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Outcomes and Competencies

Outcomes and Competencies

Author: Jody Waltman

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

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In this tutorial, we'll explore the concepts of outcomes, objectives, and competencies. Let's begin by comparing the terms outcomes and objectives. An outcome typically describes an end-of-unit or end-of-course goal. An outcome describes what students should be able to do by the end of a longer unit of study. In contrast, an objective is a marker of progress towards that end-of-unit or end-of-course goal.

For example, in an algebra class if my end-of-unit outcome specifies that students will be able to solve a system of linear equations, some of the objectives that are related to this outcome might include having students solve a system of equations using the substitution method, having students graph two linear equations to find their intersection point, and having students verify a possible solution to a system of linear equations. All of these objectives define what the students should know or be able to do within the overall unit of instruction. Likewise, the outcomes themselves link back to the learning objectives.

Though there are differences between outcomes and objectives, there are also many similarities. Outcomes and objectives both specify content and skills that students should be able to demonstrate. For example, crafting a persuasive argument, describing a chemical reaction, outlining the events that led up to a battle in American history, or finding the area of a circle.

Outcomes and objectives need to be aligned to the goals of your curriculum or your school program. Since there are so many standards that we need to meet in all curricular areas, having specific outcomes allows curriculum teams to define what the most important areas of coverage are for all students. Clear outcomes and objectives also support the process of making generalizations to other curricular areas and transferring knowledge and skills to those areas. It's important that both outcomes and objectives are written in terms of content standards and in terms of the skills that students need to master.

With an understanding of the terms outcome and objective, let's take a look at competencies. Competencies are the specific skills that are connected to the knowledge that students need to master. In competency-based education, the proficiency levels are pre-defined. Once a student reaches the pre-defined level of proficiency, that student can move on to the next competency. In fact, competency-based education is sometimes referred to as outcome-based education because it's connected to outcomes and objectives. Remember, in competency-based education, decisions made by teachers are largely impacted by demonstration of student proficiency.

In this tutorial, we looked at the similarities and differences between outcomes and objectives, and we also took a closer look at the concept of competencies. Here's a chance for you to stop and reflect. Do you understand the sometimes subtle difference between objectives and outcomes? To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the Additional Resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material. Thanks for joining me today. Have a great day.

Notes on "Outcomes and Competencies"

(00:00 - 00:07) Introduction

(00:08 - 02:05) Outcomes and Objectives

(02:06 - 02:45) Competencies

(02:46 - 02:55) Review

(02:56 - 03:22) Stop and Reflect

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.