A Tabular Approach to Outcome-Based Course Planning and Assessment

A Tabular Approach to Outcome-Based Course Planning and Assessment

Oliver T.S. Au (City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-380-7.ch004
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Many educational institutions are migrating towards outcome-based teaching and learning. Being true to criterion-referenced assessment, students’ final grades are often determined elaborately on a set of complex rules. The author proposes a tabular approach to help instructors in course planning and assessment. The resulting course plan consists of tables that show learning outcomes, study topics, teaching, learning and assessment activities in rows and columns. Instructors can more easily spot misalignments between items on the tables. Though marks are assigned to learning outcomes, students’ final grades are still assessed criterion-referenced rather than norm-referenced. This mark-based assessment is transparent and familiar to students. The tabular approach may reduce the OBTL migration effort of the instructors and improve the learning experience of the students.
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The Challenge Of Assessing Students In Obtl

An early task in planning an OBTL course is to write the CILOs. The majority of courses do well with five to seven CILOs. A CILO begins with an action verb of a student’s ability. Verbs like 'understand' or 'appreciate' are to avoid because their attainment cannot be objectively observed. Table 1 shows a list of verbs that may be used (Bloom, 1956). Note that some action verbs belong to more than one class.

Table 1.
Action verbs based on Bloom's Taxonomy of Cognitive Learning
ClassAction Verbs
1. Knowledgewrite, state, recall, recognize, select, reproduce, list
2. Comprehensionidentify, illustrate, represent, formulate, explain, contrast, paraphrase, summarize
3. Applicationpredict, select, assess, find, show, use, construct, compute, solve
4. Analysisselect, compare, separate, differentiate, contrast, break down, classify
5. Synthesissummarize, argue, relate, organize, generalize, conclude, design
6. Evaluatejudge, evaluate, support, recognize, criticize

Writing CILOs is actually easier than the subsequent challenge of assessing the students. A student may be better at one CILO but weaker at another. At the end of the course, we need to assign a percentage or a letter grade to every student. How do we amalgamate the performance of multiple CILOs into a final grade?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Criterion-Referenced Assessment: Students’ knowledge and skills are measured against pre-defined criteria. If all students in a class are exceptional, they can all get the top grade.

Assessment: An educational term refers to the process of measuring students’ knowledge and skills.

Norm-Referenced Assessment: Students’ knowledge and skills are measured in relative terms. The score of a student is an indicator of where the student stands amid his or her peers. This kind of assessment is also known as “grading on the curve” because an effort is made to achieve a desirable distribution of student grades. Even if all students in a class are exceptional, for instance, they will not all get the top grade.

Learning Outcomes: Statements that specify what learners will know on the successful completion of a course or study program. Learning outcomes may be knowledge or skills. Whether attitudes should be learning outcomes is open to debate.

Constructive Alignment: The notion assumes that students learn or construct meaning through appropriate teaching, learning and assessment activities.

Outcome-Based Teaching and Learning (OBTL): Traditionally, teaching is conceived as a process of imparting knowledge to students. The planning of teaching activities is based on the question of what topics to teach and to what depth. OBTL, on the other hand, shifts the emphasis to the question of what abilities the students should possess on the completion of the course.

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