Taxonomies of psychomotor educational objectives

Posted by Greten on 04 Mar 2023 under Terms, Theories

The taxonomy of psychomotor educational objectives is concerned with physical skills and abilities. It involves the development of manual or physical skills, such as those required for playing an instrument, operating machinery, or performing surgery.

Even though closely associated with Bloom's taxonomy and discussed together with Bloom's taxonomy in several sources, I will not refer to this, or as you will see later, these taxonomies are "Bloom's taxonomy" because neither Benjamin Bloom nor his original colleagues who took part in developing the taxonomy for the cognitive domain has any involvement in developing these taxonomies. Instead, these taxonomies were created by several other educators inspired by Bloom.

A man aiming a javelin to a flying dragonJust like the cognitive and affective domains, the different levels of these psychomotor taxonomies also have verbs associated with them. I provided a set of verbs and an example under each level.

Dave's taxonomy

Among the first taxonomies for psychomotor learning objectives was introduced by Ravindra H. Dave in 1970. This taxonomy is straightforward and practical to use in corporate development. It has five levels: imitation, manipulation, precision, articulation, and naturalization.


Imitation means mimicking the movements of others. It involves following instructions and replicating a physical task. Being the lowest level of Dave's taxonomy, it may result in low-quality performance, especially if there's no longer any instruction.

Verbs: copy, duplicate, follow, mimic, repeat, replicate, trace

Example: The learner will be able to replicate an experimental setup.


Manipulation involves maneuvering objects or materials in a precise and controlled way. For example, using tools or instruments effectively and performing specific actions by memory or following instructions. This is crucial in various fields, such as construction, manufacturing, and surgery, where precision is required to ensure safety and accuracy.

Verbs: assemble, arrange, dismantle, manipulate, organize

Example: The learner will be able to assemble a model of a city using a 3D computer graphics software application.


Precision entails the development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, which are crucial in performing precise tasks. These skills include making minor adjustments and completing tasks with accuracy, resulting in the refinement of skills and attaining a higher degree of accuracy.

Verbs: achieve, calibrate, demonstrate

Example: Demonstrate CPR on a medical dummy.

Medical dummy receiving a CPR.


Articulation involves coordinating different body parts or movements to perform complex tasks or motions, such as playing a musical instrument or performing a dance routine. This requires coordinating and adapting a series of actions to achieve harmony and internal consistency. This involves a high degree of physical control and precision and can take years of practice to master.

Verbs: adapt, alter, construct, combine, create, customize, formulate, modify

Example: The learner will be able to combine different keyboard and mouse movements to create a simple slide presentation as fast as possible.


Naturalization is the execution of physical skills or movements automatically. This involves performing a task without conscious effort or thought. It includes mastering a high level of performance until it becomes second nature without needing to think much about it. This allows the individual to focus on other aspects of the task or activity.

Verbs: design intuitively, manage naturally, maneuver dexterously

Example: The learner will be able to maneuver a vehicle dexterously into a tight parallel parking space.

The verbs alone usually do not indicate that a learning objective is at the naturalization level. The rest of the learning objective statement should emphasize that the learners accomplish it naturally and effortlessly.

Harrow's taxonomy

Another famous taxonomy for psychomotor learning objectives was developed by Anita Harrow in 1972. This taxonomy is particularly beneficial for children and adolescents, as well as for helping adults acquire skills that challenge them to step out of their comfort zones. It has six levels: reflex movements, fundamental movements, perceptual abilities, physical abilities, skilled movements, and nondiscursive communication.

Reflex movements

Reflex movements refer to automatic responses to certain stimuli without the need for conscious thought or effort. These are unlearned involuntary reactions. For example, the sudden withdrawal of a hand after touching a hot surface.

Verbs: extend, flex, inhibit, relax, stretch, stiffen

Example: The learner should be able to relax at the sound of classical piano music.

Fundamental movements

Fundamental movements are simple movements that you can use to build more complicated movements. Walking, running, jumping, and grasping are examples of simple movements.

Verbs: crawl, creep, grasp, jump, reach, run, slide, walk

Example: The learner should be able to run on an inclined surface.

Person running on a mountain

Perceptual abilities

Perceptual abilities involve detecting and analyzing environmental cues that allow people to adjust their movements. These abilities entail responding to various signals, such as visual, aural, kinesthetic, or tactile discrimination. Individuals can change their actions to perform a task more precisely and accurately by identifying and understanding these cues.

Verbs: balance, bend, bounce, distinguish, draw, explore, track

Example: The learner should be able to track the source of a sound.

Physical abilities

Physical abilities encompass a wide range of skills that require endurance, strength, energy, and agility. They are crucial to many aspects of life and performance, including sports, exercise, and manual labor. Stamina development is an integral part of physical abilities since it is required for future development in areas such as strength and agility.

Verbs: endure, improve, increase, start, stop, move precisely

Example: The learner should be able to increase their running speed from their recorded rate on the first week of the class.

