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Need a quick overview of the psychomotor domain of learning? This lesson describes one of the most well-recognized models and provides tangible examples.

Psychomotor Domain Definition

Let’s say that you teach a class about learning and development.

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One of your students is doing a research project about learning theories. She has some preliminary information about the psychomotor domain but also values your insight. She wants to know what it is and what is known about it, and she needs a few examples. How will you guide this student?Education experts recognize three domains of learning: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. This lesson examines the psychomotor domain, which links mental activity with physical movements, skills, and reactions to environmental stimuli, such as jumping aside to avoid an oncoming car or positioning oneself to catch a ball.Several models of the psychomotor domain have been proposed over the years.

This lesson describes the widely recognized model set forth by educational researcher Elizabeth J. Simpson.

The psychomotor domain of learning helps our brains to coordinate physical tasks such as catching a ball.

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Seven Levels of Psychomotor Domain

Simpson’s model describes seven levels of the psychomotor domain. The levels are presented here in ascending order. Examples are provided for each level.

1. Perception

Perception is the most basic level of being able to process sensory information (i.e.

, things we see, hear, smell, etc.) and respond accordingly.

  • Backing away from a potentially dangerous creature
  • Rolling up the car window when the traffic noise is too overwhelming
  • Deciding if food is safe to eat based on how it smells

2. Set

Set is about how we are ready for something to happen, or knowing beforehand what to do in a given situation.

  • Students know what’s about to happen if the teacher finishes that familiar countdown from three.
  • Students know exactly what to do when asked to ”line up.”
  • Students know how to follow the procedures and rules of a known game or sport.

3. Guided Response

Guided response describes an early stage of learning when complex tasks are first attempted or mimicked with the guidance of an expert. This commonly involves trial and error and the process of incremental improvement.

  • Learning how to cook a meal by following a recipe book or video
  • Getting the hang of a new sport through repetitive practice
  • Figuring out how to make that perfect paper airplane

4. Mechanism

Mechanism is when we use preliminary or pre-existing skills to perform a task.

  • Using existing knowledge of language to write an original essay
  • Transferring traditional keyboarding skills to use handheld devices
  • Knowing how to mend a tear in a shirt using basic sewing skills

Adaptation is when the expert can successfully deviate from practiced patterns and innovate on the spot.

  • Stand-up comedians who can read the audience and adjust their material accordingly
  • An athlete modifying a traditional move in order to handle an unexpected obstacle
  • A public speaker who can interact with the audience freely without reading from a script

7. Origination

Being the highest level of the psychomotor domain, origination describes the ability to create something completely new.

  • Creating a new dance routine or style
  • Developing a new body language system
  • Using nontraditional ingredients to make an exciting new recipe

Lesson Summary

Let’s review what we’ve learned. This lesson defines the psychomotor domain, which links mental activity with physical movements, skills, and reactions to environmental stimuli, and its seven levels with examples.

The levels were:

  1. Perception, which is the most basic level of being able to process sensory information (i.e., things we see, hear, smell, etc.) and respond accordingly
  2. Set, which is about how we’re ready for something to happen or knowing beforehand what to do in a given situation
  3. Guided response, which describes an early stage of learning when complex tasks are first attempted or mimicked with the guidance of an expert
  4. Mechanism, which is when we use preliminary or pre-existing skills to perform a task
  5. Complex overt response, which involves expert-level psychomotor skills and means that one is able to consistently perform a task and accurately predict the outcome
  6. Adaptation, which is when the expert can successfully deviate from practiced patterns and innovate on the spot
  7. Origination, which describes the ability to create something completely new

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