4 Simulations and Learning Domains

Alexander McGlashan and Elizabeth Chernick

As an Instructional Strategy, simulation is rich with multiple domain learning: Cognitive, Psychomotor, and Affective (Bloom’s, 2018).

The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, known as Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, & Krathwohl, 1956) is one of the most recognized learning theories in the field of education.

In a Simulation, learners are encouraged to become self-directed, and to take ownership of their learning and task achievement. Tasks are goal oriented and relevant to the real world.  Learning in the cognitive and psychomotor domains is enhanced by the affective domain, thus increasing its impact on learning.

Cognitive Domain

In a Simulation learning environment, learners are encouraged to understand specific theoretical concepts and to apply these concepts in “real-world” examples. Once tasks are successfully achieved, students practice analysis and evaluation of their own and peer work. Learning in the cognitive domain is enhanced by the affective domain.

Psychomotor Domain

The psychomotor domain in a Simulation is activated through hands-on practice where real-life skills are practiced. Physical tasks are established, and response is guided so that mechanisms to carry out tasks develop. Complex, overt responses are practiced. Learners also develop skills in adapting existing tasks and originating new tasks. In addition, anticipated movement (whether physical or metaphorical, as in narrative) is a strong motivator (Zull, J. cited in Puchta, H.,  2013, p. 4).

Affective Domain

The importance of emotional engagement in learning has become increasingly recognized as neuroscience develops knowledge of the brain as an “organ of emotion”. Herbert Puchta stresses the importance of brain changes and learning. (Puchta, 2013, p. 1). He quotes neuroscience researcher James Zull, who concludes that “change is most extensive and powerful when emotion is part of the learning” (Puchta, p. 1).

Emotions play a key role in learning, “…release of certain chemicals (dopamine, adrenaline, serotonin and others) makes growth of neuronal networks possible.” (Puchta, p. 1).  A few key findings about how the brain impacts learning:

  • memory depends on the relevance of content to the learner; real world content stimulates brain chemicals during learner engagement;
  • “the brain needs to be in control”; when the learner feels she is “in control” (learner-centered), learning is enhanced;
  • learning creates joy; the pleasure system in the brain rewards us for understanding; there is joy in goal-oriented action (achieving success);
  • when learners discover new things, or learn through personal discovery, more reward chemicals are released into the body; creates a sense of ownership; develops thinking skills and metacognition (Puchta, 2013).



Bloom, B. S.; Engelhart, M. D.; Furst, E. J.; Hill, W. H.; Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.

Bloom’s taxonomy.  (2023). Centre for Teaching Excellence. University of Waterloo. https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/catalogs/tip-sheets/blooms-taxonomy.

Puchta, H. (2013) March 13. “Emotional Engagement for Adult Students” plenary speaker at 20th TESOL Arabia International Conference, Dubai.



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Engaging STEM: A Guide to Interactive Resources Copyright © 2021 by Alexander McGlashan and Elizabeth Chernick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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