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Outcomes-based Teaching and Learning : What and How. Part 1 Professor John Biggs. Outcomes-based Education (OBE). There are three main forms of “OBE”. All focus on educational outcomes but each is based on a different philosophy. It’s easy to confuse them.

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outcomes based education obe
Outcomes-based Education (OBE)

There are three main forms of “OBE”. All focus on

educational outcomes but each is based on a different

philosophy. It’s easy to confuse them.

1. Outcome-based Education at school level. Originally

for disadvantaged children, but later used generally e.g. Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) for individualising teaching.

2. Outcomes-based Education. Outcomes at institutional level, used for benchmarking, credit-transfer.

3. Outcomes-based Teaching and Learning (OBTL). Defining learning outcomes at course and subject level,

to enhance teaching and learning.

obe institutional outcomes
OBE: Institutional Outcomes

Most US institutions now have a set of outcomes statements using this ‘taxonomy’:

  • Knowledge Outcomes (two sub-dimensions),
  • Skills Outcomes (two sub-dimensions),
  • Attitude/Value Outcomes (four sub-dimensions),
  • Relationships with Society and with Particular Constituency Outcomes (four sub-dimensions).

This is used to map outcomes across institutions, for the purposes of quality assurance at the institutional level, benchmarking, cross-institutional credit transfer, and for employers and other external stakeholders. Has little directly to do with enhancing teaching and learning

what the ugc said
What the UGC said

“The UGC’s goal in promoting outcome-based approaches is simple and straightforward—improvement and enhancement in student learning and teaching quality.” (Alice Lam, May 06)

OBTL, in other words.

“We think that the curriculum revision under '3 + 3 + 4' will be a good opportunity to weave 'outcomes' into the new curriculum.”

The UGC also plans to provide encouragement in the form of extra funding to promote early adoption.



How well has

the student

has attained

the ILOs


To facilitate

attaining the



What the

student has

to do

Outcomes-based Teaching and Learning (OBTL): Classroom Based



How well

the student

has met the



Engaging the

student in the

verb in the ILO


What the student

has to learn

Implementing OBTL using Constructive Alignment


Outcome-based Teaching and Learning through Constructive Alignment

There are four steps in designing such teaching:

1. describe intended outcomes in the form of standards students are to attain using appropriate learning verbs.

2. create a learning environment likely to bring about the intended outcomes.

3. use assessment tasks enabling you to judge if and how well students’ performances meet the criteria.

4. transform these judgments into standard grading criteria.


Teaching / Learning


Designed to

elicit desired


May be:

Large class activities

Small class activities




as best suits context

Assessment Tasks

Format such that

the target verbs are

elicited and


in context.

Criteria clearly allow

judgement as to the

quality of the



Constructive Alignment

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

expressed as verbs students have to enact


The very best understanding that could be

reasonably expected: verbs such as

hypothesise, apply to “far” domains,

generate, relate to principle, etc.


Highly satisfactory understanding: verbs

such as explain, solve, understand main

ideas, analyze, compare, etc.


Quite satisfactory learning, with under-

standing at a declarative level: verbs such

as elaborate, classify, cover topics a to n,


Understanding at a level that would

warrant a Pass: low level verbs, also

inadequate but salvageable higher level



Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

. Statements of what students are expected to be

able to do as a result of engaging in the learning process (studying a course/programme).

. Expressed from the students' perspective.

. Expressed in the form of action verbs leading to observable and assessable behaviour.

. Related to criteria for assessing student performance.


The Verbs in the ILOs

  • It is useful to express ILOs by using appropriate verbs.
  • Teaching is specifically aimed at activating those verbs.
  • Students should be unable to complete the assessment tasks unless they enact the same verbs that are in the ILOs (criterion-referenced).
  • Generic high level verbs include: reflect, hypothesise, solve unseen complex problems, generate new alternatives. Such verbs might typically be used to define an A or B grade in meeting the ILOs, depending on the course. Low level verbs such as describe, identify, memorize would be more frequent in defining C and D grades.

Distinction between Teaching Objectives and Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

Teaching objective (aims)

What the teacher intends to do.

e.g. Introduce university teachers to outcomes-based teaching and learning

Intended learning outcomes (for the participants)

What the participants are expected to be able to do

having been introduced to OBTL

e.g. 1. Distinguish between outcomes-based education and outcomes-based teaching and learning.

2. Explain how constructive alignment is used to design teaching and assessment methods.

3. Write an ILO for a subject they are currently teaching.


Levels of ILOs

University level

What are the attributes of an ideal graduate of BU?

Course level

What are the intended learning outcomes for students enrolled in the degree course?

Subject level

What are the intended learning outcomes for students taking a particular subject at a particular level within the course?


