Why outcomes based education won’t deliver the outcomes we want

28 September 2012

When we focus on outcomes based education we miss the one thing that motivates our students.

Quite often I hear teachers say “Students just don’t care.” I disagree.  Students are passionate about a broad range of issues.

I often remind teachers that the same students you can’t get to focus and complete their work are the backbone of the multi-billion dollar company we know as McDonalds.

Students do care; they just don’t care about your outcomes.

Here’s why:




Students are tuned into WIIFM – (what’s in it for me).

A great example of this was Koni 2012.  This movement was carried mainly by the same students that teachers say are unmotivated and don’t care.

These students were incredibly motivated.  They willingly gave their time and money.  They educated themselves in marketing, media, politics, and writing in order to meet an outcome.

If you want your students to care, here is what you need to do:

As teachers we need to show the benefits not the outcomes.

With an outcomes based education mindset the first thing a teacher does is hand out a syllabus document that clearly outlines all the outcomes. Instead of just handing out the syllabus document at the beginning of your topic, hand out a document that clearly explains the value of the content.

Some of the values or benefits you should include:

  • Specifically mention how this topic will benefit them in their future learning (this is a prerequisite for…)
  • Show how the content will be linked to the assessments
  • Show how the content relates to ‘real life’ (immediately not in twenty years time)

The document doesn’t need to be detailed, but rather just a brief overview that compliments your syllabus document.

There were some English teachers I met at a training day who recognised the power of the Koni 2012 movement and used the energy and the passion of their students to develop their formal writing skills.  Needless to say, the students suddenly paid attention in class because they could see the benefit of the lesson to their life.

Now just to be clear, I am not saying that we shouldn’t have outcomes based education.

What I am saying though is that your students don’t care about your outcomes.  Teachers should be aware of the outcomes and develop content around them, but students need to know WIIFM.


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