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Outcomes and Competencies

Outcomes and Competencies

Author: Kathleen Johnson

In this lesson, students define outcomes and competencies and evaluate the importance of outcomes and competencies.

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Outcomes & Competencies

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Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you are having a wonderful day today. Today we're going to be looking at outcomes and competencies. And for today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Benjamin Franklin, which states, "The discovery of what is true and the practice of that which is good are the two most important objects of philosophy." And that's what we're going to be looking at today, is really all those outcomes and competencies and focusing in on those true practices that can really help define what we do as teachers.

By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to understand the importance of outcomes and competencies. Now, many different sources are going to define outcomes and objectives differently. In fact, some sources consider outcomes and objectives the exact same thing. So for the purposes of this course, we're going to define outcomes and objectives as two distinct aspects of courses and units and lessons, where "outcomes" is going to refer to the larger end of the unit, and "objectives' are going to be more in the progress of working towards the end of that unit. So for this lesson, we are going to define outcomes, objectives, and competencies and talk about the differences between them. But know that, as you move on and do greater study, there might be some different definitions, depending on where it is you are looking.

First, let's go ahead and focus in on, what is an outcome? Well, outcomes and objectives both include the content that students should know and the skills that they should be able to demonstrate by the end of the lesson. So again, we said the outcome is really looking at the end of that greater element.

So for example, some outcomes could be that students will demonstrate their knowledge of 1935 America through a digital presentation created on Google Docs. That's looking at the end of the lesson or unit-- what a student is able to do. It focuses both on the content as well as the skills.

Also, another one could be, students will participate in a class discussion to show their knowledge of how tone and mood affect the drama of a story. So again, we're looking at content knowledge, focusing in on the literary elements of tone and mood. And then we're also looking at the skills, being able to discuss within a class or then focusing even more with that content on how those various elements can affect other elements of a story. So there are two basic examples of what an outcome could look like.

Next, I want to focus in on, how are outcomes and objectives are different? Well, first and foremost, outcomes tend to describe what a student should be able to do by the end of a longer unit of study or by the end of a course, whereas the objective tends to describe what a student should be able to do by the end of a shorter unit or the end of a lesson. So for example, if I was going to look at an objective within a class, it might be that students will determine the theme of To Kill a Mockingbird. So by the end of our unit or our lesson on To Kill a Mockingbird, they can determine that theme, whereas perhaps an outcome would be that students should be able to determine the themes of a piece of literature and analyze their development through the course of a text-- so again, a little broader, a little less specific, but still focusing in on concrete things that the student should be able to know and be able to do.

So next, why are outcomes and objectives so important? Why are we spending time talking about them? Why are we learning them? Why does it matter to me as I'm planning my curriculum?

Well, first and foremost, outcomes and objectives both include the content that students should know and the skills they should be able to demonstrate by the end of the lesson. It doesn't really matter if you love To Kill a Mockingbird if there is no true connection to the skills and competencies that students need to know by the end of that lesson. So if we're going to use To Kill a Mockingbird as a vehicle to get those skills and those abilities to be demonstrated by the students, then wonderful, fabulous, keep on going.

If not, you need to make sure that you are keeping the focus on the main thing for these students. Also, it's critical that outcomes and objectives are aligned to the goals for the school and for the curriculum. So if you're looking at those overarching state standards or your school standards, you want to make sure that the outcomes that you've established help to meet those.

And finally, it helps to really support other areas within the curriculum so when we look at these outcomes and objectives, that you are able to support generalizations in other areas, and students are able to then transfer their knowledge or skills into other courses and other means. Remember, it is really critical that teams write these outcomes and objectives or teachers write them, depending on how you are working on your lesson planning, both in terms of the content standards as well as the skills that students should be able to master. We're looking at both of these things when we talk about outcomes and objectives.

Finally, let's go ahead and hone in on, what are competencies? As we just alluded to, competencies are the skills that are connected to the knowledge that the student should master. So what we're looking at here is that, in competency-based education, based on those skills, students are expected to master a certain skill or a certain set of skills before they move on to the next set of skills. This helps to ensure not only that students are building on what they're learning but they're not gliding through and missing key elements that they need within a course. Also, competency-based instruction is very closely, then, related to those outcomes and objectives.

As you would imagine, we need it to be connected to those outcomes and objectives because students are then moving on based on the outcome, and competency-based education is based in what's often called outcome-based education, so very close connections there, although it is important to note that, in a pure competency-based education system, all of the decisions are really driven on an individual student basis so that students have demonstrated proficiency and are then moving on. So for example, a student would need to be able to determine and identify the theme of a text before they would, perhaps, move on to analyzing that theme, before they would move on to then writing an argumentative the analysis on that theme, so as you can see-- goes from bit to bit to bit.

Now that we've reached the end of the lesson today, you've been able to understand the importance of outcomes and competencies, defining each of those terms and really having a clear idea of why they're connected and why they're so important. Now that you've completed this lesson, what do you think would be the most difficult part of transitioning some of what you do to more competency-based education system? To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the Additional Resources section that's associated with this video. That's where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on "Outcomes & Competencies"

(00:00-00:29) Intro

(00:30-01:18) Objectives

(01:19-02:26) What Is An Outcome?

(02:27-03:23) How Are Outcomes and Objectives Different?

(03:24-05:08) Why Are Outcomes and Objectives Important?

(05:09-06:51) What Are Competencies?

 (06:52-07:03) Review

(07:04-07:26) Reflection

Additional Resources

Tips on Writing Learning Outcomes

This University of Illinois site provides step by step directions to writing strong learning outcomes. The directions are connected to Bloom's Taxonomy.

Writing Measurable Learning Outcomes

This handout provides comprehensive directions on writing measurable learning outcomes. The handout includes Bloom's Taxonomy and Action Verbs. In addition, there are clear strategies to align outcomes to performance tasks.