Learning domains in PE

Learning domains in PE

05 October 2020

Cognitive | Affective | Psychomotor

Learning is all around us, as they say you learn something new every day! This applies for PE, just as it does for classroom learning.

The opportunity for learning is never ending, particularly in the primary school environment. As practitioners, our awareness for the development of learning is crucial and implemented through effetive planning, assessment and pedagogy. Using research around learning domains, and in combination with recent increased funding in the PESS premium, traditional PE has been able to develop further, particularly in primary to aid the development of the 'whole child'.

What are the learning domains?

The domains of learning can be categorised as cognitive domain (knowledge), affective domain (attitude) and psychomotor domain (physical).

  • Cognitive - "The cognitive domain addresses the development of content knowledge and intellectual skills"
  • Affective - "The affective domain focuses on students' feelings, attitudes, and values about movement"
  • Psychomotor - "The psychomotor domain refers to the physical aspects of learning"

This categorization is best explained by the Taxonomy of educational objectives; 1956, written by a group of researchers led by Benjamin S Bloom, and although Benjamin was not the sole researcher, these would now be more traditionally known as 'Blooms taxonomy'. 

Cognitive domain


The cognitive domain addresses the development of knowledge and understanding of a topic. Teaching and learning in the cognitive domain is essential to allow pupils to develop the rules and responsibilities required for an activity. This allows to to develop the 'why' in our pupils, as opposed to simply completing a physical task because we are instructed to, the cognitive domain allows pupils to understand 'why' and to develop strategies and tactics/solve problems to complete a task.

Affective domain

The affective domain is centred around pupils feelings, attitudes and values; skills which are critical not only in PE, but in life. Understanding how to work with others as part of a team (and developing into leadership), and understanding the concept of winning & losing (and the building of resilience that comes with this) are a key part in the importance of the affective domain. 

Although PE is a physical subject, the importance of the affective domain can't go unnoticed and as practitioners, we should recognise it's importance and strive to stimulate this domain through out provision. It is arguably the most important area to develop - the development of self!


The psychomotor domain encompasses the essence of our subject, targeting the physical aspects of our learning. It covers physical movement, coordination and the developement and use of motor skills.

Not detailed until 1972, the psychomotor domain targets the very nature of the subject, and provides us with a base from which we can develop assessment and delivery.

The domains in practice

These domains can be applied in our delivery by using the head (cognitive), hand (psychomotor), heart (affective) assessment model, seen below.


This model is widely used to create effective assessment and delivery in primary PE, and provides a simple start point in which to create a PE curriculum that develops the whole child.

How can we integrate these domains into our delivery?

How we plan and deliver our sessions play a large part in ensuring all learnng domains are stimulated, linking in with our last blog; 'what does good PE look like?'.

Time on task || Allowing as much time on task as possible throughout the lesson allows pupils to engage and progress through activities, encouraging physical development as well as using strategies/techniques to complete the task (dependent on the planned activity). Time on task can be increased by planning smaller group activities, where pupils are more likely to be involved and engaged regularly in the activity.

Working collaboratively/competitively with others || Allowing pupils to develop their cognitive and affective domains by developing social skills, communication, leadership and responsibility

Effective questioning || Questioning in PE can be simply broken down into two areas; convergent (closed) questions and divergent (open) questions. In terms of cognitive complexity, closed questioning usually require lower order thinking skills when compared to an open question. We will dive into this more on our 'effective questioning in PE' blog.

Reflective learning || Reflection provides an excellent opportunity to target cognitive and affective domains. There are several ways of reflecting on our learning, perhaps the most simple is the use of our whiteboard (teacher led) as we shared in our last blog, however other strategies are available that are pupil led and more suited in particular to KS2, we will dive into these more in our 'reflective learning' blog.

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"The children have absolutely loved having Morgan in from Activ8 in PE. They have benefitted hugely from her teaching, as have I in terms of CPD"

Sandringham Primary