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EDU 113 - Field Experience in Early Childhood Education - Textbook

Writing a Lesson Plan

  • Students will be able to plan and present a demonstration class in an area of their choice (with the input of the cooperating teacher and the instructor).
  • Students will be able to provide individual and both small- and large-group instruction.

  •  1. Is the objective clear?
  • 2. Do you think the activities can help each child reach the objective?
  • 3. How will the teacher know whether the plan was successful?
  • 4. How will the teacher know which students did well and which need another chance to succeed?
  • Post your response.
  • Part 2A Ask your supervising teacher to share with you how he/she writes lesson plans. Are there any tips to writing a good plan? Share their tips or their advice under Discussions in Lesson Planning 2.

Reading Materials

If you don’t know where you’re going, you could end up someplace else.

—Casey Stengel

When Casey Stengel—a much-admired baseball coach—made the remark above, he was talking about baseball, but he could easily have been talking about teaching. Almost by definition, education has purposes, goals, and objectives, and a central task of teaching is to know what these are and to transform the most general goals into specific objectives and tasks for students. Otherwise, as Casey Stengel said, students may end up “someplace else” that neither they nor the teacher intends. A lot of the clarification and specification of goals needs to happen before a cycle of instruction actually begins, but the benefits of planning happen throughout all phases of teaching. If students know precisely what they are supposed to learn, they can focus their attention and effort more effectively. If the teacher knows precisely what students are supposed to learn, then the teacher can make better use of class time and choose and design assessments of their learning that are more fair and valid. In the long run everyone benefits.

This chapter is therefore about  instructional planning, the systematic selection of educational goals and objectives and their design for use in the classroom. We will divide this purpose into four parts, and discuss them one at a time. First is the problem of selecting general goals to teach; where can a teacher find these, and what do they look like? Second is the problem of transforming goals into specific objectives, or statements concrete enough to guide daily activity in class; what will students actually do or say into order to learn what a teacher wants them to learn? Third is the problem of balancing and relating goals and objectives to each other; since we may want students to learn numerous goals, how can we combine or integrate them so that the overall classroom program does not become fragmented or biased? Fourth is the challenge of relating instructional goals to students’ prior experiences and knowledge.

Selecting general learning goals

Selecting general learning goals

At the most general or abstract level, the goals of education include important philosophical ideas like “developing individuals to their fullest potential” and “preparing students to be productive members of society.” Few teachers would disagree with these ideas in principle, though they might disagree about their wording or about their relative importance. As a practical matter, however, teachers might have trouble translating such generalities into specific lesson plans or activities for the next day’s class. What does it mean, concretely, to “develop an individual to his or her fullest potential”? Does it mean, for example, that a language arts teacher should ask students to write an essay about their personal interests, or does it mean that the teacher should help students learn to write as well as possible on any topic, even ones that are not of immediate interest? What exactly should a teacher do, from day to day, to “prepare students to be productive members of society” as well? Answers to questions like these are needed to plan instruction effectively. But the answers are not obvious simply by examining statements of general educational goals.

National and state learning standards

Some (but not all) of the work of transforming such general purposes into more precise teaching goals and even more precise objectives has been performed by broad US organizations that represent educators and other experts about particular subjects or types of teaching (Riley, 2002). The groups have proposed national standards, which are summaries of what students can reasonably be expected to learn at particular grade levels and in particular subjects areas. In the United States, in addition, all state governments create state standards that serve much the same purpose: they express what students in the state should (and hopefully can) learn at all grade levels and in all subjects. Examples of organizations that provide national standards are listed in Table 1, and examples of state standards are listed in Table 2 for one particular state, Ohio, in the area of language arts.

