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Outcomes Based Education (OBE)

Jean Walker

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Anyone want to discuss OBE - big topic here in Australia as it has now been adopted by all states in one form or another and is causing some interesting debate. See website from Western Australia: www.platowa.com

Has it failed already in some places? Does it work? Where has it worked? Is it better than what we had? If so, why? Any thought most welcome.

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No takers? Has no one worked in such a system? It appears to have failed in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, New Zealand and South Africa, yet other places forge ahead with it. Why is it better or worse than syllabus based education?

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No takers? Has no one worked in such a system? It appears to have failed in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, New Zealand and South Africa, yet other places forge ahead with it. Why is it better or worse than syllabus based education?

Sorry Jean I for one have never heard of it!

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Here's one link to an explanation. I'll find a couple more. It is basically a system which specifies the outcomes for each learning area in a range of "levels" which roughly cover the Grade or Year . In our system there are 5 levels which equate to K-10. so five levels for 12 grades (we have Prep after Kinder). Theoretically students are not supposed to move on to a higher level until they have mastered the previous one.

It generally does not mandate any particular content or syllabuses, but schools are supposed to "map the curriculum backwards from the standards".

It was very big in some parts of the US from the late 90s, spread to New Zealand and Sth Africa, and has now hit Australia in a big way.

More links in next post.

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If you do a bit of Googling about Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Africa and New Zealand plus OBE, you will find that in some places it has come and gone and seen as a failure, while other places are taking it on as the best thing since education began.

I suspect that the move towards "personalised learning" in the UK may be OBE under a new guise as our gurus here have recently been on a mission to Britain to "sell" it over there, so I think you'll hear about it before long.

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Between 16-29 November 1998, Dr. William Spady, the proclaimed Father of OBE visited South Africa to spread the word on his paradigm shifting thoughts on education.

In a brief report compiled on his visit Dr Spady is is described as the President of Breakthrough Learning Systems and "an internationally recognized authority on Outcomes Based Education. organizational change, transformational leadership development and strategic planning."

The report further goes on to say that in "the past 25 years he has spearheaded major efforts throughout North America and abroad on improving staff and student performance and systematically changing educational sysyems.Today he is also applying those same tools to improving leadership amd organizational effectiveness in business and the public sector."

The bibliography attached to the report cites the following as"pioneering work on future-driven strategic planning and alignment, systemic change, instuctional design and leadership development."

Outcome Based Education: Critical Issues and Answers(1994)

Paradigm Lost: Reclaiming America's Educational Future (1998)

Total Leaders: Applying The Best Future Focussed Change Strategies To Education(1998)

It is claimed in the bibliography that a book he co-authored "Information Age Learning" is a "ground breaking document that defines and describes the operating essentials and indicators of "Information Age Learning Communities".

It further claims that the book is "setting standards for educational change efforts in both North America and South Africa".

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Two interesting articles from our local paper. We are in the middle of a huge media/DoE/parental contoversy here about education

Young pollies raising ELS



FIFTY of Tasmania's most talented students yesterday gave the Education Department's new Essential Learnings curriculum a big thumbs down.

Delegates at Youth Parliament voted almost unanimously to abolish Essential Learnings and bring back the curriculum it replaced.

The event, held at Parliament House, gives some of Tasmania's brightest students the chance to debate and discuss the issues that are most important to them.

Hutchins School student Tom Melick sponsored the Youth Parliament Bill to remove Essential Learnings because he was not enjoying the new curriculum.

Mr Melick, 16, of Taroona, said his peers groaned when asked to "engage in expert group activity" in the classroom.

"Everyone groans `Oh no, it's ELS'," he said.

"What exactly is a key element outcome? It's all very confusing."

Taroona High student Niall Maurici, 15, of Oyster Cove, said he proposed the Bill because he did not understand ELS.

"If we don't understand it, I don't see the point of having it," he said.

Tassie top of the class

: People will move here for our schools, says professor


PARENTS should not lose faith in the new Essential Learnings curriculum, says the state's top education academic.University of Tasmania Professor and Dean of Education Rosalyn Arnold says that in a few years, Tasmania will be renowned for its education system.And the controversial new curriculum will make it worth relocating to Tasmania for its public education system, she said.Language experts blasted the Education Department this week for using convoluted jargon to explain Essential Learnings to parents.Parents branded the language used on Education Department information sheets as "confusing", "ridiculous" and "just crazy".But Professor Arnold says parents must not lose faith in the new curriculum."I think it's very clear the Education Department recognises it has some work to do and I would agree with that," she said."It would be a great shame if people were to lose confidence in the new curriculum because of the language."Essential Learnings is based on the best theories of learning and thinking development available. Its foundations are very sound."Professor Arnold said students who found the new curriculum objectionable would come to enjoy Essential Learnings.On Thursday, 50 of the state's brightest students gave it the thumbs down.Delegates at the Youth Parliament voted almost unanimously to remove Essential Learnings and bring back the old curriculum.Professor Arnold said a possible explanation for students' lack of enthusiasm for Essential Learnings was its intellectually challenging nature."I say that because they are being asked to think about what they're learning, to engage with each other, to develop understanding, not just repeat memorised information," she said.Acting Education Minister Lara Giddings said: "We accept that more work needs to be done in the way we inform parents, schools and the wider community about the curriculum."Despite the recent debate over language, the fact remains that Tasmania has been recognised nationally and internationally for developing a curriculum at the cutting edge of education."Ms Giddings said the education curriculum continued to place a strong emphasis on core subjects."If Tasmanian children are to succeed we need them to be able to think independently with an emphasis on ideas and creativity. Ultimately, this is what the Essential Learnings is all about," she said.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm bringing this forward again to ask if there are any American teachers out there who have had experience of Outcomes Based Education and who have any opinions either for or against. I gather it was big and contraversial there in some states in the late 90s?

It is currently a huge topic in Australia with national newspapers weighing in with front page articles as it is being steadily introduced into every state with promises of magnificent results on children's critical thinking skills, problem solving capacities etc

It was also tried in New Zealand and South Africa with very mixed results from what I can gather.

If you want a taste of what is going on in Western Australia where teachers have set up their own website to oppose it go to:


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