What Is Outcome-Based Learning?
Shaan was fresh out of engineering college, ready to get cracking at his first IT job. However, it didn’t take…
April 16, 2021 | 6 mins read
Shaan was fresh out of engineering college, ready to get cracking at his first IT job. However, it didn’t take long for him to start struggling. When it came to communication, managing his time and even some of the technical skills he thought he had, he felt he was falling behind. Over the next few months, the slump worsened and he grew more and more frustrated.
He was afraid to admit he was struggling and was on the verge of quitting, but luckily Shaan’s manager recognized the issues he was facing. She then recommended his name for a professional skills development program run by the organization for new recruits. Within three months, Shaan had learned some key tactics and strategies that allowed him to handle his commitments better and this gave him the confidence he needed to power through.
Shaan’s is just one example of how rooted educational techniques can sometimes cause us to come up short in the workplace. That’s why many organizations offer on-the-job professional skill enhancement that leans on principles of outcome-based education to bridge these gaps.
Read on to discover the meaning of outcome-based education and how you can incorporate a learning system to train new employees on the job.
The meaning of outcome-based education is that desired outcomes form the basis for the entire learning system. An outcome-based curriculum is designed with the outcomes in mind right at its conception. The course content and assessments are developed based on the outcome itself.
In 1988, the academic and educational psychologist William G. Spady pioneered the concept of outcome-based education or OBE as it’s also called.
The outcome-based education model is used around the world in traditional educational settings and in continuing education. The outcome-centered approach replaces the time-bound curriculum of traditional learning. For instance, a Grade 2 student learns fractions for a set amount of time over a semester and then gets assessed on this regardless of whether they’ve mastered that concept. This puts the responsibility to learn on the student. In an outcome-based approach, educators will give the student the opportunity to learn, perhaps even in several different ways, before the assessment takes place. The student must show they have learned the skill before they can move on.
Let’s take a closer look at the key concepts behind outcome-based learning.
The meaning of outcome-based education lies in its core principles.
For education to be effective, it must deliver the outcomes learners need in order to succeed. Before teaching can begin, these outcomes need to be carefully identified. What do students need to learn? Why do they need to learn it? We know this as the ‘design down’ approach.
For example, if new employees are being trained on time management techniques, desired outcomes might include:
The larger exit outcomes—what students should achieve by the end of the course—can be measured to show whether they’ve met the larger goal of the training. Can the employee in fact manage their time better?
The needs of the learners come first in all considerations. So institutes won’t design the curriculum around the expertise of its faculty; they will hire the faculty best able to deliver its curriculum. The material is taught so learners can understand, and they can change it if needed.
Students must achieve the predefined outcomes. They must try until they’ve mastered it. In this way, it’ll prepare them for the demands of what awaits them—as long as the outcomes have been designed correctly.
This also means that grading on a curve where student performance is relative to the scores of their classmates is not acceptable as per an outcome-based system. They must perform to an objective standard regardless of how their peers fare.
Assessments must measure learning outcomes. They can give students alternative methods of demonstrating their learning if one method doesn’t work. While critics confuse OBE education with standardized testing, this is not the intention behind it. There’s room for creative and dynamic assessments that allow students to show their skill and understanding.
The impact of outcome-based education depends on how these elements are planned by educators. If outcomes are poorly defined, the course of learning will suffer.
Whether OBE education is suitable for traditional education setups, in an organizational setting with adult on-the-job learners, the outcome-based approach has obvious benefits. Let’s look at a few of these.
Both students and educators are aware of the desired outcomes right from the beginning, so they know what they’re working towards. When dealing with adult learners, this can be a very attractive quality. Employees want to know how the training will benefit them.
Working toward a goal can be very motivating. Having a bar set in advance keeps learners and educators on track. When assessments too are properly designed and conducted, outcome-based education can be fulfilling. Learners, who may be in training because of a need gap identified on the job, know that they’ll improve performance at the end of it and put in the work to succeed.
There can be less theoretical talk and more action in outcome-based training. If a training upskills employees, then they’ll need to show they have learned the skills at the end of the assessment. The decision-makers gear the curriculum toward this.
It’s up to the ingenuity of the educator to impart the content so all students can absorb and understand it. Assessments need not be rigid—they should provide every opportunity for students to show their mastery. We know this as ‘expanded opportunity’—students get every chance to succeed.
With modern approaches to organizational training, outcome-based education really shines. Simple, focused course design that allows learners to absorb information effectively also helps organizations achieve their own goals efficiently.
With a subject as broad as education, there’ll be opponents of every system. It isn’t possible for everyone to agree on the best approach, nor is the same approach appropriate in all situations. Outcome-based learning too has faced its share of resistance over the years.
Here are a few criticisms to consider:
Some believe we can’t measure all learning in terms of outcomes. In an outcome-based system, constant progress is the purpose. For young learners, educators and parents might prefer a more exploratory approach. A rigid outcome-based approach for the arts and humanities can also be a challenge.
All learners are expected to reach the same level with no exceptions. While this keeps the pressure on the educators to ensure all students excel, it can hurt those with a different learning style or those with learning challenges. Some educators also believe that measuring student progress against their own prior performance is an effective and motivational strategy, which outcome-based education does not provide.
While flexibility is a strength of the outcome-based system, it can be a failing as well. The OBE education approach is merely a set of guidelines that isn’t prescriptive. It’s up to the local authority—be it school, institute or board—to decide what the outcomes are and what the mode of assessment should be. If the program is poorly designed, with improperly defined outcomes and assessment strategy, the result can be a bad learning experience.
In India, many technical institutes of higher learning have embraced outcome-based education. Overall, even at the school level, elements of an outcome-based learning approach have filtered down and have been integrated to make learning more impactful and measurable.
While academics may differ in their approach to designing curricula, it’s certain that arriving on the job can be a stressful experience for entry-level employees who lack the skills to hit the ground running. That’s where Harappa’s Young Talent Bootcamp can help. It begins with a focus on building self-awareness about any skill gaps, and the importance of being able to learn on the job.
Then, the program moves onto specifics such as creating a good first impression, a strong work ethic, working smart, collaboration and effective communication.
Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics such as Must-Have Skills For Leadership, The Evolution Of Hero’s Journey, Adult Learning Principles, The Guide to Distance Learning & Who is a Project Manager that will help organizations tap into their employee’s potential.