Table 1: Organizations with statements of US educational standards
Subject Organization
English and Language Arts

Council of Teachers of English

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

Mathematics National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Physical Education and Health

National Association for Sport and Physical Education

American Cancer Society


National Academies of Science

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Social Studies

National Council for the Social Studies

Center for Civic Education

National Council on Economic Education

National Geographic Society

National Center for History in the Schools

Technology International Society for Technology in Education
Other Specialized Standards Statements:
American Indian Content Standards Center for Educational Technology in Indian America
Ethical Standards for School Counselors American School Counselors Association
Information Literacy Standards American Association of School Librarians
Business Education National Business Education Association
Parent Education and Involvement  Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
Source:, accessed December 5, 2006. Summaries of all of these standards, as well as access to the relevant web pages of the corresponding organizations, can be found at this website. Because standards are revised continually, and because of the dynamic nature of websites, the information may differ slightly from the above when you actually access it.


Table 2: Examples of state curriculum standards about language arts
Grade-level Standard Classroom example
Kindergarten–Grade 3 Read accurately high frequency sight words. Play a game: “How many words can you see around the classroom that you can read already?”
Grade 4–7 Infer word meaning through identification and analysis of analogies and other word relationships. Have students keep a journal of unfamiliar words which they encounter and of what they think the words mean.
Grade 8–10 Recognize the importance and function of figurative language. Have students write a brief essay explaining the meaning of a common figure of speech, and speculating on why it became common usage.
Grade 11–12 Verify meanings of words by the author’s use of definition, restatement, example, comparison, contrast and cause and effect. Have students analyze an essay that includes unfamiliar terms using clues in the essay to determine their meaning.
 Source for standards: Ohio Department of Education, 2003, p. 30–31

Because they focus on grade levels and subject areas, general statements of educational standards tend to be a bit more specific than the broader philosophical goals we discussed above. As a rule of thumb, too, state standards tend to be more comprehensive than national standards, both in coverage of grade levels and of subjects. The difference reflects the broad responsibility of states in the United States for all aspects of public education; national organizations, in contrast, usually assume responsibility only for a particular subject area or particular group of students. Either type of standards provides a first step, however, toward transforming the grandest purposes of schooling (like developing the individual or preparing for society) into practical classroom activities. But they provide a first step only. Most statements of standards do not make numerous or detailed suggestions of actual activities or tasks for students, though some might include brief classroom examples—enough to clarify the meaning of a standard, but not enough to plan an actual classroom program for extended periods of time. For these latter purposes, teachers rely on more the detailed documents, the ones often called curriculum frameworks and curriculum guides.

Curriculum frameworks and curriculum guides

The terms curriculum framework and curriculum guide sometimes are used almost interchangeably, but for convenience we will use them to refer to two distinct kinds of documents. The more general of the two is curriculum framework, which is a document that explains how content standards can or should be organized for a particular subject and at various grade levels. Sometimes this information is referred to as the scope and sequence for a curriculum. A curriculum framework document is like a standards statement in that it does not usually provide a lot of detailed suggestions for daily teaching. It differs from a standards statement, though, in that it analyzes each general standard in a curriculum into more specific skills that students need to learn, often a dozen or more per standard. The language or terminology of a framework statement also tends to be somewhat more concrete than a standards statement, in the sense that it is more likely to name behaviors of students—things that a teacher might see them do or hear them say. Sometimes, but not always, it may suggest ways for assessing whether students have in fact acquired each skill listed in the document. Exhibit 1 shows a page from a curriculum framework published by the California State Board of Education (Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Committee, 1999). In this case the framework explains the state standards for learning to read, and the excerpt in Exhibit 1 illustrates how one particular standard, that “students speak and write with command of English conventions appropriate to this grade level,” is broken into nine more specific skills. Note that the excerpt names observable behaviors of students (what they do or say); we will discuss this feature again, more fully, in the next part of this chapter, because it is helpful in classroom planning. In spite of this feature, though, the framework document does not lay out detailed activity plans that a teacher could use on a daily basis. (Though even so, it is over 300 pages long!)


Comments Written and oral English language conventions, third grade
More general standards statement Students write and speak with a command of standard English conventions appropriate to this grade level.
More specific or concrete framework statements → (stated as relatively specific skills or behaviors)

Sentence Structure

1.1 Understand and be able to use complete and correct declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences in writing and speaking.


1.2 Identify subjects and verbs that are in agreement and identify and use pronouns, adjectives, compound words, and articles correctly in writing and speaking.

