Psychomotor Domain Research Paper Starter

Psychomotor Domain

As with the other two main types of educational objectives, affective and cognitive, those of the psychomotor domain are applied essentially to all aspects of education. The development of psychomotor skills is grounded in behavioral learning theory. Among the numerous applications of psychomotor domain objectives are in teaching physical education and personal fitness skills and various sport, dance, music, drama and visual arts classes. The effective implementation of a psychomotor domain, objectives-based educational approach requires the selection of valid objectives for specific instructional situations. Research studies have confirmed that using multiple representations, including virtual demonstrations, are beneficial in preparing students for actual live performances of psychomotor skills.

Educational Theory


Educational psychologists have subdivided the area of educational objectives into three domains: the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. The three domains identify and represent the knowledge, beliefs, and skills, respectively, of a human performer. Learning can be thought of as occurring in these three domains (Adkins, 2004; Beane, Toepfer, & Alessi, 1986; Gage & Berliner, 1988).

Different types of behaviors have led educational researchers to identify classifications of objectives and related sequences of skills describing what students need to learn before progressing to the next sequence. The sequences of objectives for each domain have been published as classification schemes called taxonomies. The objectives move up from less complex skills to more complex levels of behaviors (Gage & Berliner, 1988).

The cognitive domain refers to acquiring, processing, and using knowledge. Cognitive objectives relate to intellectual processes such as knowing, reasoning, thinking, recognizing, perceiving, conceiving, and judging. The cognitive development of students has been and is undoubtedly still the main focus of teaching (Beane et al., 1986; Gage & Berliner, 1988; Haladyna, 1997). The affective domain and related educational objectives involve students' attitudes, emotions, feelings, appreciations, and values (Gage & Berliner, 1988).

The psychomotor domain and its related educational objectives are mainly focused on the development of motor or physical skills and abilities. They are largely confined to the physical acts and behaviors of performing and ways of moving. They are composed of the physical activities individuals become involved in and the physical procedures they use to negotiate daily life (Beane et al., 1986; Gage & Berliner, 1988; Haladyna, 1997; Marzano, 2001). Table 1, which is modified from Simpson (1972) and after Beane et al. (1986), is an excerpt that illustrates a psychomotor domain taxonomical sequence. The related skills or processes and sample educational objectives are listed in Table 1 for each point or level in the hierarchy.

Table 1: Illustrative Example of Psychomotor-Domain Taxonomy with Related Skill or Process and a Sample Objective at Each Point or Level in the Hierarchy

Level Skill or Process Skill or Process 1 Perception To differentiate different foods by their odors. 2 Set To demonstrate knowledge of the rules of a sport. 3 Guided Response To manipulate objects on the basis of directions. 4 Mechanism To construct a model of a building. 5 Complex Overt Response To demonstrate correct form in pole vaulting. 6 Adaptation To change running form in order to gain more speed. 7 Origination To develop an interpretive dance. Modified from Simpson (1972) and after Beane, Toepfer, and Alessi (1986).

The three domains are not mutually exclusive. None of the three classifications of behaviors and objectives can be isolated from the others, as almost all learning activities involve more than one domain. Students think, experience feelings, and move in certain ways all at the same time. Psychomotor behaviors specifically contain elements of cognitive and affective behaviors within them. Psychomotor behaviors--"doing" movements--are connected to and affect cognitive student learning and performance (Abedi & O'Neil, 2005; Adkins, 2004; Beane et al., 1986; Gage & Berliner, 1988; Haladyna, 1997). Taken separately, each domain serves as a valuable reference point for the development and achievement of balance in the range and scope of educational objectives within the curriculum so as to accent different areas of learning. Psychomotor student outcomes are important and need to be included in instructional programs (Beane et al., 1986; Haladyna, 1997).

Tasks within the Psychomotor Domain

The psychomotor domain objectives are particularly useful for teachers teaching such subjects as word processing, handwriting, physical education, dance, art, and music. The psychomotor domain can involve almost any type of movement: running, diving, biking, skateboarding, throwing a football, playing volleyball or badminton or tennis, playing a flute or piano or guitar, trimming a rosebush, et cetera. Any and all physical activity or movement has great relevance to this taxonomy (Gage & Berliner, 1988). Psychomotor domain objectives, as other types of objectives, are used in curriculum development, instruction/ teaching, learning/achievement, assessment/measurement/evaluation, and essentially all other aspects of education.


