Cognitive and Affective Standards in Assessment

In 2015, The Washington Post revealed that a typical (public school) student in the United States takes about 112 standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and graduation. Many educators, as a result of so much testing, have worked to make their students aware of standards. Cognitive and affective standards, in particular, provide powerful ways to make sure all students achieve the success they need not only in their classrooms, but in life. These standards, formed from Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains, do a great job of addressing learning as a process. Content developers and educators need to be aware of these processes and domains so that they may craft standards to measure student growth.

Cognitive Standards

Cognitive standards stem from the Cognitive Domain. This domain encompasses how students learn through acquisition, process, and use of knowledge. The pyramid below is a great resource for content developers to use in order to determine the rigor of their content. Developers must also pay attention to verbs in the chart, when designing standards for the lesson, in order to make sure their assessments will accurately check the level of knowledge indicated by the standard.

cognitive and affective infographic

Cognitive Domain


Exhibit memory of previously learned material by recalling facts, terms, basic concepts, and answers.

Choose, List, Find, Match, Define, Relate, Label, Tell, Show, Recall, Select


Demonstrate understanding of facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions, and stating main ideas.

Extend, Rephrase, Contrast, Illustrate, Translate, Demonstrate, Infer, Summarize, Interpret, Outline, Show, Explain


Solve problems in new situations by applying acquired knowledge, facts, techniques, and rules in a different way.

Apply, Construct, Plan, Utilize, Build, Develop, Organize, Select, Model, Choose, Solve, Identify


Examine and break information into parts by identifying motives or causes. Make inferences and find evidence to support generalizations.

Analyze, Compare, Dissect, Infer, Categorize, Classify, Distinguish


Present and defend opinions by making judgements about information, validity of ideas, or quality of work based on a set of criteria.

Award, Conclude, Rate, Prioritize, Appraise, Criticize, Judge, Recomend, Agree, Justify


Put elements together to form a functional whole.

Assemble, Build, Combine, Create, Design, Produce

Affective Standards

Affective standards stem from the Affective Domain, which deals with attitudes, values, and emotions. Using these standards, teachers can work to promote a growth mindset among their students and develop lifestyle habits that go beyond the classroom. View the chart below, in order of increasing complexity, to review the levels within this area and the verbs with which the standards begin.

Affective Domain


Awareness, Willingness to hear

Ask, Choose, Describe, Follow, Give, Hold, Identify, Locate, Name, Reply


Active participation in learning process

Answer, Aid, Compile, Tell, Write, Present, Read, Recite


The value that one attaches to a behavior, subject, etc.

Explain, Follow, Join, Study, Work


Comparing, synthesizing, and ordering values

Identify, Integrate, Organize, Synthesize, Compare, Defend, Modify, Order


Has a value system that controls their behavior

Influence, Act, Perform, Question, Solve, Verify, Practice, Listen, Discriminate, Qualify

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By keeping these types of standards in mind (and the levels within them), educators and content developers can carefully scaffold their materials and instruction to allow students to succeed.



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