1.3 Identify and use past, present, and future verb tenses properly in writing and speaking.

1.4 Identify and use subjects and verbs correctly in speaking and writing simple sentences.


1.5 Punctuate dates, city and state, and titles of books correctly.

1.6 Use commas in dates, locations, and addresses and for items in a series.


1.7 Capitalize geographical names, holidays, historical periods, and special events correctly.


1.8 Spell correctly one-syllable words that have blends, contractions, compounds, orthographic patters, and common homophones.

1.9 Arrange words in alphabetical order

Teachers’ need for detailed activity suggestions is more likely to be met by a curriculum guide, a document devoted to graphic descriptions of activities that foster or encourage the specific skills explained in a curriculum framework document. The descriptions may mention or list curriculum goals served by an activity, but they are also likely to specify materials that a teacher needs, time requirements, requirements for grouping students, drawings or diagrams of key equipment or materials, and sometimes even suggestions for what to say to students at different points during the activity. In these ways the descriptions may resemble lesson plans. Since classroom activities often support more than one specific skill, activities in a curriculum guide may be organized differently than they might be in a framework document. Instead of highlighting only one standard at a time, as the framework document might, activities may be grouped more loosely—for example, according to the dominant purpose or goal of an activity (“Activities that encourage the practice of math facts”) or according to a dominant piece of equipment or material (“Ten activities with tin cans”). Exhibit 2 shows a description of a kindergarten-level activity about “autumn leaves” that might appear in a curriculum guide. Note that the activity meets several educational objectives at once—tracing shapes, knowledge of leaves and of colors, descriptive language skill. Each of these skills may reflect a different curriculum standard.



Curriculum guides provide graphic descriptions of activities that can be used fairly directly in the classroom. Although they are relevant to standards and framework statements, they often are not organized around standards and objectives as such.


Activity: Autumn Leaves

Level: Kindergarten

Themes and Curriculum Connections: trees, autumn, color naming, color comparisons, size comparisons, functions of leaves, growth, the life cycle. See also Standards #xx–yy.

Best time to do it: Fall (October), or whenever leaves are available

Materials needed: (1) small paper (6 × 6 inches); (2) access to leaves; (3) white glue; (4) felt pens or colored pencils

What to do: Give one piece of the small paper to each child. Invite children to color the sheet so that the entire sheet is decorated. Invite children to choose one leaf. Place leaf under the colored (decorated) paper and trace the shape of the leaf lightly in pencil. Then invite children to cut out the colored paper in the shape that has been traced of the leaf.

Cautions: (1) Some children may need individual help with tracing or cutting. (2) Try to use leaves that are still somewhat pliable, because some very old leaves (dried out) may crumble when traced.

Things to talk about: Are some leaves bigger than others? Do they change shape as they grow, or only their size? How do leaves benefit trees? How many different colors can real leaves be?




Curriculum Development and supplemental materials commission. (1999). Reading/Language Arts Framework for California Public Schools. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education.

Ohio Department of Education. (2003). Academic Content Standards. Columbus, Ohio: Author.

Riley R (2002). Education reform through standards and partnerships, 1993-2000 Phi delta Kappan, 83(9), 700-707.

Formulating learning objectives

Formulating learning objectives

Given curriculum frameworks and guides, how do you choose and formulate actual learning objectives? Basically there are two approaches: either start by selecting content or topics that what you want students to know (the cognitive approach) or start with what you want students to do (the behavioral approach). In effect the cognitive approach moves from the general to the specific, and the behavioral approach does the opposite. Each approach has advocates, as well as inherent strengths and problems. In practice, teachers often combine or alternate between them in order to give students some of the advantages of each.

From general to specific: selecting content topics

The cognitive approach assumes that teachers normally have a number of long-term, general goals for students, and it begins with those goals. It also assumes that each student work toward long-term, general goals along different pathways and using different styles of learning. Because of these assumptions, it is necessary to name indicators, which are examples of specific behaviors by which students might show success at reaching a general learning goal. But it is neither desirable nor possible for a list of indicators to be complete—only for it to be representative (Gronlund, 2004). Consider this example from teaching middle-school biology. For this subject you might have a general goal like the following, with accompanying indicators:

Goal: The student will understand the nature and purpose of photosynthesis.


