Saturday, July 12, 2008

Outcomes Based Education

The experience of Outcomes based education in WA has been painful. Before being condemned as a failure in 2008 it raised the ire of many parents and teachers.

The main idea of outcomes based education is that teachers should teach students to actual outcomes. The outcome is important not what is scheduled to be taught. If the student is not ready, teach them something that they are ready for. Students within a class are learning different concepts based on their individual optimal learning requirements.

In an average class of 30 it is not likely that an inexperienced teacher will achieve anything like optimal learning using an Outcomes based method as they are unable to recognise when the learning point has been achieved or what the next logical learning point is. What seems to happen is that teaching of simple concepts is overdone and students start to "loaf" and are not stretched to their utmost. An experienced teacher may manage optimal learning but it takes many years to reach this level of skill. In today's workplace with people job-hopping I would suggest that this level of skill is in short supply and is only getting shorter.

Much of the issues with OBE was hidden from parents through ineffectual and confusing student reporting in "levels" which were so far removed from the traditional ABCD or F that parents could not discern how their students were performing and the information documented for future years became vague and useless.

A great step forward was the introduction of the K-10 Syllabus this year and the return to ABCDE reporting. The document has filled some of the gap for new teachers and the reintroduction of ABCDE has given some ability back to parents to read reports. If this had been done from the beginning and training courses had more content specific outlining correct scaffolding of concepts, much of the fuss about OBE I think would have been avoided.

Oh but for hindsight!

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