Teaching Attitudes: The Affective Domain of Learning and Learning Objectives

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[This is the eighth in a series of posts about learning objectives. We’ve now compiled all the posts into a single downloadable guide to writing learning objectives if you want to check that out.]

As we mentioned in a previous post, there are three different kinds of learning: learning about things you can “know,” learning about things you can “do,” and learning about things you “feel.” We will refer to these as knowledge, skills, and attitudes, or “KSAs” for short.

In this post, we’re going to consider the “attitudes” domain more closely. The information below is based on the theories of Krathwohl, Bloom, and Masia (1973), and it relies greatly on explanations of those theories that appear Don Clark’s well known “Big Dog Little Dog” instructional design blog. Check out Clark’s material on learning domains to read more about this and to learn about alternate versions of this hierarchy and other learning hierarchies.

You can use this information to create a more effective workforce training program.

The Affective Domain of Learning & Learning Objectives

The affective domain can be broken down into a hierarchy. The hierarchy includes 5 different levels of attitudes, from the simplest to the most complex. We’ll list and explain each below, and we’ll give a list of behaviors that learners must perform to show they’ve mastered the attitude at each level. This will help you pick the verb you’ll use when writing learning objectives dealing with skills.

Five Levels of Attitudes

The attitudes in the affective domain are divided into five different levels, ranging from the most simple–basically the willingness to pay attention–to the most complex–when a person’s behaviors are consistently controlled by their value system. They represent not so much different kinds of attitudes but rather different degrees. The five levels of attitudes, in order from simplest to most complex, are:

  1. Receiving: Learner is willing to pay attention and listen with respect.
  2. Responding: Learner actively responds and participates.
  3. Valuing: Learner places value on a behavior, idea, person, institution, etc.
  4. Organization: Learner prioritizes values and resolves conflicts between them.
  5. Internalizing values: Learner’s value system is internalized and controls his or her behavior.

The levels of the attitudes domain are often represented as different levels of a pyramid, with receiving, the simplest level, making up the bottom of the pyramid and internalizing values, the most complex level, making up the top.

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Creating Stronger “Attitudes” Learning Objectives for the Affective Domain

Now, let’s apply what we just discussed above to the best way to write a learning objective. You probably remember that when you write a learning objective, one part of the objective describes a behavior the learner must perform, and this behavior is expressed as a verb within the objective. So, we can make it easier to write a learning objective by coming up with a collection of verbs that describe behaviors in each level of the attitudes taxonomy above. Check out the list below to get some ideas.

  1. Receiving: asks, chooses, describes, follows, gives, holds, identifies, locates, names, points to, selects, sits, erects, replies, uses
  2. Responding: answers, assists, aids, complies, conforms, discusses, greets, helps, labels, performs, practices, presents, reads, recites, reports, selects, tells, writes
  3. Valuing: completes, demonstrates, differentiates, explains, follows, forms, initiates, invites, joins, justifies, proposes, reads, reports, selects, shares, studies, works
  4. Organization: adheres, alters, arranges, combines, compares, completes, defends, explains, formulates, generalizes, identifies, integrates, modifies, orders, organizes, prepares, relates, synthesizes
  5. Internalizing values: acts, discriminates, displays, influences, listens, modifies, performs, practices, proposes, qualifies, questions, revises, serves, solves, verifies

To see a longer list of attitudes-related verbs for your learning objectives, click here.


Keep these different levels of the “attitudes” in mind, and the verbs to use when writing learning objectives for each level, and you’ll not only create better learning objectives, you’ll create better training materials too.

Good luck with this, and let us know if you’d like some information about online training courses for your workforce, an LMS for workforce training management, and/or custom workforce training materials.

More About Learning Objectives and Bloom’s Taxonomy

For even more on learning objectives, check out any of the articles below.

And of course, download the free Guide to Writing Learning Objectives, too!

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How to Write Learning Objectives

All the basics about writing learning objectives for training materials.

Download Free Guide

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 20 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, has completed a General Industry Safety and Health Specialist Certificate from the University of Washington/Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center, and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training.

5 thoughts on “Teaching Attitudes: The Affective Domain of Learning and Learning Objectives

  1. Dear Jeffrey,
    Thank you so much for this and other posts.
    I find your blog to be of great professional value.
    Your sharing of knowledge is much appreciated here!
    Best,
    Avi

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