Cognitive Domain

(Slowmedia, 2010)

According to Bloom (1956), “the most common educational objective in America is the acquisition of knowledge or information” (p. 28). Although these words were written more than 50 years ago, little has changed regarding educators’ emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge. Essentially, educators are concerned with changing learners with respect to the amount and kind of knowledge they possess and their ability to remember, analyze, synthesize, and understand. We often focus on facts, principles, research findings, decision making, and so on. Such is the nature of the cognitive domain.

But teaching in the cognitive domain also includes helping students develop their abilities to think … to make decisions despite incomplete or conflicting information … to be “comfortable” with uncertainty and ambiguity … and to appreciate that there is more we do not know than we do know. These areas often are labeled “critical thinking” and “cognitive/intellectual development.”

Teaching that is intended to develop learners’ cognitive abilities must take into account the level of “performance” expected in any given circumstance, how learners view knowledge, how learners views their own and the teacher’s roles in the acquisition and construction of knowledge, and the variety of strategies that are most effective in meeting learners’ individualized needs and unique goals. Such complexities require that the teacher plan diverse strategies to challenge learners to grow in cognitive maturity while supporting their current level of ability. By revisiting our philosophies of education, principles of good teaching, goals of student engagement, and other topics related to learning, teachers are able to formulate strategies that will effectively meet the challenge of advancing students’ thinking and benefit our learners.

The resources provided here will help you examine the responsibilities of the nurse educator in relation to teaching in the cognitive domain and achieve the following objectives:

  • Formulate cognitive domain learning objectives that are appropriate to intended learning goals for a select group of students
  • Examine selected issues related to promoting critical thinking and cognitive/intellectual development in nursing students
  • Propose teaching strategies that enhance learning in the cognitive domain, promote critical thinking, and advance learners’ cognitive/intellectual development


For more information about the cognitive domain, watch this presentation by Dr Terry Valiga Duke School of Nursing entitled “Facilitating Learning in the Cognitive Domain”.

Additional resources concerning critical thinking and “habits of mind” assessment tools and measures (deemed valid and reliable) are available through the Insight Assessment site .  Interesting references are available in the “CT Resources” drop-down menu. Of particular note are:

  • Dr. Peter Facione’s Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts paper that poses questions such as who are effective critical thinkers and what characteristics do they have in common; it also gives concrete scenarios of how an effective critical thinker might think versus a person whose CT needs more development.
  • Teaching For and About Critical Thinking also listed under “CT Resources” has some interesting papers and references for instructors. This is a commercial site that sells materials, but much of the free content under “CT Resources” and especially under Teaching For and About Critical Thinking is thought-provoking and useful.

Bloom’s Taxonomy (Revised)


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