  1. explains the purpose of photosynthesis and steps in the process
  2. diagrams steps in the chemical process
  3. describes how plant photosynthesis affects the animal world
  4. writes a plan for how to test leaves for presence of photosynthesis
  5. makes an oral presentation and explains how the experiment was conducted 

Using a strictly cognitive approach to planning, therefore, a teacher’s job has two parts. First she must identify, find, or choose a manageable number of general goals—perhaps just a half dozen or so. (Sometimes these can be taken or adapted from a curriculum framework document such as discussed earlier.) Then the teacher must think of a handful of specific examples or behavioral indicators for each goal—just a half dozen or so of these as well. The behavioral indicators clarify the meaning of the general goal, but are not meant to be the only way that students might show success at learning. Then, at last, thoughtful planning for individual lessons or activities can begin. This approach works especially well for learning goals that are relatively long-term—goals that take many lessons, days, or weeks to reach. During such long periods of teaching, it is impossible to specify the exact, detailed behaviors that every student can or should display to prove that he or she has reached a general goal. It is possible, however, to specify general directions toward which all students should focus their learning and to explain the nature of the goals with a sample of well-chosen indicators or examples (Popham, 2002).

The cognitive, general-to-specific approach is reasonable on the face of it, and in fact probably describes how many teachers think about their instructional planning. But critics have argued that indicators used as examples may not in fact clarify the general goal enough; students therefore end up unexpectedly—as Casey Stengel said at the start of this chapter—“someplace else.” Given the general goal of understanding photosynthesis described above, for example, how are we to know whether the five indicators that are listed really allow a teacher to grasp the full meaning of the goal? Put differently, how else might a student show understanding of photosynthesis, and how is a teacher to know that a student’s achievement is s a legitimate display of understanding? To some educators, grasping the meaning of goals from indicators is not as obvious as it should be, and in any case is prone to misunderstanding. The solution, they say, is not to start planning with general goals, but with specific behaviors that identify students’ success.

From specific to general: behavioral objectives

Compared to the cognitive approach, the behavioral approach to instructional planning reverses the steps in planning. Instead of starting with general goal statements accompanied by indicator examples, it starts with the identification of specific behaviors—concrete actions or words—that students should perform or display as a result of instruction (Mager, 2005). Collectively, the specific behaviors may describe a more general educational goal, but unlike the indicators used in the cognitive approach, they are not a mere sampling of the possible specific outcomes. Instead they represent all the intended specific outcomes. Consider this sampling of behavioral objectives:

Objectives: Learning to use in-line roller blade skates (beginning level)

  1. Student ties boots on correctly.

  2. Student puts on safety gear correctly, including helmet, knee and elbow pads.

  3. Student skates 15 meters on level ground without falling.

  4. Student stops on demand within a three meter distance, without falling.

The objectives listed are not merely a representative sample of how students can demonstrate success with roller-blading. Instead they are behaviors that every student should acquire in order to meet the goal of using roller blades as a beginner. There simply are no other ways to display learning of this goal; getting 100 per cent on a written test about roller blading, for example, would not qualify as success with this goal, though it might show success at some other goal, such as verbal knowledge about roller blading. Even adding other skating behaviors (like “Student skates backwards” or “Student skates in circles”) might not qualify as success with this particular goal, because it could reasonably be argued that the additional skating behaviors are about skating at an advanced level, not a beginning level.

In the most commonly used version of this approach, originated by Robert Mager (1962, 2005), a good behavioral objective should have three features. First, it should specify a behavior that can in fact be observed. In practice this usually means identifying something that a student does or says, not something a student thinks or feels. Compare the following examples; the one on the left names a behavior to be performed, but the one on the right names a thinking process that cannot, in principle, be seen:

Behavioral objective Not behavioral object
The student will make a list of animal species that live in the water but breathe air and a separate list of species that live in the water but do not require air to breathe. The student will understand the difference between fish and mammals that live in the water.

