group further defined the cognitive domain, which was later revised by a group led by Krathwohl, who had worked within the initial Bloom group. Although the psychomotor taxonomy was identified by Bloom’s group, his group did not actually define the categories within it.

Bloom’s 3 taxonomies (cognitive, affective & psychomotor) are typically used initially to define goals (or outcomes) and objectives, then to align objectives, activities, and evaluations.

Figure 1: How Outcomes Guide Course Design

Alignment: Program leads to Course outcomes and objectives, which leads to Assessments/ assignments which leads to Class plans and activities

The taxonomies are beneficial at every stage of course design (See Figure 1):

  • Bloom’s Taxonomies guide the writing of clear outcomes which are then used to ensure all course elements of the course align to the outcomes.
  • The taxonomies provide instructors with a theoretical framework for determining the levels within each domain that they want students to attain.
  • The taxonomies and accompanying levels and verbs help instructors ensure that they have alignment and congruency among the objectives, assessments, activities, and class outlines.

Cognitive, Affective & Psychomotor Taxonomies

Bloom and a group of colleagues identified 3 types of taxonomies (or domains of educational activities). These are defined by D. R. Clark (2010) as:

  • Cognitive: mental skills (Figure 2 and Tables 1 & 2)
  • Affective: growth in feelings or emotional areas (Figure 3 and Table 3)
  • Psychomotor: manual or physical skills (Figure 4 and Table 4)

In business and industry training, these are often referred to as SKAs – Skills, Knowledge, and Attitudes. Training is very frequently focused on the skills/psychomotor domain. Here are two very simplified examples:

  • In health insurance, claims processors need to be able to use a specific computer program (psychomotor and cognitive), enter the claim form into the computer (psychomotor and cognitive), and make a determination of coverage (cognitive).
  • In forestry, workers need a lot of psychomotor and cognitive skills to cut down a tree: using a chainsaw (psychomotor and cognitive), determining appropriate cut and direction (cognitive), identifying safety concerns (cognitive), cutting the tree (psychomotor).

In higher education, courses usually are focused on the cognitive domain, but often need to teach a combination of domains. Examples:

  • In nursing, students need to be able to provide the correct dosage (a combination of cognitive and psychomotor skills), but also need to be able to communicate with patients and doctors (often requiring cognitive and attitudinal skills).
  • In engineering, students may need to be able to build a robot (a combination of cognitive and psychomotor skills), but also need to be able to communicate with other engineering students and, once in the workplace, customers and supervisors (often requiring cognitive and attitudinal skills).
  • In business, students may need to be able to create a marketing plan for a new product (cognitive and probably attitudinal skills), but also need to be able to communicate with other students and, once in the workplace, customers and supervisors (often requiring cognitive and attitudinal skills).

Higher-Order Skills


Taxonomies sequence based upon complexity. Higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) required more cognitive ability than lower-order thinking skills (LOTS). While LOTS focus on information acquisition, HOTS focuses on information manipulation and recreation. “Higher-order thinking involves the learning of complex judgmental skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. Higher-order thinking is more difficult to learn or teach but also more valuable because such skills are more likely to be usable in novel situations (i.e., situations other than those in which the skill was learned)”(“Higher-Order Thinking,” 2020).

Similarly, higher-order attitudinal skills (HOAS) and higher-order psychomotor skills (HOPS) require more value-based thinking and acting than lower order levels. And they are frequently more difficult to teach, learn and assess than lower-order SKAs. However, in HE, we typically are more interested in learning outcomes that need HOTS / HOAS / HOPS. (NOTE: Although these are referred to as ‘Skills’, they may include knowledge and attitude. Skills is used in a more generic term in this case.)

Pyramids or Steps?

Usually, Bloom’s Taxonomies are illustrated as pyramids. We use steps here instead to minimize the assumption that you may have fewer high-level objectives than low-level objectives.

The text for each of the taxonomy diagrams is taken from Clark (2010) . (Note that several psychomotor taxonomies have been developed. Clark provides details on each.)

The figures for the cognitive domain are based on a revision of the original Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy, developed by Anderson and Krathwohl (For more on Bloom’s Taxonomies, see Anderson et al., 2013).

Cognitive Taxonomy Knowledge Dimension

In addition to the six levels of the cognitive domain, four levels in the knowledge dimension provide further differentiation for objectives.  These provide a range from Concrete knowledge to Abstract knowledge (Table 7). Here are brief descriptions of the knowledge dimension (From UC San Diego’s Teaching + Learning Commons, n.d.). (For text version see Google Sheet)

	basic elements, verbal and nonverbal terminology, specific details, systematic organization or concrete facts within a discipline
	classifications, categories, principles,  theories, generalizations and the relationships between them, how they function together
	specific skills, processes,  techniques, methods of inquiry, and criteria for using certain algorithms and methods
	awareness of one's own learning, control and regulation of cognitive processes, self-knowledge, contextual knowledge, and conditional learning
How Does This Help You?

The knowledge dimension helps you identify the complexity of the objective. For high level knowledge dimension objectives, this can help you identify if you have pre-requisite SKAs. Or, if you realize that your objectives are all in the lower level knowledge dimensions, you can revise your objectives to better match your higher level outcomes.

