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OBE or Outcome Based Education

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The word outcomes suggests a relationship with outcomes-based education also known as  and Common Core Education, a philosophy expounded primarily by Spady. Spady (1994) has made the point that outcomes-based education also known as and Common Core Education is not only about curriculum change. It is about changing the nature of how the education system works – the guiding vision, a set of principles and guidelines that frame the education and training activities that take place within a system. If one accepts that outcomes-based education also known as and Common Core Education is about systemic change, then there is likely to be a dimension that challenges current practices of curriculum development and delivery. However the point needs to be emphasised: outcomes-based education also known as and Common Core Education is primarily about systemic change and not curriculum change. The NQF then in its commitment to a system of education and training that is organised around the notion of learning outcomes, is about systemic change.

Also see: Assessors Course – based on Outcome Based Education

Spady also states that outcomes-based education also known as and Common Core Education is about a consistent, focussed, systematic, creative implementation of 4 principles:

  • A clarity of focus on the learning outcomesthat ultimately students need to demonstrate; Spady calls these complex role performance abilities and the corresponding South African conception could possibly be the critical cross-field education and training outcomes. Spady’s mapping of SAQA’s critical cross-field outcomes to his complex role performance abilities is attached as Appendix A.
  • The design-down / build-back approachto building the curriculum; the curriculum design starts with the abilities, skills, knowledge, attitudes that one ultimately wants students to demonstrate and ensures that the assessment is focussed on what the learner has achieved in relation to these learning outcomes rather than focussed on what was presented in the course of delivery.
  • High expectations; the expectation must be that learners are able to achieve these outcomes and therefore it is necessary for those who work in the system to behave and structure what they do in working with learners, in such a way that they are enabled to achieve these outcomes;
  • Expanded opportunity; there is a necessity to move beyond the rigid blocks we have created around education e.g. blocks of time and the traditional organisation of learning institutions. (Spady: 1999)

In the NSB regulations, outcomes are defined as the contextually demonstrated end products of the learning process. Hence in the NQF paradigm, the successful planning and delivery of a learning programme is only possible when the desired endpoint or endpoints are clear i.e. the desired learning outcomes. There are choices to be made within the learning programme design and development in respect of methodology, assessment, technological resources to be used etc. Within an outcomes-based system, these choices need to be governed by the extent to which a particular decision contributes ultimately to the achievement of the desired learning outcomes, be they specific or critical outcomes.

Also see: Assessors Course – based on Outcome Based Education

One could argue that any education and training system exists on a number of levels and it would be appropriate at this stage to distinguish three them.

  1. The principles governing the system organisation i.e. the value drivers in a system;
  2. The principles of pedagogy or the educational philosophy that drives learning programme design, delivery and assessment;
  3. Specific learning programme delivery or implementation – pedagogy in the classroom.

Some would argue that (2) should precede (1). In the South African context however, in 1994 the democratic government faced substantial problems in education and training at the systemic level. These problems were so deep-rooted and wide-spread in the system from schooling through to higher education and training that they impacted negatively on actual teaching practice and student learning. Hence in the South African scenario, the most pressing need for reform was at the systemic level. This is a pre-requisite for deeper engagement with pedagogy and teaching practices. Hence in order to address the fundamental problems in our system of relevance, integration and coherence, access, articulation, progression and portability, credibility and legitimacy, in a transparent way for all users of the system, the decision was taken to establish a qualifications framework i.e. a set of principles and guidelines by which records of learner achievement are registered to enable recognition of acquired skills and knowledge; the records reflect the required outcomes of the learning process. Hence at the systems organisational level, the NQF determines that a system organised around the notion of learning outcomes will drive education and training in South Africa.

In Summary:

The Four Basic Principles of OBE

  1. a) Clarity of focus about outcomes1
  • Always have the significant, culminating exit outcomes as the focus.
  • Let the students know what they are aiming for.
  1. b) Designing backwards
  • Design curriculum backward by using the major outcomes as the focus and linking all planning, teaching and assessment decisions directly to these outcomes.
  1. c) Consistent, high expectations of success
  • Set the expectation that OBE is for ALL learners.
  • Expect students to succeed by providing them encouragement to engage deeply with the issues they are learning and to achieve the high challenging standard set (Spady, 1994b).
  1. d) Expanded opportunity
  • Develop curriculum to give scope to every learner to learn in his/her own pace.
  • Cater for individual needs and differences, for example, expansion of available time and resources so that all students succeed in reaching the exit outcomes.

Also see: Assessors Course – based on Outcome Based Education