The second feature of a good behavioral objective is that it describes conditions of performance of the behavior. What are the special circumstances to be provided when the student performs the objective? Consider these two examples:

Special condition of performance is specified A special condition of performance is not specified
Given a list of 50 species, the student will circle those that live in water but breathe air and underline those that live in water but do not breathe air. After three days of instruction, the student will identify species that live in water but breathe air, as well as species that live in water but do not breathe air.

The objective on the left names a special condition of performance—that the student will be given a particular kind of list to work from—which is not part of the instruction itself. The objective on the right appears to name a condition—“three days of instruction.” But the condition really describes what the teacher will do (she will instruct), not something specific to students’ performance.

The third feature of a good behavioral objective is that it specifies a minimum level or degree of acceptable performance. Consider these two examples:

Specifies minimum level Does not specify minimum level
Given a list of 50 species, the student will circle all of those that live in water but breathe air and underline all of those that live in water but do not breathe air. The student will do so within fifteen minutes. The student will circle names of species that live in water but breathe air and underline those that live in water but do not breathe air.

The objective on the left specifies a level of performance—100 per cent accuracy within 15 minutes. The objective on the right leaves this information out (and incidentally it also omits the condition of performance mentioned on the left).

Behavioral objectives have obvious advantages because of their clarity and precision. They seem especially well suited for learning that by their nature they can be spelled out explicitly and fully, such as when a student is learning to drive a car, to use safety equipment in a science laboratory, or install and run a particular computer program. Most of these goals, as it happens, also tend to have relatively short learning cycles, meaning that they can be learned as a result of just one lesson or activity, or of just a short series of them at most. Such goals tend not to include the larger, more abstract goals of education. In practice, both kinds of goals—the general and the specific—form a large part of education at all grade levels.

Finding the best in both approaches

When it comes to teaching and learning the large or major goals, then, behavioral objectives can seem unwieldy. How, a teacher might ask, can you spell out all of the behaviors involved in a general goal like becoming a good citizen? How could you name in advance the numerous conditions under which good citizenship might be displayed, or the minimum acceptable level of good citizenship expected in each condition? Specifying these features seems impractical at best, and at times even undesirable ethically or philosophically. (Would we really want any students to become “minimum citizens”?) Because of these considerations, many teachers find it sensible to compromise between the cognitive and behavioral approaches. Here are some features that are often part of a compromise:


  • When planning, think about BOTH long-term, general goals AND short-term, immediate objectives. A thorough, balanced look at most school curricula shows that they are concerned with the general as well as the specific. In teaching elementary math, for example, you may want students to learn general problem solving strategies (a general goal), but you may also want them to learn specific math facts (a specific objective). In teaching Shakespeare’s plays in high school, you may want students to be able to compare the plays critically (a general goal), but doing so may require that they learn details about the characters and plots of the major plays (a specific objective). Since general goals usually take longer to reach than specific objectives, instructional planning has to include both time frames.


  • Plan for what students do, not what the teacher does. This idea may seem obvious, but it is easy to overlook it when devising lesson plans. Consider that example again about teaching Shakespeare. If you want students to learn the details about Shakespeare’s plays, it is tempting to plan objectives like “Summarize the plot of each play to students,” or “Write and hand out to students an outline of the plays.” Unfortunately these objectives describe only what the teacher does, and makes the assumption (often unwarranted) that students will remember what the teacher says or puts in writing for them. A better version of the same objective should focus on the actions of students, not of teachers—for example, “Students will write a summary, from memory, of each of the major plays of Shakespeare.” This version focuses on what students do instead of what the teacher does. (Of course you may still have to devise activities that help students to reach the objective, such as providing guided practice in writing summaries of plays.)


  • To insure diversity of goals and objectives when planning, consider organizing goals and objectives by using a systematic classification scheme of educational objectives. At the beginning of this section we stated that there is a need, when devising goals and objectives, for both the specific and the general. Actually a more accurate statement is that there is a need for goals and objectives that refer to a variety of cognitive processes and that have varying degrees of specificity or generality. One widely used classification scheme that does so, for example, is one proposed 50 years ago by Benjamin Bloom (1956) and revised recently by his associates (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). We describe this system, called a taxonomy of objectives, in the next section.

