Discovering Instructional Design 4: The Affective Domain

Last time while introducing the Systems Approach, I began by discussing the analysis stage of the process, which is used to determine the current state of learners’ knowledge and skills, and to define the learning needs of the student. Today, I will look at goal analysis and the relevance of the often-overlooked Affective Domain.

The Systems Approach to Instruction, like all instructional design processes, has tasks and activities distributed across a number of phases:

  1. Determine the current state and needs of the learner
  2. Define the end goal of instruction
  3. Develop a learning intervention to assist in the acquisition of new skills, knowledge or expertise
  4. Assess the quality of the instructional design and improve where required

Goal Analysis

Goal analysis is used when there is an abstract state or condition that must be taught/encouraged in the learner. Typical goals are:

  • Be self-starters
  • Exhibit good leadership characteristics
  • Be conscientious
  • Be professional
  • Have a customer service attitude

These are called affective objectives, and can be arranged according to a taxonomy. According to Mary Miller (2005), when instructional designers consider the affective domain, “they think only in terms of a learner’s motivation to learn.”

As Smith and Ragan (1999) have pointed out, “any ‘cognitive’ or ‘psychomotor’ objective has some affective component to it (if at no deeper level than a willingness to sufficiently interact with learning resources to achieve the learning)” (p. 250, parentheses in original). Motivation is certainly important, as “a student’s attitude toward a given course or subject area can be a contributing factor to his achievement in it.

(Edwards & Porter, 1970, p. 107).

While it’s natural (an logical) for instructional designers (and learning professionals in general) to emphasize the cognitive domain (associated with Benjamin Bloom) the affective domain can significantly enhance, inhibit or even prevent student learning. The affective domain includes factors such as

  • student motivation
  • attitudes
  • perceptions
  • values

Considering the affective domain when designing programs can increase the learning effect, whether delivering content and activities, or during formative and summative assessment.

Affective Domain Taxonomy

David Krathwohl’s affective domain taxonomy is perhaps the best known of any of the affective taxonomies (see Figure 1).

Internalisation continuum of the affective domain

Figure 1. Internalization continuum of the affective domain. Source: Krathwohl, Bloom, and Masia, B.B. (1964)

Krathwohl’s Affective Taxonomy refers to a person’s awareness and internalization of objects and stimulation.

The taxonomy is ordered according to the principle of internalization. Internalization refers to the process whereby a person’s affect toward an object passes from a general awareness level to a point where the affect is ‘internalized’ and consistently guides or controls the person’s behavior.

(Seels & Glasgow, 1990, p. 28)

Goal Analysis Procedure

As such, a goal analysis can assist in determining what can be taught. There are five steps to the procedure:

  1. Write down the goal using appropriate abstract terms to express the intent. Ensure the statement is written in terms of outcomes rather than process – for example “Have a favorable attitude to… rather than “Develop a favorable attitude…”.
  2. Understand the activities or performances required to achieve the goal. What would subject-matter experts (SMEs) have to do or say – or stop doing and saying – before you, as an instructional designer, are willing to say that the performances represent the goal? List as many performances as you can think of.
  3. Sort the list. Many of the items will be fuzzy and not describe  anything about performance. Ask SMEs to undertake steps 1 and 2 again. Continue until you have a list of performances that collectively represent the goal – that is, until you are confident that if a learner did these things (and did not do other things) the goal would be achieved.
  4. Expand the words and phrases on your list into complete sentences that describe when or how often the performance is expected to occur. This helps you to limit the scope of the expected performance. It helps to define “how much” performance would be satisfactory. For example, a goal analysis on personal data protection could include the item ‘lock unattended PC.’ When expanded into a complete sentence it could read “Employee always locks PC before leaving workspace unattended.”
  5. Test for completeness. Review the performances on your list and ask “If someone did these things would I be willing to say that they are competent in the activity?” If so, you have completed the goal analysis; if no, return to step 2 and add reiterate the goal analysis.

Next Time: Affective Domain Goal Statements 


Krathwohl, D.R., Bloom, B.S., and Masia, B.B. (1964). Taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook II: Affective domain. New York: David McKay Co.

Miller, M. (2005). Teaching and Learning in Affective Domain. In: M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. [Internet] Available from http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Teaching_and_Learning_in_Affective_Domain Accessed 20th May 2017,

Seels, B. and Glasgow, Z. (1990). Exercises in instructional design. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill Publishing Company.