A few years after I began teaching, I became serious about instructional design so that effective teaching and learning would take place in my classroom. Yes, you read the first sentence correctly. For the first one/three years of teaching, I was just trying to survive. I am sure; well somewhat sure, that I was exposed to Bloom's Taxonomy and instructional objectives in my initial professional development courses. However, trying to design lessons without a textbook for all of my students forced me into the survival mode of just finding “stuff” to keep my students busy. My existence was like the test pilot in a new jet plane who radioed to the tower and said, “I’m going faster than I have ever gone before, but I don’t know where I’m going.”
At some point in my professional development as a teacher, I began to understand the significance of valid instructional objectives and the domains of learning. I will concede the point that the cognitive domain is the most important domain in the educational process. Objectives written in this domain specify what students will be able to do intellectually as a result of instruction. These instructional results range from the memorization of facts to the most complex processes of evaluation and assessment (Gunter). We can measure these results with multiple-choice items on standardized tests. Numerous educators and politicians believe these tests enable us to rate the effectiveness of schools and teachers in most levels of the cognitive domain.
My concern is that in order to satisfy those who want a significant portion of teachers’ assessment based on the academic achievement of their students, we feel obligated to spend all of the instructional time in the cognitive domain. In the affective domain, we wrestle with attitudes, feelings, and values. At the highest level of the affective domain, the students internalize the values being taught and behave consistently with their personal values set. You are correct; a multiple choice standardized test cannot correctly assess whether the students have internalized a set of values. This assessment takes place over a lifetime and therein lies the assessment problem.
I recently began surveying textbooks on instructional strategies used in professional development courses. I have found that the affective domain receives very scant attention. In one textbook we have used at Maryville College, in the most recent edition the affective domain is never mentioned (Estes).
What type of impact do we want the schools to have on our children? Is there any time left for developing “the good person” in our educational system. We live in a country, notwithstanding the world, where we desperately need a critical mass of adults who are morally strong. If schools shirk the responsibility of developing moral individuals, who will teach and model moral values to our children? The family structure is in such disarray we can no longer rely on the family to teach and more importantly model appropriate values. Fewer and fewer of our children, especially our children who live in poverty, are active in a faith community. As a result our children become easy prey for the demagogues that fill the internet.
Our country once championed the ideal of always being on the high moral ground. Have we as a society sacrificed this noble cause to a weak pragmatism that permits us to do whatever we want to do in order to get what we want? Have we given in to the ideal that those with the rawest power always win regardless of their virtue?
It has been the death of idealism over the last several decades that troubles me the most. It has been the searching and striving for those noble ideals that have historically given us the high moral ground. If as a society we have rejected the notion of striving for these ideals, which include justice and fairness, we are doomed as a society never to be better than we are at this moment in time.
Deborah and I have four grandchildren, and we plan to spend a lot more time with them in the next few years. However, I would be less than honest with you if I did not admit that I am greatly concerned about the kind of world we are leaving them. As teachers, we should demand a more balanced curriculum integrating the affective domain in our state mandated curriculum standards.
Bless you my children,
Dr. Terry L. Simpson
Estes, T. H. & Mintz, S. L. (2016). Instruction: A Models Approach. 7th ed. Boston: Pearson.
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