Domains of Learning in Physical Education Programs

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

All education, including physical education, should incorporate the three domains of learning: psychomotor, cognitive, and affective. This lesson will explain each domain and how it can be applied to physical education.

Domains of Learning

There has been a lot of research applied to figuring out how students learn and the different components involved with learning. When evaluating learning in general, there are three categories or domains to be familiar with: psychomotor, cognitive, and affective. These domains were first identified as Bloom's Taxonomy back in 1956 and are still used today. (Dr. Benjamin Bloom was a psychologist who focused on education and how children learn.)

First, we have the psychomotor domain, which is concerned with the physical component of learning and includes aspects of movement, coordination, and motor or physical skills. As we age, our capacity for developing psychomotor skills improves. For example, a toddler will develop the ability to walk, while a young adult might develop the ability to tap dance. Under normal circumstances, you wouldn't expect the typical toddler to bust out a complex tap dance routine, but it's less of a surprise to see a teenager do so.

Next, we have the cognitive domain, which is centered on intelligence and developing new knowledge and mental skills. Like the other domains, a person's capacity to learn new information increases throughout childhood into adulthood.

Finally, we have the affective domain, which is focused on emotional learning and development. We have the capacity to learn new feelings and emotions with age, as well as develop the control to manage how these feelings or emotions are expressed.

Domains of Learning and Physical Education

Now that we're familiar with the three domains of learning, how do these domains relate to physical education? Most people associate physical education simply as ''gym class,'' so while it's easy to see how the psychomotor domain is linked to physical education, it may be less clear how affective and cognitive learning factor in too. Don't be fooled though! A good physical education instructor develops his or her curriculum to incorporate all three domains of learning. How? Well, let's take a look.

Think back to your first gym classes in early elementary school. What kinds of games did you play? One popular activity is a game called duck-duck-goose. In case you aren't familiar with this game, it's an activity where everyone sits in a circle and one person walks around behind the students tapping them on the heads one at a time. This designated student says ''duck'' with each head tap until they reach a student of their choosing, at which point they say ''goose'' and proceed to run. When a sitting child hears ''goose,'' they jump up and try to chase the first student around the circle. If the first student runs all the way around the circle and reaches the ''goose's'' spot and sits before they are tagged, then the second student starts the process over again, walking around and labeling ''ducks'' until they pick a ''goose.'' If, however, the second student catches up to the first student and tags them, then the first student must repeat the process until they successfully pass this duty on to someone else.

Kids playing duck-duck-goose. The student with the hat tapped the student with the pink shoes, making her the new goose.
duck duck goose

Duck-duck-goose seems simple until you break it down into the domains of learning and see how complex such an activity can actually be. First, we have the psychomotor component of the game. Each student practices developing their reflexes - how quick do they jump up if they are labeled ''goose?'' They also physically chase the other student and develop their depth perception skills by reaching out to tag the student if they get close enough.

What about the cognitive domain? Well, a student will probably try to choose a ''goose'' they think they can outrun, so they begin developing judgments of other people's physical ability. They also require cognitive input to learn the rules of the game in the first place and learn the concept behind the roles of both a duck and a goose.

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