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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

The Domains of Learning

Four key domains

The theory and practice of adult education identifies four key domains of learning. They are:


  • the cognitive domain (knowledge) learning about things
  • the psychomotor domain (skills) learning to do things
  • the affective domain (attitudes) personal development, including attitudes to learning, colleagues, etc.
  • the psychosocial domain (social skills) learning to achieve things together and the social skills necessary to development in the other three domains.

These domains apply to CPD and PDPs and provide a method for identifying developmental need, actions taken and progress, in respect of each.



Reflective Practice


Educational theory defines the concept of reflective practice as enabling the practitioner to access, understand and learn through his or her personal experiences and thereby to take appropriate action towards developing increasing effectiveness.

Elements of this process include critical appreciation, critical analysis and critical interpretation. For each of these processes, CPD describes the actions taken to achieve the learning identified as required; PDPs facilitate systematising and documenting the processes of reflective practice and critical appreciation.

Reflection makes it possible to consolidate knowledge that has been acquired so that it can be enhance the clinical skills necessary for effective treatment of a patient It is best done as soon as possible after an educational event. Over time, this cycle of learning, reflection, application, and review enables doctors to develop intuitive skills so that less time can be spent on conscious thinking on what is the best form of treatment at a particular episode of illness.

For more complicated scenarios, the process of reflection involves recognition of clinical dilemmas, associating these with known or unfamiliar other circumstances, consideration of the possible course of actions, assimilation of the risks involved, integration of these into the final management plan, and then examining the intended and unintended consequences of the treatment provided.




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