Saturday, February 20, 2010

Evidence based education vs OBE

Educational trends tend to go in cycles. From ultra conservative, tried and true methods (such as direct instruction from defined syllabus) to ultra experimental (such as the whole of language approach).

Recovering from the ultra experimental 'OBE' we are now heading towards the ultra conservative 'evidence based' approach.

Although the evidence based approach has merits and is a very attractive alternative after OBE, I would suggest caution. The consequences of evidence based education is already starting to slow educational change through the inability of educational practices to change in time with social change (by the time evidence is gathered, social change has again occurred).

Current practice would be to identify an educational need, and then find a current practice (with evidence) to use to fulfil this need. The obvious issue with this is that where we have a new social situation, no evidence exists and with current research practices - no evidence will ever exist as typically research today does not seek to find a solution, only observe existing practice (existing practice which we know is flawed or wouldn't require research).

Has the pendulum swung too far, now stifling the innovative approaches that could be researched and widely implemented? To avoid this I think a middle ground needs to be found, where innovative practices are encouraged and then researched before extensive implementation. To have one without the other is to invite poor practices or stifling of positive change.


  1. I believe any system with a coherent incremental syllabus based purely on knowledge (or application of knowledge) and skills is the best approach.
    My colleagues and I have been mortified by the OBE system in WA and feel that the kids have been let down by implementing an untried and unproven system. The ludicrous levelling method of assessment and the vacuous outcome statements only served to completely debase reporting on student achievement.
    We cautiously support the national curriculum as it could not be any more ridiculous than the system we already have.
    However most of also believe that the system should be tested before being rolled out to all schools otherwise we find find ourselves in the same predicament when the untested Courses of Study were thrust on Western Australia's Senior Schools

    1. Couldn't agree with you more, levelling, outcome statements and all the other detritus of OBE is pure time wasting and symptomatic of a clueless education minister and a department of education that has been hijacked by idealogues.
      Classroom teachers should have been listened to on this issue but instead millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted on a system that anybody could see was doomed to fail.

  2. The Curriculum framework, progress maps, outcome statements represent millions of dollars wasted in pursuit of an ideal that everyone with half a brain knew would never work. The best education systems in the world (the countries that have high literacy and numeracy levels in their students) all use a syllabus based approach. OBE is nothing but a waste of time and money.

  3. All true, the National curriculum isn't a whole lot better but at least the lunacy of levelling is gone.

  4. Australian curriculum has a similar flaw to OBE in that assessment standards are not defined, yet the rollout continues. This was the single biggest issue with OBE (to my mind) and remains the biggest risk in Australian Curriculum rollout. I wish someone would look at the NCOS Math rollout and how Assessment has been handled with that, underpinned with the rule of thumb of complex questions 25%, simple 75%. At least that allowed differentiation between students and fair grading and setting of assessments.


Hi, thanks for leaving a comment.. it's good to hear what people think!