The Learning Process
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Psychomotor Domain Taxonomy

      This domain is characterized by progressive levels of behaviors from observation to mastery of a physical skill. Several different taxonomies exist.

      In 1972 E. Simpson built this taxonomy on the work of Bloom and other researchers:

Perception Sensory cues guide motor activity
Set Mental, physical, and emotional dispositions that make one respond in a certain way to a situation
Guided Response First attempts at a physical skill. Trial and error coupled with practice lead to better performance
Mechanism The intermediate stage in learning a physical skill. Responses are habitual with a medium level of assurance and proficiency
Complex Overt Response Complex movements are possible with a minimum of wasted effort and a high level of assurance they will be successful
Adaptation Movements can be modified for special situations
Origination New movements can be created for special situations

Simpson, E. (1972). The classification of educational objectives in the psychomotor domain:
The psychomotor domain.
Vol. 3. Washington, DC: Gryphon House.

The psychomotor domain (Simpson, 1972) includes physical movement, coordination, and use of the motor-skill areas. Development of these skills requires practice and is measured in terms of speed, precision, distance, procedures, or techniques in execution. The seven major categories are listed from the simplest behavior to the most complex:

Example and Key Words (verbs)

Perception: The ability to use sensory cues to guide motor activity.  This ranges from sensory stimulation, through cue selection, to translation.

Examples:  Detects non-verbal communication cues. Estimate where a ball will land after it is thrown and then moving to the correct location to catch the ball. Adjusts heat of stove to correct temperature by smell and taste of food. Adjusts the height of the forks on a forklift by comparing where the forks are in relation to the pallet.

Key Words: chooses, describes, detects, differentiates, distinguishes, identifies, isolates, relates, selects.

Set: Readiness to act. It includes mental, physical, and emotional sets. These three sets are dispositions that predetermine a person's response to different situations (sometimes called mindsets).

Examples:  Knows and acts upon a sequence of steps in a manufacturing process. Recognize one's abilities and limitations. Shows desire to learn a new process (motivation). NOTE: This subdivision of Psychomotor is closely related with the “Responding to phenomena” subdivision of the Affective domain.

Key Words: begins, displays, explains, moves, proceeds, reacts, shows, states, volunteers.

Guided Response: The early stages in learning a complex skill that includes imitation and trial and error. Adequacy of performance is achieved by practicing.

Examples:  Performs a mathematical equation as demonstrated. Follows instructions to build a model. Responds hand signals of instructor while learning to operate a forklift.

Key Words: copies, traces, follows, react, reproduce, responds

Mechanism: This is the intermediate stage in learning a complex skill. Learned responses have become habitual and the movements can be performed with some confidence and proficiency.

Examples:  Use a personal computer. Repair a leaking faucet. Drive a car.

Key Words: assembles, calibrates, constructs, dismantles, displays, fastens, fixes, grinds, heats, manipulates, measures, mends, mixes, organizes, sketches.

Complex Overt Response: The skillful performance of motor acts that involve complex movement patterns. Proficiency is indicated by a quick, accurate, and highly coordinated performance, requiring a minimum of energy. This category includes performing without hesitation, and automatic performance. For example, players are often utter sounds of satisfaction or expletives as soon as they hit a tennis ball or throw a football, because they can tell by the feel of the act what the result will produce.

Examples:  Maneuvers a car into a tight parallel parking spot. Operates a computer quickly and accurately. Displays competence while playing the piano.

Key Words: assembles, builds, calibrates, constructs, dismantles, displays, fastens, fixes, grinds, heats, manipulates, measures, mends, mixes, organizes, sketches.

NOTE: The Key Words are the same as Mechanism, but will have adverbs or adjectives that indicate that the performance is quicker, better, more accurate, etc.

Adaptation: Skills are well developed and the individual can modify movement patterns to fit special requirements.

Examples:  Responds effectively to unexpected experiences.  Modifies instruction to meet the needs of the learners. Perform a task with a machine that it was not originally intended to do (machine is not damaged and there is no danger in performing the new task).

