The Affective Domain – a little more detail

Since blogging a couple of times about matters connected to the Affective Domain of Learning, I have had a discussion with one trainer who informed me that it was not covered at all in their course – I find that concerning.

I believe that a trainer is missing a vital tool if they do not understand and use the Affective Domain. In my blog of 26 July I gave an example of how it could be used in a learning event.

So, what exactly is it? Well, the Affective Domain (together with the Cognitive and Psychomotor Domains) came about as a result of work by Benjamin Bloom and other colleagues

There are five levels to the Domain, and these are:

  1. Receiving
  2. Responding
  3. Valuing
  4. Organisation
  5. Characterisation

As it is a Taxonomy (an ordered list), a person can only progress to a level as a result of having ‘passed through’ the lower levels. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you are watching an appeal programme on TV such as Children in Need or Comic Relief. For anyone who hasn’t seen any such programmes, they tend to be several hours in duration and comprise a combination of celebrity appearances, films showing the suffering of various sections of the world’s population, the presentation of cheques towards these causes and details of how the viewer can also financially contribute.

By watching the programme, you are ‘Receiving’ and so are willing to watch what is being shown. You are at the first level. You may then have a conversation with a person watching with you in relation to what is being shown, which would take you to the ‘Responding’ stage. If, during that conversation, you expressed a view such as, “That’s terrible, that shouldn’t happen to anyone”, you would have progressed to the ‘Valuing’ level. A short time later you add, “In fact that’s so bad, I’m going to ‘phone in and give £10”. At this point you have reached the forth level, that of ‘Organisation’.  When you wake up the following morning you add, “I was thinking about that film last night. I have decided that I’m going to give an amount each month so that I can help a little”. Later that day, you arrange to pay an amount each month – at which point you have arrived at ‘Characterisation’ as you have demonstrated this new value.

When watching such programmes, the celebrities are sometimes – and understandably – in tears or visibly upset when witnessing some of the suffering. Within the Affective Domain they are probably at ‘Valuing’ at that point. Whether they move to a deeper level will depend on whether they do anything with their new learning after the event. Does it change their value system, or, once they return to their home, do they put it to one side and do nothing else with it.

As trainers or training mangers, we need to ensure that what we deliver has the maximum possible effect, and the maximum potential to improve performance. The Affective Domain gives a great framework for planning a methodology that will improve the retention of learning by the affect upon the learner.


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