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What Is Psychomotor Learning?

By Emily Daw
Updated May 16, 2024
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Psychomotor learning is one of the three learning domains according to B.S. Bloom, who developed Bloom's Taxonomy for learning objectives in the 1950s. It is the type of learning that puts cognitive knowledge into practice through fine and gross motor skills. Bloom did not subdivide psychomotor learning as he did cognitive and affective learning, but later educational theorists have come up with various systems for evaluating it.

Fine motor skills taught in school is one area of psychomotor learning. Tasks like coloring, cutting and writing require the child first to understand what is involved in the task — cutting on the lines, drawing a circle — and then to complete the necessary steps. Working a computer, likewise, involves both cognitive understanding and the skills to manipulate the keyboard and mouse.

Another type of psychomotor learning focuses on gross motor skills. Drama and physical education courses are areas of education where these skills are likely to be needed. Athletic activities, such as playing basketball, combine the ability to quickly decide what action is necessary and then to respond accordingly. Drama courses require students to use affective learning as well, to understand the motivations of the characters they are portraying.

Bloom famously ranked cognitive and affective learning into six increasingly complex tasks. These begin with simple factual knowledge and work up to analyzing and evaluating ideas. He did not do the same for psychomotor learning, so many competing taxonomies have developed.

E. J. Simpson's 1972 model of psychomotor development begins with perception, which involves understanding simple tasks and perceiving how they should to be done. Next, students must develop the appropriate mindsets to complete the task. In the guided response stage, a teacher or coach walks students through the steps of the process. In the mechanism and complex overt response stages, students perform the task with increasing speed, strength, agility or confidence. Finally, learners must be able to adapt their skills to new situations or to create new products based on their skill set.

A. Harrow and R. H. Dave both proposed alternative taxonomies, which have not been as popular as Simpson's. In Harrow's psychomotor learning taxonomy, children begin with reflex movements that are spontaneous rather than learned. They then develop basic abilities, such as walking, and eventually progress to skilled movements. Dave's five-step model includes imitating the movements of others at a low skill level, developing increasing precision in movement, and finally working at such a high level that the process becomes automatic and natural.

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Dec 04, 2014

We are learning about this concept in class this week. What's most interesting about this type of learning is how our actions become automatic after a while. When we play baseball for example, we don't necessarily think about how to hit the ball, we just do it.

By candyquilt — On Dec 04, 2014

@SarahGen-- That is a good example. Psychomotor learning requires, precision, speed and coordination. Your example requires all of these things.

Another great example of psychomotor learning is driving. Driving requires us to consider many different factors, make decisions and act on them quickly. Someone with better psychomotor skills will be a better driver and may be less likely to have accidents for example. Someone who doesn't have good psychomotor skills may make mistakes or may not act quickly enough to avoid an accident.

By SarahGen — On Dec 03, 2014

There are so many psychomotor learning activities in kindergarten and elementary school. We all engaged in them but we weren't really aware that that's what we were doing.

I remember in elementary school, I think it was fourth grade, our teacher taught us sewing. The most difficult part for me was getting the thread through the needle. I struggled the first few times, but by the end of the week, it only took me a few seconds. This is a great example of psychomotor learning.

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