Psychomotor Domain

Psychomotor Domain

The psychomotor domain is one of three learning domains publicized in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

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)

The group focused on the cognitive domain which involves knowledge and the development of intellectual skills. The psychomotor domain was not focused on until years later.

Psychomotor Domain

The psychomotor domain refers to the use of motor skills, coordination, and physical movement.

Measurements of learning may be gauged in terms of the following:

  • speed
  • strength
  • endurance
  • coordination
  • precision
  • flexibility
  • agility
  • dexterity
  • manipulation
  • grace
  • technique

Psychomotor domain

Three Versions of the Psychomotor Domain

The Psychomotor domain has been revised over the years by Dave (1970), Harrow (1972), and Simpson (1972). Dave’s is probably the most commonly referenced and used psychomotor domain interpretation. However, each has its uses and advantages.

Three different Taxonomy for Psychomotor Domain

Dave (1975)

  1. Imitation
  2. Manipulation
  3. Precision
  4. Articulation
  5. Naturalization

Harrow (1972)

  1. Reflex movements
  2. Fundamental Movements
  3. Perceptual abilities
  4. Physical Abilities
  5. Skilled movements
  6. Non-discursive communication

Simpson (1972)

  1. Perception
  2. Set
  3. Guided Response
  4. Mechanism
  5. Complex Overt Response
  6. Adaptation
  7. Origination

Increasing complexity

The categories for each of the domains can be thought of as degrees of difficulties. The domains are arranged so categories proceed from the simplest to more complex levels.  For example, you may start with a simple task such are copying another person’s moves then work towards more complex levels of proficient movement with accuracy and consistency.

Dave Psychomotor Domain

Dave’s Psychomotor Domain is the simplest domain and easiest to apply. Dave’s five levels of motor skills represent different degrees of competence in performing a skill. It captures the levels of competence in the stages of learning from initial exposure to final mastery. Imitation is the simplest level while naturalization is the most complex level.

Level  Definition
Imitate The ability to observe and pattern your behavior after someone else. At this level, you simply copy someone else or replicate someone’s actions following observations.
Manipulate The ability to perform certain actions by memory or following instructions. At this level, you can perform a task from written or verbal instructions.
Precision The ability to perform certain actions with some level of expertise and without help or intervention from others. At this level, you are able to perform a skill with a high degree of precision and accuracy, and with few errors.
Articulation The ability to adapt and integrate multiple actions to develop methods to meet varying and novel requirements. At this level, your skills are so well developed that you can modify movement to fit special requirements or to meet a problem situation.
Naturalization The ability to perform actions in an automatic, intuitive, or unconscious way. At this level, your performance is automatic with little physical or mental exertion. Your performance has become second-nature or natural, without needing to think much about it.

Harlow Psychomotor Domain

Anita Harrow’s taxonomy is focused on the development of physical fitness, dexterity, agility, and body control to achieve a high level of expertise. Harrow’s taxonomy is organized according to the degree of coordination including involuntary responses and learned capabilities. It starts with simple reflexes and goes to complex highly expressive movements requiring coordination and precision.

Level  Definition
Reflex movement Automatic Reactions.   These are involuntary reactions that are elicited without learning in response to some stimuli.
Fundamental movements Basic movements that can build to more complex sets of movements. This would include movements such as walking, running, jumping, pushing, pulling, twisting, or grasping.
Perceptual abilities The ability to take in information from the environment and react. This entails cognitive as well as psychomotor behavior.   It is your interpretation and response to stimuli such as visual, auditory, tactile, or kinesthetic that enable you to make adjustments to the environment. This may include coordinated movements such as jumping rope, juggling, or catching.
Physical abilities Physical activities requiring endurance, flexibility, agility, dexterity and strength which produce an efficiently functioning body. This may include activities of strenuous effort for long periods of time, muscular exertion, range of motion, or precise movements.
Skilled movements Advanced learned movements where a level of efficiency is achieved. These are skills and movements that must be learned for games, sports, dances, performances, or drawing.
Non-discursive communication Expressive and interpretive movement that communicate meaning without the aid of verbal commands or help. This is communication through expressive bodily movements such as posture, gestures, facial expressions, or creative movements. These are skills and movements that you may see with a mime or ballerina.

Simpson Psychomotor Domain

Elizabeth Simpson built her taxonomy on the work of Bloom and others. Simpson’s psychomotor domain is comprised of utilizing motor skills and coordinating them. Simpson’s taxonomy has a focus toward the progression of mastery of a skill from observation to invention.

Level  Definition
Perception The ability to use sensory cues to guide physical activity. This ranges from sensory stimulation, through cue selection, to translation.
Set The readiness to act.   This is your mindset. It is the mental, physical, and emotional dispositions that make you respond in a certain way to a situation.
Guided response This is the early stage of learning a complex skill. It is the first attempts at a physical skill and involves imitation and trial and error.
Mechanism This is the intermediate stage in learning a complex physical skill (basic proficiency). It is the ability to convert learned responses into habitual actions so the movements can be performed with a medium level of proficiency and confidence.
Complex overt response The ability to skillfully perform complex movements correctly (expert). Complex movements are performed quickly, accurately, and with a minimum wasted effort.
Adaptation The ability to modify learned skills to meet new or special requirements. Your skills are so well developed that you can modify movement patterns to fit special requirements.
Origination The ability to create new movement for a specific situation or problem. You are able to develop an original skill from a learned skill.

Related Links

Domains of Learning

Affective Domain

Cognitive Domain

Psychomotor Domain


Dave, R. H. (1970). In R. J. Armstrong et al., Developing and Writing Behavioral Objectives. Tucson, AZ: Educational Innovators Press.

Harrow, A.J. (1972). A taxonomy of the psychomotor domain. New York: David McKay Co.

Simpson E. J. (1972). The Classification of Educational Objectives in the Psychomotor Domain. Washington, DC: Gryphon House.

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