Cognitive Domain

Cognitive Domain

Most people think of “learning” as a cognitive process. This is why the domain people link most to “learning” is the cognitive domain. This is the mental skills domain. It is the domain where you process information, create knowledge, and think.



Other Domains of Learning

There are, however, other ways of learning. In addition to knowledge, you can learn attitudes, behaviors, and physical skills. These different types of learning create three distinct domains of learning. These three domains can be categorized as cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills) and affective (attitudes).



Benjamin Bloom

In the 1950’s, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists whose goal was to develop a system of categories of learning behavior to assist in the design and assessment of educational learning. The group identified three domains of learning.

  • Cognitive (thinking)
  • Affective (feeling)
  • Psychomotor (doing)

They focused on the cognitive domain which involves knowledge and the development of intellectual skills. This includes simple skills like recall facts, as well as more complex skills such as recognition of patterns and forming of concepts.



The Cognitive Domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom and his colleagues developed a classification system for the levels of cognitive skills. The classification system they created is often referred to as Bloom’s Taxonomy. The word taxonomy simply means classifications or structures. Bloom’s Taxonomy classifies thinking according to six cognitive levels of complexity:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation


Cognitive Domain

Simple to Complex

The categories can be thought of as degrees of difficulties. The taxonomy is arranged so categories proceed from the simplest to more complex levels.  For example, the cognitive domain starts with the simple task of “remembering” and work towards more complex levels of thinking such as “evaluation.” The categories are also ordered from concrete to abstract.


Higher levels of Thinking

The various levels have often been depicted as a stairway to reference a progressive climb to a higher level of thinking. According to Bloom, each level must be mastered before moving to the next higher level. Bloom believes a learner would have to first recall data and then understand it before he or she is able to apply it.

Each level becomes more challenging as you move higher. The higher the level ones require more complex mental operation.

Knowledge: the ability to recall or recognize data / information.

Comprehension: the ability to understand and to grasp the meaning of information.

Application: the ability to use learned information in a new situation.

Analysis: the ability to break down material into its parts so that its organizational structure may be understood.

Synthesis: the ability to put parts together to form a new whole.

Evaluation: the ability to judge the value or importance of material.



Revised Taxonomy

The original Taxonomy has been changed over the years. The most notable change is the terms used to describe the levels. The revised version changes the names of each of the six levels. The levels have also change from nouns to verbs.

The new version is as follows:

  1. Remembering
  2. Understanding
  3. Applying
  4. Analyzing
  5. Evaluating
  6. Creating


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