Key Words: adapts, alters, changes, rearranges, reorganizes, revises, varies.

Origination: Creating new movement patterns to fit a particular situation or specific problem. Learning outcomes emphasize creativity based upon highly developed skills.

Examples:  Constructs a new theory. Develops a new and comprehensive training programming. Creates a new gymnastic routine.

Key Words: arranges, builds, combines, composes, constructs, creates, designs, initiate, makes, originates.

  In 1970 R. H. Dave developed the following taxonomy:

Imitation Observing and patterning behavior after someone else. Performance may be of low quality. Example: Copying a work of art.
Manipulation Guided via instruction to perform a skill. Being able to perform certain actions by following instructions and practicing. Example: Creating work on one's own, after taking lessons, or reading about it.
Precision Accuracy, proportion and exactness exist in the skill performance without the presence of the original source. Refining, becoming more exact. Few errors are apparent. Example: Working and reworking something, so it will be “just right.”
Articulation Two or more skills combined, sequenced, and performed consistently. Coordinating a series of actions, achieving harmony and internal consistency. Example: Producing a video that involves music, drama, color, sound, etc.
Naturalization Two or more skills combined, sequenced, and performed consistently and with ease. The performance is automatic with little physical or mental exertion. Having high level performance become natural, without needing to think much about it. Examples: Michael Jordan playing basketball, Nancy Lopez hitting a golf ball, etc.

    Based upon R. H. Dave, as reported in R. J. Armstrong et al.,
Developing and Writing Behavioral Objectives
(Tucson, AZ:  Educational Innovators Press, 1970).

   In 1972 A.J. Harrow developed this taxonomy. It is organized according to the degree of coordination including involuntary responses and learned capabilities:
Reflex movements Automatic reactions. Reactions that are not learned.
Basic fundamental movement Simple movements that can build to more complex sets of movements. Basic movements such as walking, or grasping.
Perceptual Environmental cues that allow one to adjust movements. Response to stimuli such as visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or tactile discrimination.
Physical activities Things requiring endurance, strength, vigor, and agility. Stamina that must be developed for further enhancement of strength and agility.
Skilled movements Activities where a level of efficiency is achieved. Advanced learned movements as one would find in sports or acting.
Non-discursive communication Effective body language, such as gestures and facial expressions.
     Harrow, A.J. (1972). A taxonomy of the psychomotor domain. New York: David McKay Co.

   The following list is a combination of the above taxonomies:
Psychomotor Domain
Level Definition Example
Active mental attending of a physical event.


The learner watches a more experienced person.  Other mental activity, such as reading may be a pert of the observation process.
Imitating Attempted copying of a physical behavior.
The first steps in learning a skill. The learner is observed and given direction and feedback on performance. Movement is not automatic or smooth.
Practicing Trying a specific physical activity over and over. The skill is repeated over and over. The entire sequence is performed repeatedly.  Movement is moving towards becoming automatic and smooth.
Adapting Fine tuning. Making minor adjustments in the physical activity in order to perfect it. The skill is perfected. A mentor or a coach is often needed to provide an outside perspective on how to improve or adjust as needed for the situation.

Behavioral Verbs Appropriate for the Psychomotor Domain
  • bend
  • calibrates
  • constructs
  • differentiate (by touch)
  • dismantles
  • displays
  • fastens
  • fixes
  • grasp
  • grinds
  • handle
  • heats
  • manipulates
  • measures
  • mends
  • mixes
  • operate
  • organizes
  • perform (skillfully)
  • reach
  • relax
  • shorten
  • sketches
  • stretch
  • write

Recommended Reading:

Educational Psychology Interactive: Psychomotor Domain   The classification of educational objectives in the psychomotor domain:

Wilson psychomotor domain   Behavioral Objectives - Psychomotor Domain. Psychomotor objectives are those specific to discreet physical functions, reflex actions and interpretive movements.  


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Course and Lesson Plans:

PDF  Trainability of Children
PDF  Trainability of Young Athletes
PDF  Writing Objectives

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The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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