Taxonomies of educational objectives

When educators have proposed taxonomies of educational objectives, they have tended to focus on one of three areas or domains of psychological functioning: either students’ cognition (thought), students’ feelings and emotions (affect), or students’ physical skills (psychomotor abilities). Of these three areas, they have tended to focus the most attention on cognition. The taxonomy originated by Benjamin Bloom, for example, deals entirely with cognitive outcomes of instruction.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

In its original form, Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives referred to forms of cognition or thinking, which were divided into the six levels (Bloom, et al., 1956). Table 1 summarizes the levels, and offers two kinds of examples—simple ones based on the children’s story Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and complex ones more typical of goals and objectives used in classrooms. The levels form a loose hierarchy from simple to complex thinking, at least when applied to some subjects and topics. When planning for these subjects it can therefore be helpful not only for insuring diversity among learning objectives, but also for sequencing materials. In learning about geography, for example, it may sometimes make sense to begin with information about specific places or societies (knowledge and comprehension), and work gradually toward comparisons and assessments among the places or societies (analysis and synthesis).

Table 1: Bloom’s Taxonomy of objectives: cognitive domain
Type or level of learning Simple example Classroom example
Knowledge: recall of information, whether it is simple or complex in nature “Name three things that Goldilocks did in the house of the three bears.”

“List all of the planets of the solar system.”

“State five key features of life in the middle ages.”

Comprehension: grasping the meaning of information, by interpreting it or translating it from one form to another “Explain why Goldilocks preferred the little bear’s chair.”

“Convert the following arithmetic word problem to a mathematical equation.”

“Describe how plants contribute to the welfare of animal life.”

Application: using information in new, concrete situations “Predict some of the things Goldilocks might have used if she had entered your house.”

“Illustrate how positive reinforcement might affect the behavior of a pet dog.”

“Use examples from the plot to illustrate the theme of novel.”

Analysis: breaking information into its components to understand its structure “Select the part of Goldilocks and the Three Bears where you think Goldilocks felt most comfortable.”

“Compare the behavior of domestic dogs with the behavior of wolves.”

“Diagram the effects of weather patterns on plant metabolism.”

Synthesis: putting parts of information together into a coherent whole “Tell how the story would have been different if it had been three fishes.”

“Design an experiment to test the effects of gravity on root growth.”

“Write an account of how humans would be different if life had originated on Mars instead of Earth.”

Evaluation: judging the value of information for a particular purpose “Justify this statement: Goldilocks was a bad girl.”

“Appraise the relevance of the novel for modern life.”

“Assess the value of information processing theory for planning instruction.”

Such a sequence does not work well, however, for all possible topics or subjects. To learn certain topics in mathematics, for example, students may sometimes need to start with general ideas (like “What does it mean to multiply?”) than with specific facts (like “How much is 4 × 6?”) (Egan, 2005). At other times, though, the reverse sequence may be preferable. Whatever the case, a taxonomy of cognitive objectives, like Bloom’s, can help to remind teachers to set a variety of objectives and to avoid relying excessively on just one level, such as simple recall of factual knowledge (Notar, et al., 2004).

Bloom’s Taxonomy revised

A few years ago two of Benjamin Bloom’s original colleagues, Linda Anderson and David Krathwohl, revised his taxonomy so as to clarify its terms and to make it more complete (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Marzano, 2006). The resulting categories are summarized and compared to the original categories in Table 1. As the chart shows, several categories of objectives have been renamed and a second dimension added that describes the kind of thinking or cognitive processing that may occur. The result is a much richer taxonomy than before, since every level of the objectives can now take four different forms. Remembering, for example, can refer to four different kinds of memory: memory for facts, for concepts, for procedures, or for metacognitive knowledge. Table 2 and 3 give examples of each of these kinds of memory.