Psychologist B. F. Skinner (1904-1990), the foremost behaviorist of his era, developed the theory of human behavior, which is most often referred to as behavioral learning theory. Skinner's most famous work, The Behavior of Organisms, was published in 1938. His behavioral learning theory greatly influenced American education. Cognitive psychology has eclipsed behavioral learning theory as the mainstream way in which to study human behavior. However, a legacy of behavioral learning theory and behaviorism is a teacher's statement of the purpose of a lesson at the beginning of each class so students have a clear understanding of what they are going to learn (Haladyna, 1997; Vernoff & Shore, 1987).

The different hierarchies of objectives or taxonomies have been around for many decades. Taxonomies of the three domains were initially formulated and published during the period from the mid-1950s to 1970. Historically speaking, the first of the comprehensive educational taxonomies were those developed for the cognitive domain by Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, Hill, and Krathwohl (1956). This taxonomy became classically known and is still referred to as "Bloom's Taxonomy." During the 1960s, much attention was paid to identifying the types of learning occurring in the cognitive and other domains. In 1964, a taxonomy for the affective domain was published by Krathwohl, Bloom, and Masia. Then in 1970, similar taxonomies appeared relating to the psychomotor domain. These latter taxonomies were authored by Kibler, Barker, and Miles (Adkins, 2004; Beane et al., 1986; Dettmer, 2006; Gage & Berliner, 1988).

Early research in the development of psychomotor skills was performed in military laboratories. The U.S. Army Research Institute (ARI) for the Behavioral and Social Sciences conducted research and published technical reports on the learning, achievement, testing, and measurement of skilled psychomotor tasks and reactive skills. The U.S. Air Force also conducted assessments of motor and perceptual skills. The measurements from their psychomotor/perceptual battery were generally highly reliable. Among the many applications of the educational research conducted by the military were the use of computer-assisted instruction to develop and maintain psychomotor skills and the use of computer-administered tests of perceptual and psychomotor abilities (Hunter, 1975; Peterson, 1987; Tuckman, 1996).


One of the first taxonomies for the psychomotor domain was Ragsdale's 1950 consideration of psychomotor types of activities (De Landsheere, 1977; Duschl, 1989; Goldberger & Moyer, 1982). J. P. Guilford's system of psychomotor abilities and motor-performance matrices were published in 1958 (Harris & Liba, 1965). Guilford's taxonomies were soon followed by those of Simpson, Dave, Gagne, and Harrow (De Landsheere, 1977).

Elizabeth J. Simpson (1966) developed schema for classifying educational objectives in the psychomotor domain and conducted an analysis of related behavioral objectives. This was followed by R. H. Dave's (1970) psychomotor levels. In 1972, Anita J. Harrow developed psychomotor objectives in her book A Taxonomy of the Psychomotor Domain: A Guide for Developing Behavioral Objectives (Cooper, 1973; Heinemann & Mallis, 1977). Merrill's psychomotor domain model was also published in 1972. In 1973, Tiemann and Markle developed an elaborate three-dimensional model of the types of learning emphasizing the intersection of the three domains.

Then, in the mid-1980s, Newell (1986) applied his constraints model to the analysis and teaching of psychomotor skills in physical education. M. Mosston's (1986) "Spectrum of Teaching Styles" was used in assisting students to learn motor skills. Mosston's three-dimensional model of developmental movement connected psychomotor skills, abilities, and objectives to the larger structure of human movement. Mosston and Ashworth's (2002) model used task progressions in motor skill development in physical education. Inclusion styles and reciprocal styles were specifically used in adapting both task and environment to individual constraints and varying skill levels (Byra, 2004; Garn & Byra, 2002; Goldberger & Moyer, 1982; Hamilton, Pankey, & Kinnunen, 2002).

Without a doubt, the most ambitious "re-modeling" of educational objectives is the "New Taxonomy" of Marzano (2001). Marzano's (2001) taxonomy is modified and shown as Figure 1. His taxonomy explicitly defines how each of its six levels interact with the knowledge domain. Marzano describes the new taxonomy as two-dimensional in nature with one dimension being represented by the six levels of the taxonomy and the other dimension being represented by the three "knowledge domains." The "educational objectives" within each level are further articulated into related skills and processes.

Further Insights


The psychomotor domain, as other domains, is organized and arranged as a learning hierarchy or in learning hierarchies. This hierarchical structure of the learning objectives of the domain allows for ease in analysis of relationships. Information about students' physical movements and abilities are ordered such that the foundational skills or "procedures" upon which more complex skills are developed are at the bottom. It is important to match the intended learning goal with the task structure although at least some educators have found no significant differential effect in learning terminal objectives based on the sequencing of subordinate tasks (Crow, 1997; Duschl, 1989; Goldberger & Moyer, 1982; Mally, 2006; Marzano, 2001; Parker, 1973).


The psychomotor domain taxonomies of...

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