Skilled movements

Skilled movements refer to activities that need a high level of expertise or efficiency to complete. These advanced motions, such as those required in athletics, dance, or acting, are often developed and polished over time. A mix of fundamental movements, perceptual abilities, muscular abilities, and other psychomotor skills is frequently required to achieve proficient motions. Skilled motions are usually more complex and need more precision and coordination than fundamental movements. They may also necessitate the use of specialist tools or equipment.

Verbs: dive, fence, juggle, paint, play instrument, skate, type, waltz

Example: The learner should be able to play piano with any given sheet music.

Nondiscursive communication

Nondiscursive communication refers to the use of body language as a means of conveying information or expressing oneself. This includes the use of effective gestures and facial expressions to communicate nonverbally.

Verbs: gesture, express facially, dance skillfully, paint skillfully

Example: The learner should be able to facially express approval or disapproval of a statement or situation.

Simpson's taxonomy

The last taxonomy of learning objectives that this article will cover is the one developed by Elizabeth Simpson. It has seven levels: perception, set, guided response, mechanism, complex overt response, adaptation, and origination.

This taxonomy is similar to Harrow's taxonomy in two ways. First, it was also developed in 1972. Second, it is also useful in developing learning programs for children and teenagers and for adults seeking to acquire new skills that challenge them to step beyond their comfort zones.


Perception is the basic awareness and use of sensory inputs to direct motor activity. Various mechanisms are involved to ensure the appropriate use of sensory information for movement, ranging from sensory stimulation to cue selection and translation.

Verbs: choose, detect, distinguish, identify, isolate, relate

Example: The learner should be able to detect nonverbal communication cues from a peer.


Set refers to the mental, physical, and emotional dispositions determining a person's preparedness to act or respond to a circumstance. It includes essential awareness of one's surroundings and sensory signals that direct motor activity. These three dispositions, known as mindsets, play an essential role in influencing how people react to stimuli.

Verbs: display, explain, move, react, show, state

Example: Shows motivation to learn a new process.

Guided response

The guided response is the initial stage in learning a physical skill, which involves imitating and practicing through trial and error. The goal is to achieve adequacy of performance, and this stage requires a lot of practice and repetition.

Verbs: copy, follow, reproduce, respond, traces

Example: The learner should be able to follow a manual in assembling a personal computer.


Mechanism is the intermediate stage in learning a physical skill. Here, learned responses have become habitual, and the movements can be performed confidently and proficiently. This stage involves converting learned responses into habitual reactions so that they can be performed with greater ease and efficiency.

Verbs: assemble, calibrate, dismantle, fasten, fix, grind, measure, mix, organize, sketch

Example: The learner should be able to assemble a personal computer by carefully examining the cables and slots.

A dual-monitor computer workstation.

Complex Overt Response

Complex Overt Response refers to the skillful execution of physical actions or tasks with a high level of competency and expertise. This entails effortlessly and efficiently performing complex movements. Automatic and synchronized performance without hesitancy is included in this category. Athletes, for example, may intuitively emit cries of delight or dissatisfaction after hitting or throwing a ball because they can sense the outcome of their movement.

Verbs: assemble quickly, dismantle intuitively, fasten swiftly, measure skillfully, mix thoroughly, organize rapidly

Example: The learner should be able to assemble a personal computer quickly through sheer familiarity.

The verbs are the same as the mechanism level but with adverbs implying that the tasks were accomplished faster, more accurately, and with less conscious thought.


Adaptation is the ability to adjust or adapt motions or skills to match specific requirements or situations. The person has well-developed skills and can adjust movement patterns as needed. This may entail adapting movements for different situations or changing actions in response to feedback or new information. Fundamentally, the individual has attained a level of skill and expertise to make real-time motion adjustments to satisfy changing needs.

Verbs: adapt, alter, rearrange, revise, vary

Example: The learner should be able to alter an experimental setup based on the weather.


Origination entails the creation of new movement patterns to fit a particular situation or problem. The emphasis is on creativity and innovation based on highly developed skills. The ability to originate new movements or combinations of movements is a sign of mastery in a given domain. This requires a deep understanding of the underlying principles and the ability to apply them in novel ways. Individuals who have reached this level can innovate and develop new techniques or styles to advance their field.

Verbs: builds, compose, create, design, make, originate

Example: The learner will be able to design an experiment to test a given hypothesis.


In summary, you learned of three different taxonomies of psychomotor educational objectives. These psychomotor taxonomies focus on physical skills and abilities and have verbs associated with each level. Ravindra H. Dave's taxonomy has five levels: imitation, manipulation, precision, articulation, and naturalization. Anita Harrow's taxonomy has six levels: reflex movements, fundamental movements, perceptual abilities, physical abilities, skilled movements, and nondiscursive communication. Lastly, Elizabeth Simpson's taxonomy has seven levels: perception, set, guided response, mechanism, complex overt response, adaptation, and origination. Dave's taxonomy is useful for corporate training. Meanwhile, the taxonomies of Harrow and Simpson help develop learning programs for children, teenagers, and adults seeking to acquire new skills in a way that challenges them to step beyond their comfort zones.



Last updated on 04 Mar 2023.

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