4.3 The Cognitive and Affective Domains of Curricula

As discussed previously, Dewey (1902) explained that curriculum as being a means for schools to attain their objectives for learning. The learning, whether it be through planned or unplanned experiences, is a framework intended to provide students with the necessary content to achieve the educational outcomes adopted by the New York State Department of Education. Local school districts develop their curricula according to the educational outcomes outlined by the state. The curriculum can be viewed from varying perspectives. The cognitive perspective of curriculum focuses primarily on the acquisition of knowledge. The affective perspective tends to go beyond the acquisition of knowledge to include the degree that students value the knowledge that is being delivered to achieve educational outcomes. These two perspectives of curricula allow people to consider not only the subject matter, but how the students react to the material being delivered.

Bloom et al. (1959) created a taxonomy that sought to classify the various educational goals of the classroom. Bloom’s Taxonomy addressed the progression of educational goals that focused on lower-order thinking skills such as remembering and understanding to higher-order thinking skills through which students apply the knowledge they have learned through a process of analysis. Students use their higher-order thinking skills to evaluate the concrete information they have learned to create a product from the information they have learned. The structure of the taxonomy serves as tool for educators to scaffold instruction, which offers students intellectual and social supports to use higher-order thinking skills.

Vygotsky (1978) created the Zone of Proximal Development, which stresses modeling and teaching at students’ instructional levels rather than at the students’ frustration levels. Vygotsky defined the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) as “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem-solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more competent peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p.86). Vygotsky saw the importance of assessing students’ cognitive abilities to determine the level of students’ cognitive growth. Teachers model instructional activities that allow students to process knowledge and apply the information, which ultimately heightens the students’ level of cognitive development.