Academic Diary with Dzifa: Learning Domains—Smart lookup

Photo credit: British Council GHANA
  • The three domains of learning are cognitive (thinking), affective (emotions or feeling) and Psychomotor (Physical or kinaesthetic).
  • Lesson plans and assessment must include the three (3) domains of learning.
  • A learner may be identified by more than one domain of learning, with one playing a dominant role.

Developing and delivering lessons by teachers are an integral part of the teaching process. It is therefore very significant for teachers to ensure that their lesson plans cover the three (3) domains of learning, which include cognitive (thinking), affective (emotions or feeling) and Psychomotor (Physical or kinaesthetic), to be able to achieve an all-inclusive delivery. Learning task and assessment must be holistic to cover all the domains or learning styles. The variation in such learning tasks helps develop a comparatively well-round learning experience that spreads across a number of learning style or domains.

It is important to understand that there are different categories of learners who have varying needs and as such different methods must be adopted in the planning and delivering of lessons to ensure that such needs are addressed. “The world of education has gradually adopted the strategy of ‘Every child matters’ structure that requires that all learners with different needs are counted”.


Learning helps develop an individual’s attitude as well as encourage the acquisition of new skills.

Cognitive: The cognitive learner utilises his mental powers to acquire knowledge, understands theories and concepts; analyses, evaluates situations or conditions in order to synthesise and apply the knowledge acquired to build solutions to arising circumstances. Knowledge includes the ability of the learner to recall data or information.

This is followed with comprehension which assesses the ability of the learner to understand the meaning of what is known. This is followed by application of the knowledge, which shows the ability of the learner to use the abstract knowledge (theory or concept) in a new situation.

So in early childhood education, the cognitive learner quickly catches the concept of any topic in whatever subject and quickly attends to exercises with little supervision and does not need much motivation, and sails through lower and upper primary with ease.

You remember a time in Junior High School when you refer to some classmates as the ‘sharks’ of the class just because they simply understood all those complex topics in Maths and Science? Yes! Those are the kind of learners that fall under the cognitive domain. The career path of such learners include lawyers, forensic experts, professors, doctors, economist, inventors, and criminologists, just to mention a few.

Affective: The affective learner feeds on feelings, emotions and attitude. The categories of affective domain include receiving phenomena, responding to phenomena, valuing, organisation and characterisation (Anderson et al, 2011).  This group of learners use selected attention to acquire knowledge, thus receiving phenomena.

This can come in the form of listening attentively or passively in class, and participating actively when in smaller groups during discussions. The ability of the learners to share their views and ideas about diverse topics raised in class is reflected in the value they place on it.

The affective learner is able to prioritise a value over another and create a unique value system by taking the time to organise their ideas. For instance, this type of learner might see the need to place more value on one’s academic work as against one’s social relationship.

The subdomain of characterisation explains the ability to adopt values and allow them control the behavioural pattern of the individual. In view of this, a student considers the academic work highly important as it plays an important role in deciding the career path chosen, rather than what may be available.

Affective learners mostly thrive during their pre-school and kindergarten days because there is a lot of motivation and display of drama at the early childhood centres and so they enjoy and do well there. However, they may struggle for a while when they advance to lower primary; reason? Relatively, serious academic work and independence begins here, at the lower primary. By the time the affective learner climbs the upper primary ladder, they now find themselves and build their self-confidence.

“My daughter insisted on performing arts at the end of her Senior High School even though she made good grade to pursue medicine, which was what the whole family wanted for her………. we at last threw in the towel and she is doing overwhelmingly well in her chosen field.” – Mr. Aduful. Comments like that of Mr. Aduful are worth considering.

Career paths chosen by affective learners may include poets, visual artists, musicians, writers, performing artists, and the list is endless.

Psychomotor: The psychomotor learner utilises physical movement, coordination, speed, agility, motor skills, and is sensory guided.

The sub domains of psychomotor include perception, set, guided response, mechanism, complex overt response, adaptation and origination.

Perception involves the ability to apply sensory information to motor activity. For instance, a student practises a series of exercises in a text book with the aim of scoring higher marks during exams. Set, as a sub domain, involves the readiness to act upon a series of challenges to overcome them.

The sub domain of mechanism includes the ability to convert learned responses into habitual actions with proficiency and confidence. Complex overt responses explain the ability to skilfully perform complex patterns of actions. A typical instance has to do with the ability of a student to have an increased typing speed when using a computer.

Adaptability is an integral part of the domain which exhibits the ability to modify learned skills to meet special events. An instance is when a student who has learnt various underlying theories is able to invent or make a working model using everyday materials. Origination also involves creating new movement patterns for a specific situation (Sincero, 2011).

This group of learners are physical, manipulative and play mostly on their gross motor skills. So in this group, you will find learners who excel in sporting activities, crafting and putting materials together to create unimaginable inventions.

Most likely, you will find some learners who display agility and skill in outdoor activities rather than basing in the classroom. They blossom with gross motor activities. In this group we will find our future athletes, footballers, technologist, technical expects, and so on.

Do you remember?

With a continuous and pressing need to ensure that learners are taught with varying strategies and techniques, it is important for facilitators to adopt a teaching strategy that combines various domains of learning to enable teaching and learning to be considered as effective.

The learning process must go beyond reading and memorising facts and information to the ability to critically evaluate the information, explain to others, as well as design things out for everyday use and create solutions for everyday obstacles.

>>>The writer is a bachelor of Fine Arts degree holder from the University of Ghana, a Phonics coach and the brain behind Brightwheel Consult. She also holds a certificate in Business Administration from the Graduate School of Governance and Leadership and has hands-on experience in early childhood and Montessori education.


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