Subject ILOs

Course ILOs

Subject 1

Subject 2


Course and Subject ILOs

Alignment between the course and subject ILOs

1. Are the ILOs aligned?

2. Do the subject ILOs appropriately address the course ILOs?

3. Are the weightings appropriate?

4. Are there any gaps?


Distinguish the kind of knowledge you want


. Knowing about things

. Knowledge we can declare to someone in

writing or telling

e.g. ‘Distinguish between OBE and OBTL’


. Knowledge we put to work in solving a physics problem, analysing a case study, designing a building, making an argument

e.g. ‘Write an ILO for a subject you are currently teaching’


Procedures in designing Subject ILOs

1. Decide what kind of knowledge is to be taught -

Declarative or functioning.

2.Select the topics to be taught.

3. Decide the levels of understanding the students are expected to achieve for the different topics.

4. Consider if all the ILOs are of equal importance.

5. Ensure a clear understanding and agreement of the ILOs within the teaching team and other relevant parties e.g. External Reviewer.

6. Communicate the ILOs to students.














Explain causes



. . . .




Perform serial skills




Follow simple


The SOLO Taxonomy with

sample verbs indicating levels of understanding




Misses point


one relevant several relevant integrated into generalized to

aspect independent aspects a structure new domain

Prestructural Unistructural Multistructural Relational Extended Abstract


Levels of Understanding / Performance

Some examples:

Unistructural identify, name, state (a principle), select

Multistructural combine, collate, describe, extract, give an account of, list, present, report on

Relational analyze, apply, argue, compare/contrast, criticize, discuss, explain, justify, organize, relate

Extended abstract create, formulate, generate, hypothesize,

reflect, theorize

* Some of the lower levels could be subsumed into the higher levels. E.g. To apply appropriate communicative strategies in reading and writing to different tasks will subsume the lower level ILOs such as identify, name and select.


Some vague ILO verbs


Become aware of

Familiarise with


Learn about


How do these verbs manifest themselves in terms of change of behaviour or standards of / performance?


A Sample Set of Subject ILOs

Subject: Communicative strategies

Aims: Develop appropriate communicative strategies and improve students' general level of proficiency in English

Intended learning outcomes (some examples):

1. Explain different strategies used in communication.

2. Apply appropriate strategies in different modes of communication.

3. Reflect on and improve own communicative strategies.


Designing Teaching/Learning Activities to align with Intended Learning Outcomes

Having designed Course ILOs and the

Subject ILOs, we now need to activate the verbs or learning activities embedded in the ILOs by designing suitable Teaching/Learning Activities that will

facilitate students achieving the ILOs.

There are many alternatives to lectures and tutorials, even in large classes.


Four common teaching situations and associated teaching and learning activities

SituationTeaching activitiesLearning activities

LECTURE talk, explain, clarify listen, take notes, accept, query, discuss with peers, one-minute paper

TUTORIAL set/answer questions pre-read, prepare questions, provide feedback learn from peers, critique, analyse

PROJECT set brief, ongoing apply, create, self-monitor feedback communicate, teamwork

PBL set problems set learning goals, design, apply,

accessing desired integrate, solve problems content, skills

What teaching/learning activities will best facilitate your ILOs?

typical ilo possible tlas
Typical ILO Possible TLAs

Describe set reading, lecture, field trip

Explain tutorial, written essay

Integrate project, assignment

Apply project, case study

Solve problem PBL, case study

Design, create project, creative writing

Hypothesise experiment, project

Reflect reflective diary

The point is not how you are going to teach but how and what you want your students tolearn.

NOTE! Many of these TLAs can be assessment tasks as well. Then you have excellent alignment.


Adjusting TLAs to Relative Importance of ILOs

  • Is the time spent on TLAs reflecting the relative weight or importance of the ILO addressed?

Some sample TLAs for subject ILOs on written communicative strategies

1. Explain different (writing) communicative strategies.

TLAs: a. Plenary session (‘lectures’)

Teaching activities - describe, explain, elaborate, clarify

Learning activities - pre-reading, ask questions, group

discussion, explain to peers

b. Write assignment

Teaching activities - set topics and guidelines, provide feedback

Learning activities - explain the strategies in the assignment

There may be other TLAs which will engage students in

explaining different writing communicative strategies.


Some sample TLAs for subject ILOs on written communicative strategies

2. Apply appropriate (writing) communicative strategies

TLAs: a. Case study

Teaching activities - select case study material (may be), provide comments and feedback

Learning activities - select piece of writing for case study, discuss with peers in small groups, analyse, comment, suggest ways of improvement, present own ideas or discussion results in an individual written assignment

b. Write an assignment or a group discussion report

Teaching activities - set topic (may be), give guideline of requirements of the assignment (relate requirements to relevant ILOs), provide feedback

Learning activities - write the assignment using appropriate strategies, revise, edit, self-assess

There may be other TLAs which will engage students in applying

appropriate strategies in a range of writing tasks.


Some sample TLAs for subject ILOs on writing communicative strategies

3. Reflect and improve own writing communicative strategies.

TLAs: Self-assessment

Teaching activities - provide feedback

Learning activities - self-evaluate a piece of own writing, e.g. an earlier assignment in relation to theories on writing communicative strategies, identify strengths and areas for improvement, revise writing using appropriate strategies in light of evaluation

There may be other TLAs which will engage students in

reflecting and improving their own writing strategies.