Outcome Based Education: A necessary path to accreditation
Prof. N J. Rao
Learning occurred when we can do something that we were not able to do earlier. Outcomes of Learning or ‘learning outcomes’ are what the student should be able to do at the end of a learning experience. Learning experiences in formal higher education programs are learning units, which can be a few hours of self/classroom learning activity, a one-semester course, or a formal program of two to four years duration. William Spady introduced the term Outcome-Based Education (OBE) in the early 90s to shift the focus from what is taught to what is learned. OBE approaches education by making decisions about the curriculum and instruction that are driven by the exit learning outcomes that the students should display at the end of a program or a course. OBE gives priority to ends, purposes, learning, accomplishments, and results.
OBE merely asks the teacher to communicate at the beginning of the semester what students are expected to be able to do at the end of the semester (course outcomes) rather than the mere list of topics. It has been established through systematic research and field studies, communicating the course outcomes to students at the beginning of the semester makes a significant difference to the performance of students. Outcome-based education does not interfere with the academic freedom of the teacher. It merely asks the teacher to follow a process in offering a course. The process consists of writing course outcomes (what the students should be able to do), designing assessment (how to measure the ability of students to do what they are expected to do) and instruction (how the teacher proposes to facilitate the students to acquire the ability to do what they are supposed to do). The teacher makes all the decisions in all the three steps of the process. The accreditation agencies NBA and NAAC require that all institutions write the outcomes, communicate them to stakeholders, particularly to students, and determine the level of attainment of these outcomes.
Outcomes serve as the basis for meaningful interaction among concerned stakeholders. An outcome can also be called a ‘learning product’ since the outcome is the product of learning. Therefore, the “product defines the process” in OBE. It is this results-oriented thinking and is the opposite of input-based education, where the emphasis is on the educational process and we are happy to accept whatever is the result.
The outcomes at the end of a formal program are identified by the Institution and/or the concerned Accreditation agency. The outcomes at the end of a course/activity in a program are identified by the concerned Board of Studies. The course outcomes (COs) are best written by following a structure identified in the framework of Revised Bloom’s taxonomy or Revised Bloom-Vincenti taxonomy in case of engineering courses. The COs should be written to address some of the program level outcomes to facilitate computing the attainment of program-level outcomes which is also a requirement of accreditation.
Write good course outcomes, believe them, conduct instruction to facilitate your students to attain the outcomes, and plan and conduct your assessment in alignment with the outcomes.