Begin with the end in mind – Veronica Brown

After writing the title, I could not for the life of me remember where that was from. So I Googled it. Turns out it’s Habit 2 from Stephen Covey’s (2004) 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Don’t worry, I’m not going to write a blog on Covey. But his premise of having a clear direction to take makes sense with our ultimate goal of measuring the affective domain. It’s why I keep coming back to outcomes. If we want to develop certain characteristics in our students or at least encourage a different viewpoint, it is really important to be able to define those characteristics in measurable ways.

Continuing with Krathwohl, Bloom and Masia (1964) from last week, one approach to writing affective outcomes is to consider the outcome as it passes through the various levels from receiving to internalizing. Consider an outcome related to conflict and power. Depending on the level, the outcome might take one of these forms.

  • Be aware of the different power relationships that exist  (Receiving) (NB – This is different than a cognitive outcome that might expect the student to be able to list various sources of power, such as positional or identity)
  • Demonstrate the use of a specific source of power in a given contextual setting (Valuing)
  • Defend the use use of a specific source of power in a given contextual setting (Organization – unlike Valuing, this higher level expects students to compare or synthesize the value, similar to analysis in the cognitive domain)

These examples demonstrate how the same construct can be defined at different learning levels. In lots of ways, the hierarchy makes sense as each level forms a building block for the next step. But this structured approach to defining (and then evaluating) affective outcomes is not without criticism. A concern that I sometimes hear related to defining outcomes is the loss of opportunity for students to find their own way. If we are too prescriptive, do we squash learning opportunities? There are many examples where these behavioural outcomes (i.e., specific, observable, measurable behaviours) makes sense, particularly in some of the lower levels (i.e, receiving, responding, and valuing). But what happens as you move into areas when these “behaviours” cannot be measured or, at least, cannot be measured in a consistent, valid way. For example, how would you evaluate a how a student values critical thinking or demonstrates behaviours related to ethics, diversity, humility, etc.?

While measuring these higher-level elements of the affective domain can be difficult, there might be associated behaviours that are observable. The design of the outcome, known as an expressive outcome, helps us describe or define the learning that might occur through experience, situations, and reflection. My blog next week will explore the work of Elliot Eisner (1985), who describes expressive outcomes as “the consequences of curriculum activities that are intentionally planned to provide a fertile field for personal purposing and experience” (p. 120). He continues by expressing that

it is perfectly appropriate for teachers and others involved in curriculum development to plan activities that have no explicit or precise objectives. In an age of accountability, this sounds like heresy. Yet surely there must be room in school for activities that promise to be fruitful, even though the teacher might not be able to say what specifically the students will learn or experience. (p. 121)

Food for thought.


Tree growing in rock


Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (Nov. 2013 edition). New York: Simon & Schuster.

Eisner, E. (1985). The Educational imagination : On the design and evaluation of school programs (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

Krathwol, D. R., Bloom, B. S., & Masia, B. B. (1964). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. New York: David McKay.


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Veronica Brown

As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum & Quality Enhancement, Veronica Brown provides oversight and facilitative support for departmental and Faculty-wide curriculum planning initiatives. She also leads the development and implementation of the Centre’s assessment plan for understanding the impact and quality of our work.