UNESCO Chair in TVET and Lifelong Learning,
The Hong Kong Institute of Education

What is Outcomes-based Learning?


"Outcome-based Education(OBE) means focusing and organising a school's entire programs and instructional efforts around the clearly defined outcomes we want all students to demonstrate when they leave school." (Spady, 1993)
"Outcome-based Education is NOT a program, a package, a technique, a fad, a quick-fix, a panacea, a miracle or an event. It is transformational way of doing business in education." (Spady, 1993)
"OBE is a process that focuses on what is to be learned - the outcomes." (Kudlas, 1994)
"The basic tenets of OBE are shifting the focus of educational activity from teaching to learning; skills to thinking; content to process; and teacher instruction to student demonstration." (Williams, Cited in Tavner, 2005)
"An outcome is a culminating demonstration of learning. It is a demonstration of learning that occurs at the end of a learning experience. It is the result of learning which is a visible and observable demonstration of three things: knowledge, combined with competence, combined with orientations." (Spady, 1994) 
"Education that is outcome-based is a learner-centered, results-oriented system founded on the belief that all individuals can learn" (Towers, 1996)
"Outcomes are clear, observable demonstrations of student learning that occur after a significant set of learning experiences. They are not values, attitudes, feelings, beliefs, activities, assignements, goals, scores, grades, or averages, as many people believe. Typically, these demonstrations, or performances, reflect three things: (1) what the student knows; (2) what the student can actually do with what he or she knows; (3) the student's confidence and motivation in carrying out the demonstration. A well-defined outcome will have clearly defined content or concepts and be demonstrated through a well-defined process beginning with a directive or request such as 'explain', 'organize', or 'produce'." (Spady & Marshall, 1991)
"Outcomes are future oriented, publicly defined, learner-centered, focused on life skills and contexts; characterized by high expectations of and for all learners, and sources from which all other educational decisions flow." (Boschee & Baron, 1993)
"Learning is facilitated carefully toward achievement of the outcomes, characterized by its appropriateness to each learner's development level, and active and experienced-based." (Boschee and Baron, 1993).
Outcomes are usually defined in terms of a mixture of knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes and understanding that an individual will attain as a result of his or her successful engagement in a particular set of higher education experiences." (Adam, 2004)
"Learning outcomes can provide a clear focus on what students achieve and lead to better qualitfications and an improved student experience." (Adam, 2004)
"To make the outcome-based system work, the following four points are necessary. First, what the student is to learn must be clearly identified. Second, the student's progress is based on demonstrated achievement. Third, multiple instructional and assessment strategies need to be available to meet the needs of each student. And finally, adequate time and assistance need to be provided so that each student can reach the maximum potential." (Towers, 1996)
"Outcomes based education (OBE) is a process that involves the restructuring of curriculum, assessment and reporting practices in education to reflect the achievement of high order learning and mastery rather than the accumulation of course credits.” (Tucker, 2004)
" An expected learning outcome is a formal statement of what students are expected to learn in a course. Expected learning outcome statements refer to specific knowledge, practical skills, areas of professional development, attitudes, higher-order thinking skills etc. that faculty members expect students to learn, develop, or master during a course." (Suskie, 2004)

Beliefs and Features of Outcome-based Learning (OBL)

1. All students can learn and succeed, but not on the same day in the same way.   

2. Success breeds success.
3. Schools control the conditions of success.
4. It emphsizes authentic, achievable and assessable learning outcomes.  
5. It is primarily concerned with what students' culminating capabilities at graduation time. It centres curriculum and assessment design around higher order exit outcomes. 
6. It is accountable to the stakeholders, the learners, the teachers, the employers and the public.  
7. It leads to the change of schooling, including the curriculum, instruction and assessment.
Source: Spady, W. D. (1994). Outcomes Based Education: Critical Issues and Answers. Arlington, VA: American Association of School Administration.

Operating Principles of OBL

1. Clarity of focus, meaning that all activities (teaching, assessment, etc) are geared towards what we want students to demonstrate; 

2. Expanded opportunity, meaning expanding the ways and numbers of times kids get a chance to learn and demonstrate a particular outcome;  
3. High expectations, meaning getting rid of the bell-curve and all students should achieve at the highest level;  
4. Design down, meaning designing the curriculum from the point at which you want students to end up.
Source: Spady, W. D. (1994). Outcomes Based Education: Critical Issues and Answers. Arlington, VA: American Association of School Administration.

The "Essence" of OBL

1. In OBL, what matters ultimately is not what is taught, but what is learned;

2. Teachers must set appropriate course intended learning outcomes, instead of teaching objectives;

3. Constructive alignment: What we teach, how we teach and how we assess ought to be aligned with the intended learning outcomes, such that they are fully consistent with each other;

4. The quality of teaching is to be judged by the quality of learning that takes place;

5. All OBL approaches take a criterion-based view of assessment and focus on what students can do with knowledge after a period of learning.