Learning Outcomes Approach
This approach to planning instruction focuses on what the learner will do by the end of a lesson, a unit, or a course. This is different from the more traditional approach where instruction is determined primarily in terms of what content is taught.
Key principles of the learning outcomes approach to curriculum development include the following:
This approach allows for flexibility because learning outcomes can be achieved using a variety of processes and resources making instruction culturally relevant, characteristically holistic, and personally meaningful to learners. One way to implement a learning outcomes approach is through contextually-based instruction.
Contextually-Based Instruction for Adults
Current understandings of adult education principles, transactional and transformative orientations, and Aboriginal perspectives support a contextually-based approach to instruction and learning. Writings in these areas show the need for learning to be meaningful in order to be transferable. Studies on the recruitment and retention of adult learners also highlight the need for relevance in programming. Imel (1998) states that in contextualized learning the “instructions – and the instructional materials – draw on the actual experiences, developmental stages, and problems of the learners” (p. 3). Wherever possible, academic skills are developed through and applied to a variety of life contexts.
Dirkx and Prenger (1997) refer to this approach as “theme-based.” A theme-based approach is of significant advantage for instructors who are responsible for delivering all subjects in a Level 3 program. Generic Skills and content-specific objectives from several subjects can be developed through one theme.
Through a holistic lens, and using an integrated theme-based approach, instructors will consider the following areas:
Different approaches will be used to implement contextually-based instruction for adults because of the variety of program delivery structures in the province. Regardless of the approach used to identify relevant themes and contexts, academic skills are taught via resource materials that reflect the personal, work and/or community contexts of learners. The skills that learners develop in school are connected to the broader contexts of their lives.
Authentic Assessment Rationale
Varieties of measures (formal and informal) are used to place adults in the appropriate Adult Basic Education level. Along with information gathered directly from the learner, some combination of standardized, criterion-referenced or performance-based18 assessments are often used. The results of this initial assessment provide information in areas such as:
This information helps to guide the instructor in the development of training plans and in the selection of instructional methods and materials.
Assessment practices in Level 3 programs are consistent with the foundations and vision of Adult Basic Education. Kasworm and Marienau (1997, as cited in Kruidenier, 2002, p. 97) identify five “best practices” relating to assessment and adult education principles:
Since the learning outcomes approach in Level 3 provides learners the opportunity to develop skills that apply to the real world, assessment also needs to reflect the authentic nature of that learning. Assessment is an ongoing process and potentially any activity can provide an assessment opportunity. Authentic assessment is sometimes referred to as performance-based assessment – assessments “used to evaluate how well students complete tasks that require the application of knowledge or skills in a realistic, or authentic, situation” (Kruidenier, 2002, p. 93).
The intent of authentic assessment is to look at a learner’s work as a whole and to conduct assessments under conditions similar to conditions found outside the classroom. For example, in the workforce, adults often work in teams. The mechanic or the statistician has access to an array of reference materials in order to perform his/her tasks. Security personnel have limited time to write a report at the end of a shift as do parents when writing a note to their child’s teacher.
Most often authentic assessments are used to measure more global skills such as metacognition or reading comprehension, rather than specific components (Kruidenier, 2002, p. 113). The focus is on the ability:
Authentic assessment values the learning process as much as the finished project.
In general, assessment in Level 3 courses includes pre-tests to determine prior knowledge and skills. Then, instruction is provided based on assessment results. Learners are involved in assessment activities throughout the program in order to adjust instruction and to determine learners’ progress in their attainment of knowledge (factual and procedural), cognitive strategies, and metacognitive processes.
Knowledge is important because it is the foundation of deep understanding and complex problem-solving (Tombari & Borich, 1999, p. 75). When assessing knowledge, the instructor focuses on the facts, concepts, rules, and generalizations needed to make sense of a specific topic or task. S/he will also assess whether the learner knows how to perform a task or a function (e.g., how to divide fractions, how to use the writing process, or how to access computer files). Knowing how to organize and use information separate “the skilled performer from the unskilled” (Tombari & Borich, 1999, p. 69). It is, for example, difficult to predict which team will win a soccer game if you have no knowledge of soccer. It is also difficult to make accurate predictions if you have misconceptions or “faulty knowledge.” These misconceptions (e.g., good readers always read every word or gravity causes heavier objects to fall faster than lighter objects) may initially be firmly held and adhered to by the learner even when presented with new information.
Tombari and Borich (1999) describe cognitive strategies as “general methods of thinking that improve learning across a variety of subject areas” (p. 10). These strategies are sometimes referred to as problem-solving strategies and are related to the higher order thinking skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy or to Quellmalz’s non-hierarchical taxonomy of cognitive operations20. Strategies range from scanning a chapter for sub-headings or for bold or italicized words, to pausing to summarize key points to ensure comprehension or to ask yourself if you are clear about what the task is. Assessment of cognitive strategies occurs after demonstrations, explanations, modelling, and guided practice.
Metacognitive processes involve the learner becoming aware of the strategies that work best for him/her and recognizing when to use a strategy. Learning how to learn is an essential component in developing independent or lifelong learning.
Current educational practice acknowledges that tests, as the sole means of assessment, have limitations. Rather, a variety of assessment strategies and techniques is preferred. Portfolios (including items such as writing samples and documentation of specific practices), rubrics, projects (often used to assess learning outcomes from several subjects), oral retellings, and demonstrations are frequently used techniques. Authentic assessment tasks “add to the tools that can be used rather than supplant all others” (Kruidenier, 2002, p. 137).
Assessment techniques, as they relate to specific curriculum guides, are discussed in PART FIVE of this document.