Affective Domain Research Paper Starter

Affective Domain

(Research Starters)

This article presents a summary of the affective learning domain. Historically, learning domains have been divided intro three different categories: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. Although the distinction is somewhat arbitrary, and behaviors typically include elements of all three, the division was made to facilitate the study of each independent of the others. Nevertheless, the affective domain has received far less attention in the research literature than the cognitive domain because it has been difficult to define and difficult to measure. In addition, Western culture has typically valued reason over emotion, and many teachers and parents believe values should be taught in the home, not in schools. Even if the affective domain as a single construct has received less research attention, however, its component parts - such as attitudes, values, and motivation - have become increasingly important to educators and researchers. This summary will review historical approaches to the affective domain - such as Krathwohl's taxonomy of the affective domain - as well as more recent research on motivation, values, and attitudes.

Keywords Affective Domain; Attitudes; Bloom, Benjamin; Cognitive Domain; Internalization; Motivation; Psychomotor Domain; Taxonomy; Values

Educational Theory: The Affective Domain


As Kirk (2007) writes, "In the educational literature, nearly every author introduces their paper by stating that the affective domain is essential for learning, but it is the least studied, most often overlooked, the most nebulous and the hardest to evaluate of…[the three learning] domains" (¶ 9). A quick glance at the literature proves this statement to be true. When Krathwohl, Bloom, and Masia (1964) introduced their taxonomy of the affective domain in 1964, for example, they began by describing the challenges they faced given the lack of clarity in the literature. More recently, others have introduced the affective domain by lamenting its inferior status relative to the cognitive domain, and its subsequent neglect in the classroom and in educational research (Bolin, Khramtsova, & Saarnia, 2005; Sonnier, 1982).

Researchers and educators have faced challenges in studying the affective domain and in striving to give it the legitimacy they feel it deserves. The affective domain is a multi-dimensional construct, and that while it may receive less attention as a construct studied in its entirety, a great deal of research attention has been given to its component parts. Motivation, attitudes, and values, for example, all fall under the affective domain, and educators have become increasingly interested in how each impacts the learning process. Before we begin to deconstruct it, however, we'll first define the affective domain, outline the challenges inherent in studying it, and uncover its historical roots.

Learning Domains

Learning domains are typically organized into three categories: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. Such a division is "as ancient as Greek philosophy, and philosophers and psychologists have repeatedly used similar tripartite organizations" (Krathwohl et. al, 1964, p. 7). Nevertheless, many associate the division with the work of Benjamin Bloom and colleagues, who developed a taxonomy of educational objectives for the cognitive and affective domains in the 1950s and 1960s. Bloom and Krathwohl define the three domains as follows:

• Cognitive: The cognitive domain…includes those objectives which deal with the recall or recognition of knowledge and the development of intellectual abilities and skills (Bloom, 1954, p. 7).

• Psychomotor: Objectives which emphasize some muscular or motor skill, some manipulation of material and objects, or some act which requires a neuromuscular co-ordination (Krathwohl et. al, 1964, p. 7).

• Affective: [The affective domain] includes objectives which describe change in interest, attitudes, and values, and the development of appreciations and adequate adjustment (Bloom, 1954, p. 7). We found a large number of such objectives in the literature expressed as interests, attitudes, appreciations, values, and emotional sets or biases (Krathwohl, 1964, p. 7).


While taxonomies and categories help simplify complex phenomenon and arguably make them easier to study, they also misrepresent reality, to some degree. Or, as Krathwohl (1964) explains, "we should note that any classification scheme…does some violence to the phenomena as commonly observed in natural settings" (p. 8). In this instance, the misrepresentation results from creating an artificial where no such distinction in fact exists. In other words, most human behavior includes facets of each domain - cognitive, affective, and psychomotor - and cannot be reduced to one domain alone. As Ringness (1975) states, "It is probably obvious that attitudes and values have a cognitive as well as an affective component. That is, they are not simply composed of feeling for or against something, but include intellectualization as well" (p. 23). Learning about the history of racism, for example, is a cognitive activity that might result in a change in attitude, an element of the affective domain. Similarly, improving a student's motivation to study can create cognitive change.

A distinction that was meant to facilitate the study of each domain may in fact have hindered progress with respect to research in the affective domain in particular. Separating one from the other gave people an opportunity to understand each in isolation from the other, but also to judge each domain relative to the other. In a culture that has tended to value reason over emotion, it is of little surprise that the cognitive domain has outshined its "competitors." Indeed, Krathwohl, et al. almost abandoned efforts to create a second taxonomy for affective objectives, given its poor reception in the education community. He writes, "few of the examiners at the college level were convinced that the development of the affective domain would make much difference in their work or that they would find great use for it, when completed" (Krathwohl, 1964, p. 13).

Cultural Norms

Even if emotion were valued to the same degree as reason, other cultural norms suggest the classroom is an inappropriate venue for teaching to the affective domain. Educators are comfortable evaluating students on achievement in intellectual matters, for example, but less comfortable evaluating students on their attitudes, values and motivation. As Krathwohl et al (1964) writes, "teachers don't think it's appropriate to grade with respect to interests, attitude, and character development" (p. 17). And some parents tend to agree; Farley (2001) notes that many believe it's the responsibility of the home and community - not the schools - to teach values and develop appropriate attitudes. What Krathwohl (1964) calls the "public-private status of cognitive vs. affective behaviors" is deeply ingrained in our culture. "Achievement, competence, productivity, etc. are regarded as public matters. In contrast, one's beliefs, attitudes, values, and personality characteristics are more likely to be regarded as private matters" (Krathwohl et al, 1964, p. 18).

Despite that notion, however, an interest in incorporating the affective domain into classroom experiences and instruction does exist. Dunn and Stinson (2012), for example, wrote about a case for which drama pedagogy was used “to create a set of learning experiences designed specifically to simultaneously tap into both the cognitive and the affective domains.” The work, the authors explain, sought to intentionally stimulate a broad “spectrum of emotions, from relief to resentment, fondness to frustration” (Dunn & Stinson, 2012).

Similarly, Kok-Siang, Chong Yong, and Shuhui reported on three school-based trial lessons in which students from two Singapore secondary schools were taught science concepts and skills “in the usual way,” but with follow-up reflective activities requiring them to “draw from their learning experiences parallel scenarios in their daily lives,” thereby addressing the affective domain. The students were taught chemistry topics, and at the end of each lesson, students were asked to discuss, reflect on, and respond to an everyday event or scenario that shared characteristics similar to the chemistry topic or skill they had just learned (Kok-Siang, Chong Yong, & Shuhui, 2013).

Defining the Affective Domain

Apart from the issues previously described, the most significant challenge faced by those studying the affective domain is one of definition - the affective domain has never been clearly defined. As Krathwohl et al noted in 1964, "there was a lack of clarity in the statements of affective objectives that we found in the literature" (p. 13). More recently, in a report produced by the Department of Labor in the 1990s regarding the preparedness of students entering the workforce, "personal qualities" were emphasized, yet not clearly articulated. "An essential problem arises when attempts are made to implement the third area mentioned in [the report]: teaching personal qualities. This problem concerns failure of the report to define in a functional manner the nature of personal qualities. Specifically, a workable definition of the affective domain was not included" (McNabb & Mills, 1995, p. 589). Assuming the domain itself were more clearly defined, educators and researchers would then need to reach consensus regarding which attitudes, or which values, should be taught. McNabb and Mills (1995) suggest this might be the most difficult task of all, since these are influenced by local cultures, parenting styles, and religious beliefs.

As one might suspect, given the lack of a clear definition, the affective domain has suffered from...

(The entire section is 4361 words.)