CORVALLIS - The trend towards outcome or "standards-based " education is continuing to move into higher education, experts say, resulting in college courses that should have better organization, more clearly defined objectives and tangible student accomplishments that can be measured and assessed.
This educational movement, which began in the K-12 public school systems and is embraced by the private sector, is now becoming relevant to college in everything from course development to accreditation, said Robby Robson, education reform coordinator at Oregon State University.
As a reflection of that trend, Robson said, OSU will sponsor faculty development workshops on May 11-12 to help more OSU professors learn just what "outcome-based" education is all about and how learning outcomes can help faculty organize their classes, communicate their expectations to students, and evaluate their students' performance.
"At this point our accreditation agencies are mandating that we incorporate outcome-based approaches into our coursework and curriculum," Robson said. "The workshops that we have planned are an important, concrete step to give our students a better education and help our faculty improve their teaching."
In the past, Robson said, the contents of a course might have been loosely defined in words that did not always make sense to the students and whose meaning varied somewhat from instructor to instructor. When a student completed a course, he said, it wasn't always clear exactly what skills had been mastered.
But with well-conceived learning outcomes, he said, students and faculty alike will clearly understand the goals of a class and how they are assessed. Instructors can concentrate more on choosing the best ways to teach. And the course will more effectively prepare students for the next steps in their educational process.
"Outcomes-based education is not necessarily more difficult for the student, but it is much better organized and more substantive," Robson said. "In the long run we think it will be better for our teachers, students and the employers who want to hire our graduates."
The upcoming workshops, Robson said, will be offered in half-day sessions three different times over two days, so faculty members can more easily fit one or the other session into their schedules.
They are free for OSU faculty members, and sponsored by the Curriculum Council and the Educational Effectiveness Workgroup of the Undergraduate Education Council. They will be presented by Tom Litzinger, director of the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education.
Topics will include an overview of student learning outcomes and their relevance; the application of this process to OSU campus procedures; writing and using learning outcomes in both existing and proposed courses; and breakout sessions into smaller groups to explore various issues.
Pre-registration for the workshops is requested by contacting Robson at 541-737-5171, or firstname.lastname@example.org.