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Accreditation ABCs

Domains of Learning: Cognitive, Psychomotor, Affective - Words in Standards about Curriculum

[You can take graduate education courses in learning theory to explore the subject treated here in just a few paragraphs, so please excuse some oversimplication:]

To deal with some of the CAAHEP Standards, here are four concepts and terms you'll need to understand:

Educators often discuss learning as a composite of three kinds of behavior on the part of a learner, called "Learning Domains" or “Domains of Learning.”

Standards and Guidelines about curriculum outcomes (the content of what you teach to students, and the results you want to have some measures of) are expressed in these three words:

  • Cognitive (cognition; what you know, factually speaking, and can discuss matter-of-factly; professional knowledge such as human anatomy; the stuff of textbooks);
  • Psychomotor (what your body can do with what your mind knows, such as drawing blood, moving a patient, etc.; the stuff of professional skill; things rarely learned without demonstration, coaching and practice);
  • Affective (affect; the emotions or feelings of being a professional -- such as desire to keep learning, compassion for the sick, respect for fellow workers and employers).

Educators in the health care professions presume to be able to change all these things in their students; and, within reason, educators strive to observe or measure these things.

Let's say this again, in words about your program:

Your program is designed to impact students' learning. And learning is well understood to be three kinds of behavior:

  • Cognitive: What students didn't know at the beginning that your graduates can spout accurately in their sleep.
  • Psychomotor: What students couldn't do at the beginning that your graduates now can do well.
  • Affective: The attitudes and convictions in their professional demeanor that students didn't have at the beginning that your graduates express and display.
In accreditation -- and, therefore, in the planning for your educational program -- you want to impact students in all 3 domains of learning; and you want to collect data that reflects all three kinds of outcomes.