Learning domains

For many years educators have referred to learning as three domains: Cognitive (thinking), Affective (feeling), and Psychomotor (moving). Some researchers believe that this view "is now too limited" (Detmar, 2005) and have identified a fourth domain that is necessary for successful learning in our complex world. However, perspectives on this fourth domain vary. For example, Dettmar (2005) proposes the fourth domain is "A social domain... to accentuate sociocultural processes that accompany thinking, feeling, and sensing/movement" (Abstract). Whereas, Huit and Cain (2005), Kolbe (2008), and Reeves (2006) describe the fourth domain as conation: "an inclination (as an instinct, a drive, a wish, or a craving) to act purposefully" (Mirriam webster online dictionary).

3 Domains of learning

Bloom’s Taxonomy identifies three domains of learning
  • Cognitive: knowing - using your head (What questions?)
  • Affective: feeling - using your heart (How questions?)
  • Psychomotor: doing - using your hands (Performing)
Many educators use Blooms Taxonomy to write clear learning objectives (or outcomes). A goal of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to motivate educators to focus on all three domains, creating a more holistic form of education (Wikipedia, 2019). Within the domains, learning at the higher levels is dependent on having attained prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels.
Another well-known taxonomy used to classify learning outcomes is the SOLO TaxonomyStructure of the Observed Learning Outcome developed by Biggs, Collis and Edwards (1982).

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Teaching ideas and examples

  • Blooming questions: Storybird ebook created by janeh271 & nidhi about Blooms Taxonomy of knowledge.

Authors / researchers

The fourth domain: Conation

Whilst the term conation is no longer widely known it is not a new concept, as Maslow discussed this concept back in 1943 as "an act of will" (Wikipedia, 2016, ¶4).

Conation is defined by Funk & Wagnalls Standard Comprehensive International Dictionary (1977) as "the aspect of mental process directed by change and including impulse, desire, volition and striving", and by the Living Webster Encyclopedia Dictionary of the English Language (1980) as "one of the three modes, together with cognition and affection, of mental function; a conscious effort to carry out seemingly volitional acts". The Encyclopedia of Psychology "Motivation: Philosophical Theories" says, "Some mental states seem capable of triggering action, while others—such as cognitive states—apparently have a more subordinate role [in terms of motivation] ... some behavior qualifies as motivated action, but some does not" (Wikipedia, 2016, ¶3).

Three modes of mental function (Huit, 1999
  1. Cognitive (thinking) - The desire to know. What questions?
  2. Affective (feeling) - The desire to understand. How questions?
  3. Conative (doing) - The desire to act. Why questions? Metacognition
Huit and Cain (2005) argue that conation "is closely associated with the concepts of intrinsic motivation, volition, agency, self-direction, and self-regulation" (p.1).

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