Examples of the knowledge dimension:


Taxonomies’ Illustrations & Verbs

Below are the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor taxonomies, the categories for each, and sample verbs. (These taxonomies are also available as a separate .pdf document at: Appendices, References, & Indices.)

Cognitive Domain

Figure 2: Steps in the Cognitive Domain (Wording from D. R. Clark, 2015)

range from Lower-order thinking skills (LOTS) to higher-order thinking skills (HOTS):
Remembering: Recall or retrieve previous learned information.
Understanding: Comprehending the meaning, translation, interpolation, and interpretation of instructions and problems. State a problem in one's own words.
Applying: Use a concept in a new situation or unprompted use of an abstraction. Applies what was learned in the classroom into novel situations in the workplace.
Analyzing: Separates material or concepts into component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood. Distinguishes between facts and inferences.
Evaluating: Makes judgments about the value of ideas or materials.
Creating: Builds a structure or pattern from diverse elements. Put parts together to form a whole, with emphasis on creating a new meaning or structure.

Table 1: Cognitive Domain Categories (Wording from Churches, 2009; D. R. Clark, 2015) (.pdf version)

Table 2: Cognitive Taxonomy Cognitive & Knowledge Dimensions (Adapted from Huitt, n.d.) (.pdf version)

Affective Domain

Figure 3: Steps in the Affective Domain (Wording from D. R. Clark, 2015a)

Affective levels ranging from Lower order Affective Skills (LOAS) to Higher order Affective Skills (HOAS)
Receiving Phenomena: Awareness, willingness to hear, selected attention.
Responding to Phenomena: Learners’ active participation. Attend and react to a particular phenomenon. Learning outcomes may emphasize compliance in responding, willingness to respond, or satisfaction in responding (motivation).
Valuing: The worth or value a person attaches to a particular object, phenomenon, or behavior. Ranges from simple acceptance to more complex state of commitment. Valuing is based on internalization of set of specified values, while clues to these values are expressed in the learner's overt behavior and are often identifiable.
Organization: Organizes values into priorities by contrasting different values, resolving conflicts between them, and creating a unique value system. The emphasis is on comparing, relating, and synthesizing values. 
Internalizing Values: Has a value system that controls their behavior. The behavior is pervasive, consistent, predictable, and most important characteristic of the learner. Instructional objectives are concerned with the student's general patterns of adjustment (personal, social, emotional).

Table 3: Steps in the Affective Domain (Wording from D. R. Clark, 2015a) (.pdf version)

Psychomotor Domain

Figure 3: Steps in the Affective Domain (Wording from D. R. Clark, 2015a)

Psychomotor skills ranging from Lower order Physical Skills (LOPS) to Higher order Physical Skills (HOPS)
 Imitation: Observing and patterning behavior after someone else. Performance may be of low quality.
Manipulation: Being able to perform certain actions by memory or following instructions.
Precision: Refining, becoming more exact. Performing a skill within a high degree of precision.
Articulation: Coordinating and adapting a series of actions to achieve harmony and internal consistency.
Naturalization: Mastering a high-level performance until it becomes second-nature or natural, without needing to think much about it.

Table 4: Psychomotor Domain Categories (Wording from D. R. Clark, 2015c) (.pdf version)

IDI & Taxonomies

Image indicating these concepts can be applied at all steps.

Bloom’s taxonomies are used in step 1 of the IDI model to help you identify what is important, and in step 2 as they will help you write your outcomes and objectives. These actions are included in Chapter C2: Learning Goals, Outcomes, & Objectives.

They are used in step 3 as they will help you select assignments and assessments that align to your objectives (Chapter C2: Learning Goals, Outcomes, & Objectives). In step 4, you will use these taxonomies to identify and align activities.

In step 5, you will review your learning outcome goals with student learning and assessments to identify improvements. These actions are included in Chapter C12: Improving the Course and Your Teaching.


Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., Airasian, P. W., Cruikshank, K. A., Mayer, R. E., Pintrich, P. R., Raths, J., & Wittrock, M. C. (2013). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Abridged, International). Pearson.

Churches, A. (2009). Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy v3.01.pdf. https://fliphtml5.com/ajrip/hlpq/basic/51-75.

Clark, D. R. (2015a, January 12). Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains. Big Dog and Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition. http://knowledgejump.com/hrd/bloom.html.

Clark, D. R. (2015b, January 12). Bloom’s Taxonomy: The Affective Domain. Big Dog and Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition. http://knowledgejump.com/hrd/Bloom/affective_domain.html.

Clark, D. R. (2015c, January 12). Bloom’s Taxonomy: The Psychomotor Domain. Big Dog and Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition. http://knowledgejump.com/hrd/Bloom/psychomotor_domain.html.

Higher-order thinking. (2020). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Higher-order_thinking&oldid=952470757.

Huitt, W. (n.d.). Bloom et al.’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain. Educational Psychology Interactive. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/cognition/bloom.html.

UC San Diego’s Teaching + Learning Commons. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Course Map Guide. Retrieved June 28, 2023, from https://www.coursemapguide.com/bloom-s-taxonomy.

Wilson, L. O. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised: Understanding the Revised Version of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The Second Principle. Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://thesecondprinciple.com/essential-teaching-skills/blooms-taxonomy-revised/.