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Why Learning Outcomes Need More Focus

Now that the focus has shifted from technique to outcome in the learning industry, it is time to put even more focus on the outcomes in order to affect a better result. The shift from technique to outcome was a long time coming and it places more emphasis on the ends rather than the means. If you’re unfamiliar with the functioning of an outcome-based learning program, here are the main factors involved:

  • The outcome is what you wish to achieve in the end; the change that is affected, the lesson that is learned.
  • The output is what you do to bring about the outcome.
  • Targets indicate the speed the outcome will be reached.
  • Indicators allow you to monitor the change that is happening and eventually prove that the outcome was achieved.
  • Inputs are the resources available to you in order to enable the outcome.

So in this outcome-based system, a good example would be obtaining a university degree. Most targets for college graduates are two to four years. Inputs (as in the input of the teacher) would be the courses that you take and indicators would be your finals, tests and grades. The output would be attending the classes (as in the output of the learner). The eventual outcome would be your reward for having obtained the predefined learning goals, in this case the diploma.

But here’s where we lose a bit of focus.

Are Colleges Really the Prime Indicator of Outcomes?

The problem starts to arise when we take a closer look at what a diploma means. Does it simply mean that you attended college, showed up at enough classes and were sufficient enough to pass? Actually, yes. If we are just looking at diplomas alone, the graduation rate shows nothing more than the bare minimum outcome, or in this case, having shown up and passed at least enough classes.

But does that really indicate that the student who graduated actually learned anything? Actually, no, it doesn’t. It simply means they found some way to get by at the least. This isn’t to say that nobody is learning in college nor is it to imply that any portion of college students aren’t doing the most that they can with their education, it’s simply to point out the lack of focus on learning outcomes.

A better outcome that is based more on learning and the ability to achieve desired standards is the typical GPA system we give. Cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude all denote that not only was the student able to graduate, but they were able to do so with consistently good or excellent grades (depending on their title) over an extended target period (four years).

Putting Focus on the Outcomes in Learning

As you can see, this is a far better representation of what a student is capable of in terms of learning, application and execution. Of course, it’s by no means 100% correct, but it does illustrate the point that the more focused learning outcomes are, the better we are able to determine whether or not the inputs, targets and indicators are effective.

What this means for the education industry as a whole is potentially ground breaking. By simply putting more emphasis and focus on the outcomes, we can understand how effective our inputs are. This allows us to retool classes to affect better learning outcomes, effectively increasing the knowledge of the learners. This also gives teachers the tools they need to monitor their own indicators (i.e. how effective their teaching style is).

And while the whole system can’t be revamped and fixed with just this one simple suggestion, it certainly is a step in the right direction. Bringing about more focus on learning outcomes vastly improves every aspect of the learning process. We are talking, of course, about a broken learning process that is widely misrepresented as one of the best.

Kids aren’t Failing School—Colleges and Schools are Failing the Kids

Of course, the faulty thought that our education system is somehow superior to everyone else’s is being brought to light by new testing that shows America and most of the big superpowers and European countries lagging far behind in school testing. The solution to this may not be simple, but there needs to be a solution for one to take place.

Learning outcomes provides a quick way to effectively screen what is going wrong with the education process. Once identified, these problems can be fixed.

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