Motivations & Attitudes: The Affective Domain in Teaching & Learning

32nd Annual POD Conference, October 25-28, 2007
Omni William Penn Hotel, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Workshop Organizers:

  • Jeff Johnston, Assistant Director, Center for Teaching, Lecturer, Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Vanderbilt University
  • Cathy Manduca, Director, Science Education Resource Center (SERC), Executive Director, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Carleton College
  • Ed Nuhfer, Director of Faculty Development and Professor of Geoscience, California State University, Channel Islands
  • James Rhem, Executive Editor, The National Teaching & Learning FORUM


When we think of teaching and learning in a college classroom, we usually focus on the cognitive domain: the skills and concepts that students must master to learn the course content. However, the affective domain plays a critical role in student learning. It governs students' willingness to learn, ability to accept new ideas, and motivation to seek and use new knowledge. Organizations' influences on affective domains affect true diversity and creativity. This session invites participants to consider how the affective domain influences their own philosophies of faculty development, and to develop strategies for incorporating affective issues into their work as faculty developers.

Workshop rationale:

The affective domain has been described as the product of the brain that produces the sense of feelings and emotions that are "complex but internally consistent qualities of character and conscience" (Krathwohl et al., 1964, p.7). Qualities of thought dominated by affective qualities are many and include attitudes, self-awareness, biases, ethics, self-esteem, enthusiasm and likes and dislikes. We are only consciously aware of a portion of the affective domain's influence on our actions and choices, including those that we may believe are totally based on cognitive objectivity.

As time passes, it becomes increasingly apparent how far ahead of their time Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues were in the 1950s. "Bloom's Taxonomy" is among the most cited contributions to education (Bloom, 1956). In contrast, the contributions in the second of the three handbooks, taxonomy of the affective domain, is largely an unknown among college instructors (Krathwohl et al, 1964). Yet, the sheer power of the affective domain makes it the principal influence on the life decisions and satisfaction of these same professors and their students. While we may reason through our cognitive development, we act from our affective domains, which are likely less developed. Students choose colleges, classes, major, and careers largely from feelings that become action choices. "Math anxiety" and writer's block" can change aspirations of students while "morale," "campus atmosphere," and "quality of life" trigger life-changing decisions by professors. It is likely impossible to divorce a single cognitive thought or decision completely from the affective domain. Only a few higher education institutions prepare students to recognize and understand its influence, and professors and faculty developers are largely products of institutions that emphasize only cognitive learning. To truly educate students and to do high quality faculty development requires working with the affective domain.

Workshop goals:

  • First, we want to introduce participants to the importance of the affective domain in higher education teaching and learning.
  • Second, we want participants to consider ways in which the affective domain influences their own philosophies as faculty developers.
  • Third, we want to give participants experience with three tools that can be used with faculty to address the role of the affective domain in their teaching: dilemmas, knowledge surveys, and self-reflection surveys.

Workshop program


  • Bloom B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain. David McKay Co Inc.
  • Krathwohl, D.R., Bloom, B.S., and Masia, B.B. (1964). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Handbook II: Affective Domain. David McKay Co.

Additional selected literature on the affective domain

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