Outcomes-Based Teaching & Learning

cartoon about misaligned assessments & outcomes

Would you build a house without a blueprint? Probably not. Would you develop a course without a plan? Maybe.

However, obviously having a plan makes things easier. And just like having blueprints for a house, having an idea of what you want the learning outcome to be is a good place to start. In curriculum development, the intended outcomes (your blueprint) reflect what you want your students to be able to do after taking your course or program.

This approach to curriculum design is called Outcomes-Based Teaching and Learning. With this approach, educators are tasked with thinking carefully about what skills they want their students to acquire, and the ways that their students will be asked to demonstrate that they have acquired those skills. By outlining expectations for learning right from the beginning, educators can easily plan the teaching and learning activities they are going to use that align with those learning outcomes. Ideally, this will ensure that students are given multiple opportunities to practice these skills before being evaluated on how well they have achieved them.

Do you want your students to be able to build a coherent evidence-based argument? Perhaps an argumentative research paper is a good way to assess whether they’ve achieved that outcome. During class, using lectures to model how to build arguments in your discipline, having students engage in argument analysis to identify evidence that supports a claim, and having students discuss and evaluate evidence used to support different positions are all activities that can help prepare students to write that argumentative research paper.

constructive alignment diagram

Post-secondary institutions across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia have embraced outcomes-based teaching and learning for designing curriculum. This approach constitutes a significant paradigm shift away from content-based planning, and many faculty do not (yet!) take this approach in designing their courses. This may be because although the approach is intuitive, it is not at all obvious. However, faculty who are introduced to the idea often never look at course or program planning the same way again. It would feel like building a house without a blueprint.

If you’re intrigued (we hope!), Langara has a number of faculty workshops, digital and print resources, and friendly curriculum consultants who love talking about all things teaching and learning to help you learn more.