This will be a two-part series on learning, beginning with the steps we all go through based on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning.

Benjamin Bloom and a group of colleagues identified three domains of educational activities—cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. We all go through these stages subconsciously, but it helps to know them when trying to really understand how we can teach others. Also, by learning the domains and stages within them, we can identify where each athlete falls at any point in the learning process.


Cognitive involves the development of intellectual skills and knowledge that a person currently possesses. The six major categories in this domain include knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. As such, it is said that the categories within each domain must be mastered before moving to the next.

Athletes have acquired information from past experiences, which they must recall (knowledge). Learning new information involves a certain level of understanding before moving to higher difficulties (comprehension), which would be easier to learn from an athlete’s standpoint if the athlete could recite or teach another (application) a certain skill or movement. Doing this would show a higher level of understanding.

As coaches, we break down movements into parts to discover what may help improve performance (analysis). This stage of learning isn't any different in this respect. The athlete would benefit from doing the same. For example, most coaches use the top down approach to teaching the snatch and clean movements. Breaking up the whole movement into parts before moving back to the whole movement allows the athlete to learn the individual components of the movement. The athlete has a better understanding of the entire movement and can put it together more quickly (synthesis). We know that there are multiple ways to perform movements (i.e. different techniques to reach a desired outcome). However, there are always a few things that must happen for the desired outcome(s) to be at a maximum level. The athlete and coach must make decisions about what movements are occurring and what needs to be changed in order to achieve these outcomes (evaluation). This may just be teaching/learning a new starting position for a weightlifter or releasing the shot differently for a thrower.

Affective Domain

Next up is the affective domain, which encompasses how we deal with our emotions. The categories of this domain include receiving phenomena, responding to phenomena, valuing, organizing, and internalizing values (characterization). When an athlete first comes to his coach, the coach will be giving him new, foreign information that the athlete must listen to and process (receiving phenomena). The particular response of the athlete whether he is learning a new play or a new movement determines if he has progressed (responding to phenomena). Will the athlete commit? Has he “bought” in to the program or new information (valuing)? Once the athlete has bought in, how will he prioritize what has just been learned? He must create a system, whether internal or external, to compare what is more important or what will take him to higher performances (organization). Of course, the coach helps with this process as well. The final step is utilizing this newly formed system to control behavior (internalizing values). This behavior characterizes the athlete and now shows that he knows what must be done to achieve. The athlete will take it upon himself to make adjustments where needed to be successful.


The last domain is psychomotor and it involves physical movement, coordination, and motor skills. Categories in this domain are perception, set, guided response, mechanism, complex overt response, adaptation, and origination. This domain goes hand-in-hand with how the athlete learns new movements. The athlete must identify (perception) what steps need to be taken and be ready (set) for those steps to achieve a new movement/skill. The athlete has to practice (guided response) the movement until it becomes second nature to him (mechanism). The athlete then becomes more proficient and performs the learned skill or movement with higher quality (complex overt response). Now that the athlete is proficient, the skill can be revised to fit any new demands (adaptation). With greater proficiencies in movement come more solutions on how to move to meet changing demands (origination). Becoming a better athlete can be attributed to going through this domain, step by step, and learning and combining movements together to accomplish a desired outcome.


  • Cognitive domain: The athlete takes in new information, and depending on his understanding, he can apply the information to produce an outcome to be judged (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation).
  • Affective domain: The athlete receives new information and responds in a certain manner. Depending on the manner in which he responds, he may believe that taking action is worth the time and he starts to develop a system of action for the future. Once this becomes habit, it is easier for the coach to predict athlete reactions/responses (receiving phenomena, responding to phenomena, valuing, organizing, internalizing values).
  • Psychomotor domain: The way an athlete identifies your cues as a coach may have huge performance effects with a given movement. The athlete's current state of mind and whether or not the athlete is ready/willing to act will also affect the athlete's performance. Getting past these first two issues brings us to the basic practice of movements for mastery. More proficiency with these movements leads to increased confidence, decreased self-consciousness during the movement, and ultimately increased movement velocities. The final goal is mastery of the given skill or movement (perception, set, guided response, mechanism, complex overt response, adaptation, and origination).

So based on what has been presented to you, you can now coach knowing that there are specific steps that athletes go through in order to learn. Even though Bloom’s taxonomy states that each step must be completed before moving to the next, I believe there is some movement back and forth between some of them. When you become aware of these steps, you will know what I mean. Now, go out and coach some athletes to be better learners! Let me know what you think of Bloom’s taxonomy. Do you agree with what I have said?

Stay tuned for part two where I will go over the best ways for strength coaches (especially those new to the field) to acquire information!