Psychomotor skills should be at the core of all learning

Any learning design framework that does not address the psychomotor skills is not worth exploring.

There is not a single discipline taught in any formal, non-formal or informal way that does not make use of some tool or technology, instrument or mechanism (aka media), at some point in the process. It makes sense that any curriculum development process needs to put the media at the forefront of its planning. Curricula need to developed around intended learning outcomes that are clearly articulated around the development of psychomotor skills.

Rather than have intellectual (cognitive) outcomes such as, (students will be able to:)

Apply transformations and use symmetry to analyze mathematical situations
Would it not be better to say
Utilise graphical representation software in order to analyse mathematical transformations and symmetry

That way the student requires the practical ability to evidence their ability to meet an intellectual skill.

Another example in a disparate discipline, let’s take theatre studies. Rather than say,

Demonstrate an understanding of all aspects of theatrical production including design and technical functions” [a real, but poorly written outcome]
Would it not be better say:
Produce design and technical specifications for a theatrical production

The learner cannot provide evidence of their ability to meet that outcome without fulfilling the weaker intellectual outcome.

The course design process then become skills focussed rather than knowledge orientated. Knowledge is acquired within a practical context. The psychomotor outcomes are not overly specific, they do not say ‘using Algosim to generate mathematical visualisations….” Or “Manage stage plans using ShowNotes….”, because in both cases stating a particular technology does not allow for future evolution of those technologies (renaming, rebranding, etc). The focus is on developing the skills, always with a light to their transferability across other tools. We should always ensure that we teach the ‘paper and pencil’ version alongside too, so the increments between origination and implementation are also evident.

The 8-Stage Learning Design Framework has as its third step the ‘Media Choices’, which requires programme and course designers to review the current (and evolving) environment into which graduates will emerge. This should incorporate a review of the tools and technologies that students are expected to use ‘on the job’. Only after this stage is complete is it appropriate to draft Intended Learning Outcomes, then assessment, and then learning & teaching activities.


See Courses on both Designing Effective Intended Learning Outcomes and the Introduction to Five Educational Taxonomies, which includes the Psychomotor domain.



Author: Simon Paul Atkinson

30 years as an educational strategist, academic practitioner and developer, educational developer, educational technologist, and e-learning researcher. Simon is now an Educational Strategic Consultant. An experienced presenter and workshop facilitator. Previous roles include Head of Learning Design at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning (BPP University), Academic Developer (London School of Economics), Director of Teaching and Learning (Massey University - College of Education), Head of Centre for Learning Development (University of Hull), Academic Developer (Open University UK)

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