The ABC's of OBE
Outcome-Based Education is "a still evolving movement" which
designs outcomes first and then a curriculum to reach the outcomes. Outcomes
are important goals, not curriculum. "You start with where you want
to end up." Outcomes are stated a "culminating demonstrations"
or "authentic performances of learning that really matters."
The wrapping on the package sounds pretty good--especially to reform-mind
administrators, board members, and citizens who are sucked into accepting
any new reform to present to the populous, promising to better education.
The wrapping includes such ideas as: concern with the "total student",
want higher order competency and students must spend most of their time
on "complex role performances or authentic demonstrations (real life
problems, projects), all students can and must learn, and success for all
OBE is pretty much the old "mastery learning" of Bloom and
Carroll, but William Spady "pleaded not to use it in the network's
new name because 'mastery' had already been destroyed through poor implementation."
Spady is a sociologist, not an educator.
OBE is the newest radical swing of the educational pendulum.
William Spady and Kit Marshall have collaborated in helping schools
define and implement OBE in a series of stages that lead from traditional
programs to transitional and, eventually, transformational models (outcome
driven, integrated, collaborative), as summarized below:
Envisioned Outcome: academically competent students
Exit Outcomes Derived From: academic subject orientation
Intended Curriculum Result: subject structure maintained
Use of Outcomes: focus and align existing programs
Measures/Indicators: test results and papers
Envisioned Outcome: broadly competent persons competencies
Exit Outcomes Derived From: school/future oriented generic
Intended Curriculum Result: subject structure integrated
Use of Outcomes: incorporate across program processes
Measures/Indicators: problems and observable/measurable
Envisioned Outcome: competent future citizens
Exit Outcomes Derived From: future context challenges/opportunities
Intended Curriculum Result: subject structure redefined
Use of Outcomes: fundamentally restructure programs
Measures/Indicators: projects, products, and performances
There are several negative dangers of OBE to consider.
* Many teachers see OBE as just another "fad" philosophy
change they are being forced to implement. Some don't really understand
* There is a lot of double speak--vague language, verbal cover-up,
hard to define terminology.
* "It is an organized abandonment of our old system" without
major models of success.
* There is a move towards state, national, and even international outcomes,
which means a loss of local control.
* All important "outcomes" (goals) are never given. These
are left to each school district to develop. However, most are developed
by OBE trained leaders, who usually copy other districts' or (Spady's)
outcomes. Compare your district's outcomes with other OBE districts.
* There is a major change in the concept of the teacher. Students and
others in the community can and will become teachers. Spady says, "You
teachers won't be content experts but context experts."
* Moving from being expert teacher-directed to student self-directed,
students lose much of the teachers expertise, especially with the move
away from textbooks.
* There is a move away from textbooks and exams. There is a move away
deadlines on learning.
* Students who learn faster are often pushed into peer teaching the
slower students to learn the basic outcomes.
* There is a move away from Carnegie credit, subject, grades, competition,
testing and self-contained classrooms. Simply put, the big C's--Content,
Curriculum, Calendar, Context learning, Competition, are all bad "no
* Separate subjects will be learned in integrated life experience performances.
* Since achieving the outcomes is the goal; everyone must succeed.
So in a sense, everyone gets an A. One leader even went so far as to say
that grades kill a kid's self esteem and cause failure for life. Is this
philosophy preparing them for the real world of market competition? OBE
also believes in many ages working together (no grade levels).
* There is a lot of emphasis on social skills. Maybe that's part of
the problem of our schools today--too much emphasis on social skills and
not enough on academics.
* They criticize "time based" style education (certain time
spent on a sub- ject) but act as if they have unlimited time. No! Everyone
has the same to to accomplish their goals. If something new is added (like
long-term demonstrations), then something of importance must be taken out.The
ABC's of OBE...
Parents should be concerned with how administrators and school boards
will overcome public opposition to OBE:
* Allow a small group of people from the community to create outcomes
with advisors; once this is done, they can always say to opponents that
a community committee developed the outcomes, not you.
* Agree not to allow value outcomes in for the time being (they can
easily come later once the program is in place).
* Argue that outcomes include content (yes, they do, but do they have
as much or as well rounded a content as traditional education?).
* Agree strongly that no one has a right to experiment with my kid
(but public schools are doing just this by using OBE).
* There are three phases or levels in which OBE is implemented; if
they can't go all the way with full "transformational" OBE, they
will have to accept the "get the foot in the door" phases only.
How can you determine if your district is using or moving towards OBE?
It is if:
A) You have a mission statement which includes "ALL CHILDREN CAN
B) You have a 3 to 5 year Improvement Plan.
C) An Annual Report is issued at district and building level.
D) You have Site-Based Management. Have your teachers and parents been
empowered by serving on hand-picked committees to develop a mission statement
or a 3 to 5 year improvement plan?
E) You have Cooperative Learning or Peer Tutoring.
F) You have multi-age level grouping.
G) You have replaced letter grades.
H) You have replaced Carnegie Units (specified course requirements
for graduation) with Outcomes that must be achieved or demonstrated?
I) You have Inclusive Education (mainstreaming of Special Education
into the regular classroom).
J) You have an extended school day, year (200 days or more) to year-around
K) You have Thematic Teaching (all classes teach to the same theme
over a certain length of time.
L) You have team teaching.
M) You have removed competition by cooperative learning and group grades.
N) You have eliminated rote memorization of facts and knowledge (content)
and replaced it with what is perceived as realistic and relevant teaching.
O) Your teachers are referred to as facilitators, coaches, or interactive
P) Your teaching staff is continually involved in professional development
to train them in consensus building and collaboration.
Q) If you frequently hear references to Spady, Hornbeck, Sizer, Goodlad,
R) You have been accredited by the North Central Association or another
accreditation program, or are in the process of being accredited.
S) You have Individualized Education Plans (IEP's) or Child Centered
T) You have continual assessment of Growth and Development.
U) You have collaboration and consensus as a goal of all committees.
V) You have portfolios.
W) You stress higher order thinking skills (HOTS) or critical thinking
(focuses on deciding what to believe or do) and the use of Bloom's Taxonomy
( used to inculcate a prescribed set of values).
X) You have partnerships between parents and the school, the community
and the school, business and the school, and have established foundations
to help the school be more innovative.
Y) You have a school nurse, school counselor, school psychologist,
school social worker, or the Student Assistance Program, linking the schools
with all community service agencies with the goal of becoming a "one
stop service provider."
Z) You hear reference to Mastery Learning, Performance Based Education,
Glasser's Reality Therapy, High Performance Learning, Management by Objectives
(MBO), Planning Programming Budgeting Systems (PPBS), Total Quality Management
(TQM), Accelerated Schools, Effective Schools Comer Schools, Johnson City
Schools, Schools for the 21st Century, Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools,
Professional Development Schools, Outcomes Driven Development Model (ODDM),
all of which are Outcomes-Based Education.
"Coupling new language-outcome based education and criterion
referenced testing-with an old proposal, a national examination of students'
achievements, is being put into place as an accountability mechanism. But
"outcome based education" is basically the "behavioral objectives
approach which divided educators sharply thirty years ago. It's a new language,
but an old idea, and not everyone will embrace behaviorism with enthusiasm."
Dr. Doug Christensen, Nebraska Education Commissioner