Objectives for change of heart

It’s hard enough to craft good operational objectives to address desired performances (what you want people to do to accomplish particular organizational outcomes). But what about objectives that tackle how people feel about certain things? In my field, we know that the hardest part of patient safety objectives is often not the technical work but the adaptive work needed to make that technical work effective.

For example, my instructional goal might be to “get senior executives to value the opinions of frontline staff.”

Where to start?
You still have to take that step of asking: What does success look like if I achieve that objective? But how do you describe the success of winning someone’s heart as well as her mind?

Krathwhol’s taxonomy
Krathwhol (who worked with Bloom) crafted a taxonomy to describe how individuals process learning on an affective or emotional level.

There are 5 levels to the taxonomy.

1. Receiving (basically keeping an open mind)

Receiving includes behaviors like…

  • differentiating among
  • accepting
  • listening to

One element of fostering receiving is to get the learner’s attention, asking him or her to adopt another person’s context, for example, by role playing.

Verbs for expressing learning outcomes: ask, choose, describe, follow, give, hold, identify, reply, select, use.

2. Responding (e.g., committing in some way to an idea)

Responding includes behaviors like…

  • complying with
  • following
  • recommending
  • participating in

Foster responding by encouraging the learner to participate on a voluntary level (easier said than done, of course).

Verbs for expressing learning outcomes: assist, conform, help, perform, present, read, select, tell, write.

3. Valuing (e.g., actively participate in internalizing an idea)

Valuing  behaviors include:

  • developing proficiency in
  • supporting
  • debating

Foster valuing by helping the learner discuss the new idea and formulate potential ways to use the idea.

Verbs for expressing learning outcomes: complete, explain, follow, form, initiate, invite, join, justify, propose, share

4. Organization (integrating a new value with those already held)

These behaviors include:

  • discussing
  • theorizing
  • formulating
  • balancing
  • examining

Foster organization by helping the learner solve problems using the new idea, integrating the new idea into a pre-existing structure for solving problems.

Verbs for expressing learning outcomes: adhere, alter, arrange, combine, generalize, identify, integrate, modify, order, organize, prepare, relate, synthesize

5. Characterization by value or value set (acting consistently with internalized values)

Behaviors in this domain include….

  • revising
  • managing
  • resolving

Foster characterization by value or value set by encouraging learners to transfer ideas to daily life (another easier-said-than-done goal).

Verbs for expressing learning outcomes: act, display, influence, coach, listen, modify, perform, practice, propose, qualify, question, serve, solve, use, verify.

​An example

Let’s return to the instructional goal I identified, “Get senior executives to value the opinions of frontline staff”. Using this taxonomy, you might gather a learner audience of senior executives (whether face-to-face or using an online discussion forum/chat session) and ask these executives to discuss why this is important and how they might develop strategies to include frontline staff in decision-making processes. A learning objective might be: Propose an action plan to make decision-making processes more transparent and solicit input from frontline staff.

Like all taxonomies, this is a way of looking at the complexities of human behavior and so it won’t be entirely satisfying.  Success in face-to-face or online activities doesn’t translate to transfer in day-to-day work. That typically requires organizational support, continual reinforcement, and dealing with perceived losses and perceived gains. Part of the expanding role of the instructional designer is to be a change agent in the organization in which he or she works.


Abilene Christian University (1990-2011). Learning Taxonomies. Retrieved from http://www.acu.edu/academics/adamscenter/course_design/taxonomy/instructional/taxonomies.html#krathwohl

Krathwohl, D.R., Bloom, B.S., and Masia, B.B. (1964). Taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook II: Affective domain. New York: David McKay Co.

Seels and Glasgow (1990). Exercises in instructional design. Columbus OH: Merrill Publishing Company.

2 responses to “Objectives for change of heart

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