Table 2: Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive objectives—revised
Original term from Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) Revised term emphasizing cognitive processing (2001)
Knowledge Remembering
Comprehension Understanding
Application Applying
Analysis Analyzing
Evaluation Evaluating
Synthesis Creating


Table 3: New additions to Bloom’s Taxonomy
A new dimension added: types of knowledge learned (2001)

Example of cognitive process remembering combined with possible

types of knowledge

factual knowledge Memory for facts: recalling the names of each part of a living cell
conceptual knowledge Memory for concepts: recalling the functions of each part of a living cell
procedural knowledge Memory for procedures: recalling how to view a cell under a microscope
metacognitive knowledge Memory for metacognition: recalling not the names of the parts, but a technique for remembering the names of the parts of a living cell

The revision to Bloom’s Taxonomy distinguishes between cognitive processes (left-hand column in table 2) and types of knowledge learned (right-hand column in table 3). The original version has terms similar to the cognitive processing terms in the revised version. According to the revised version, any type of knowledge (from the right-hand column in table 3) can, in principle, occur with any type of cognitive processing (left-hand column in table 2).

Taxonomies of affective objectives and psychomotor objectives

Although taxonomies related to affect, or the feelings and emotions of students, are used less commonly than cognitive taxonomies for planning instruction, various educators have constructed them. One of the most widely known was also published by colleagues of Benjamin Bloom and classifies affect according to how committed a student feels toward what he is learning (Krathwohl, Bloom, & Masia, 1964/1999). Table 4 summarizes the categories and gives brief examples. The lowest level, called receiving, simply involves willingness to experience new knowledge or activities. Higher levels involve embracing or adopting experiences in ways that are increasingly organized and that represent increasingly stable forms of commitment.

Table 4: Taxonomies of objectives: affective domain and psychomotor domain
Affective domain Psychomotor domain
Receiving: Willingness to attend to particular experience Imitation: repeating a simple action that has been demonstrated
Responding: willingness to participate actively in an experience Manipulation: practice of an action that has been imitated but only learned partially
Valuing: perception of experience as worthwhile Precision: quick, smooth execution of an action that has been practiced
Organization: coordination of valued experiences into partially coherent wholes Articulation: execution of an action not only with precision, but also with modifications appropriate to new circumstances
Characterization by a value complex: coordination of valued experiences and of organized sets of experiences into a single comprehensive value hierarchy Naturalization: incorporation of an action into the motor repertoire, along with experimentation with new motor actions

Taxonomies related to abilities and skills that are physical, or psychomotor, have also been used less widely than affective taxonomies, with the notable exception of one area of teaching where they are obviously relevant: physical education. As you might expect, taxonomic categories of motor skills extend from simple, brief actions to complex, extended action sequences that combine simpler, previously learned skills smoothly and automatically (Harrow, 1972; Simpson, 1972). One such classification scheme is shown in Table 4. An example of a very basic psychomotor skill might be imitating the action of throwing a ball when modeled by someone else; an example of the latter might be performing a 10 minute gymnastics routine which the student has devised for himself or herself. Note, though, that many examples of psychomotor skills also exist outside the realm of physical education. In a science course, for example, a student might need to learn to operate laboratory equipment that requires using delicate, fine movements. In art classes, students might learn to draw, and in music they might learn to play an instrument (both are partly motor skills). Most first graders are challenged by the motor skills of learning to write. For students with certain physical disabilities, furthermore, motor skill development is an important priority for the student’s entire education


Anderson, L. & Krathwohl, D. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing. New York: Longman.

Bloom, B. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: David McKay Publishers.

Egan, K. (2005). An imaginative approach to teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gronlund, N. (2004). Writing instructional objectives for teaching and assessment, 6th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Harrow, A. (1972). A taxonomy of the psychomotor domain. New York: David McKay.

Mager, R. (2005). Preparing instructional objectives, 3rd edition. Atlanta, GA: Center for Effective Performance.

Marzano, R. (2006). Designing a new taxonomy of educational objectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Books.

Notar, C., Wilson, J., Yunker, B., & Zuelke, D. (2004). The table of specifications: Insuring accountability in teacher-made tests. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 31(3).

Popham, J. (2002). What every teacher should know about educational assessment. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.