Designing Learning Outcomes for EC1102 – Economic Accounting and Measurement Dr Noel Woods Centre for Policy Studies, UCC. Background
– Economic Accounting and Measurement
Dr Noel Woods Centre for Policy Studies, UCC.
Students choosing economics in year one of the Bachelors of Art (BA1) in National University of Ireland, Cork must study 15 credits of Economics. Students must undertake EC1101 – Principles of Economics (10 credits) and EC1102 – Economic Accounting and Measurement (5 Credits). Whilst EC1101 concentrates on Microeconomic and Macroeconomic Principles in Economics, EC1102 has a more practical focus, deliberating in accounting and measurement issues in economics, largely supporting the theories developed in EC1101. EC1102 consists of 24 lectures of one-hour duration and 10 tutorials. This paper focuses on developing learning outcomes for EC1102.
In the design, delivery, and presentation of EC1102 to approximately 200 first year students I am delegated by the Department of Economics to ensure that economics, as presented in Year 1, is sold in way that’s attractive, understandable, and interesting to students, in order to ensure that a maximum number choose economics in Year 2. One must bear in mind that with Year 1 modules within the BA, students can drop two subjects from their initial four at the end of Year 1, so competition for students continues throughout the year. As Departments within UCC are funded based on Full-Time Teaching Equivalents (FTE’s) an awareness competition for students is important consideration in the delivery of the course.
I have taught EC1102 for the past seven years, inheriting the course content from a previous lecturer. Since then I have modified the course content substantially, deleting outdated material, and adding newer, and what I considered, more relevant subject matter. The material content of EC1102 provides the basis for more focused economic modules in Years 2 and 3.
Updating and modifying course material is part of an ongoing reflective process. Many of the modifications were in response to student suggestions. However, the most significant influence on the development of the course in the past year has resulted from my exposure to new ideas and methods of improving teaching by enhancing learning following my participation in the Postgraduate Certificate and Diploma Courses in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in UCC.
What are Learning Outcomes
Bloom’s taxonomy of learning outcomes in 1956 is generally regarded as the major work in this field of inquiry. Bloom’s identified six levels of the cognitive domain of learning. The levels of learning were arranged hierarchically from the lowest level which he termed factual knowledge to increasingly more difficult cognitive tasks, through comprehension, application, to analysis and synthesis up to the more complex learning, evaluation of information.
Learning outcomes are statements that specify what learners will know or be able to do as a result of a learning activity (Allan, 1996). The learning outcome is a statement of what the learner is expected to know, understand, and be able to do at the end of the period of learning (Blooms Taxonomy, 1956). Learning outcomes focus on learning rather than on teaching and are “not about what the teacher can provide but what the learner can demonstrate”… Donnelly and Fitzmaurice (2005).
Outcomes are usually expressed as knowledge, skills, or attitudes (Hoyt and Lee, 2002). Learning outcomes provide direction in the planning of a learning activity. They focus on learner's behaviour that is to be changed serving as a guideline for content, instruction, and evaluation.
The learning outcomes approach involves rethinking the curriculum in terms of both the mode of instruction and the type of assessment. This approach helps teachers/lectures more precisely to tell students what is expected of them and to help students to learn more effectively. The learner knows where they stand and the curriculum is made more open to them. Learning outcomes should make it clear what students can hope to gain from following a particular course or lecture.
The learning outcomes approach should help the educationalist to design their materials more effectively by acting as a template for them. Matching the intended outcome to the teaching strategy should assist with the selection of the appropriate teaching strategy, for example lecture, seminar, student self-paced, or laboratory class. Learning outcomes should assist in setting examinations based on the materials delivered and ensure that appropriate assessment strategies are employed.
It is important to make the teaching and learning process more explicit and transparent to both teacher and students alike, and more recently to other benefactors of higher education (Gaymer, 1997). The earliest discussions on making teaching and learning more explicit centred on the development of learning objectives (D’Andrea, 1996). Defining learning objectives requires teachers to make conscious choices about a wide range of teaching and learning considerations by defining what it is the teacher wants the student to learn. With the learning objectives approach the focus is on the inputs to the learning experience and can be described as teacher-centred.
The systematic approach to course/module planning is most closely linked to the outcomes approach to teaching and learning (D’Andrea, 1996). Specification of learning outcomes is the first step in the systematic approach. Figure 1 illustrates each of the component parts of a systematic approach to course/module design where the emphasis is clearly on the outcomes to be achieved by the student and not on the content to be imparted. The integral part of this approach is the interrelationship of the various steps where each part links to and informs the others in an iterative fashion.
Figure 1: Systematic Approach and Outcomes Based Planning
Adapted from: J.R. Davis, Teaching Strategies for the College Classroom, 1976.
Teaching begins with a vision of the possible or an experience of the problematic (Shulman). Vision leads to planning, the careful design of the instructional program. The introduction of the learning outcomes approach will have a significant positive impact in delivering on my teaching objectives. The move from objectives to outcomes allows for a greater degree of flexibility about what will be learned and for the student to have a greater degree of responsibility for it. The learning experience may result in more unpredictable learning outcomes. As the outcomes are expressed clearly within the context of the module EC1102, students should be better able to focus on what they need to know and be able to do and on the criteria by which they will be assessed.