Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Outcomes-Based Education: As I see it


I was tasked by the dean and department chair to be a "champion" for outcomes-based education (OBE). The main motivation for this is that OBE may be used in the accreditaion of engineering programs in the Philippines following the accreditation practice (ABET) in the US.  But how can I be a champion when I don't have any idea about OBE. I attended a series of seminars conducted by DLSU educators but somehow it was difficult to comprehend the topics because the seminars combine UBD, OBE, Transformative Learning, Student-Centered Learning, etc. So I have to do my own readings of scholarly papers on OBE by experts like Spady, Biggs, Rogers and Feldman especially those related to ABET and engineering . After reading these papers and reflecting on them, I came up with a diagram (shown above) of  "the OBE Framework" as I understand it. Here are some of my thoughts about OBE.
  • OBE is a “student-centered learning philosophy that focuses on empirically measuring student performance, which are called outcomes.”
  • Outcomes are clear learning results (knowledge, skills, values, behavior) that learners have to demonstrate at the end of significant learning experiences.
  • Outcomes follow a hierarchy: (a)University level: the mission and vision defines the expected graduate attributes, (b) Program level: Program educational objectives (PEO) describe what graduates are expected to attain within three to five years after graduation, (c) Program level: Student outcomes describe what students know and can do after graduation, (d) Course level: Learning outcomes describe what the students know and can demonstrate at the end of the course.
  • Defining the outcomes is the key in curriculum and course design and delivery. The teaching methods, leanring activities, topics and assessment tools must be aligned with the outcomes.
  • At the end of the course or program, an assessment must be done to determine whether the outcomes were achieved or not. The purpose of asssessment is to provide a continuous process of planning, measuring, analyzing results, and using the results to make informed decisions that, preferably, lead to improvements.
Now that OBE has started to be come a framework in the teaching-learning process in the university, how will this affect me and my colleagues? I have been in the academe for more than 20 years (five years at UP and 17 years at DLSU). When I reflected on the OBE paradigm and my present teaching practice, I can see that I need to make a few adjustments:
  • I must explain to the students at the start of the term that they should address the learning outcomes in all their learning activities - readings assignements, exams, etc.
  • I must always refer to the syllabus and make sure that my teaching-learning activities and assessments (exams, assignments, etc) are aligned with the learning outcomes.
  • I must use various learning activities to develop the students' interest in the classroom. Available technology (youtube, internet, etc.) must be explored.
  • I must explore creative ways of delivering course content. I should  deliver only the most important content in lectures and the other related content through other means (e.g. internet).
  • I must regularly assess on whether the learning outcomes are being achieved through seatworks, recitation and homeworks. These assessments need not be part of the final grade but must be used to improve the teaching-learning process during the term. If I observe some weakness in a specific topic, then I need to make adjustments on that topic.
  • I must design an assigment on how I can assess the "skills, knowledge, behavior" of students related to the course and relate to real world tasks to achieve "transformational" outcomes.
Moving from traditional methods to outcomes-based takes time. As a start, an OBE syllabus must be designed by the faculty. Then gradually the faculty should change his/her teaching practices (e.g. combine various activities in lectures) and eventually teaching based on OBE becomes natural. This I hope to achieve.