Outcomes-Based Education (OBE)


The third edition of Teaching for Quality Learning at University written by John Biggs and Catherine Tang and published in 2007, presented the general trends in education just one year prior to the first connectivist MOOC and the consequent outburst of xMOOCs and OERs. The authors describe the changes in teaching and learning at that time:

  • student fees covered almost 30% of university funding pressuring the schools for high quality and competitiveness
  • having paid for the course gave students the sense that they were entitled to one
  • range of ability between students in the same class had started to differ as former school leavers were now in higher education
  • many universities started funding staff development to keep up with increased teaching responsibilities.

The authors argue in favor of constructive alignment, thus immersing students in a teaching environment that requires them to use learning activities that are likely to lead to the intended outcomes.

Apparently, the authors claim that the increase in student numbers along with their need for mobility made credit transfers a reality and thus the outcomes of education became standardized. But the net effect of credit transfers homogenized offerings from very different universities in quality. And that was when Graduate Attributes were introduced: generic or embedded and when constructive alignment, became OBE:

Outcomes-based education (OBE) has been used in quite different ways:
for enhancing teaching and learning, and for furthering a managerial

OBE VERSION 01_Spady 1994, instead of teaching he set targets for each student, the system was picked up by some Australian educational departments but they designed cross-disciplinary targets that were impossible to achieve.

OBE VERSION 02_Accountability Movement USA, 2005, outcomes at institutional level based on Ewell’s template (1984), but it proved difficult for teachers to tell between institution and course outcomes and some have mistakenly exaggerated their requirements in their course designs.

OBE VERSION 03_OBTL (outcomes-based teaching and learning), Dearing Report 1997, where outcomes are defined specifically to enhance teaching and assessment. There should be outcome statements about what and how well students are able to do sth after teaching, these must be written in a  way that increases the likelihood of students to achieve the goals and finally, an assessment is needed for how well these outcomes have been achieved.

I will be back to this for more.



Biggs, J., Tang, K., 2007, Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press, McGraw-Hill House: Berkshire.

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