Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Perils of Outcome-Based Teacher Education

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Perils of Outcome-Based Teacher Education

Article excerpt

Teacher educators need to do a betterjob of training and of "sorting and selecting" teacher candidates, Mr. Towers says. But, in his opinion, outcome-based teacher education makes that job more difficult.

It is hardly surprising that, given the myriad problems confronting public education today, growing numbers of citizens, business leaders, state legislators, governors, and national political leaders across the United States are demanding more accountability from public education. The various factions are calling for more teacher accountability in terms of students'academic achievement, more organizational accountability from school administrators and school boards, and more fiscal accountability from state and federal political leaders. In addition, state legislatures and state departments of education are demanding more accountability from the teacher education programs that train students to become teachers.

One method for obtaining greater accountability from teachers for their students' academic achievement seems to be gaining momentum, as evidenced by the number of states either considering or legislating the concept. This method is called "outcome-based education" (OBE). A case in point is my home state of Minnesota. Because of a relatively recent state mandate from the Minnesota State Department of Education, all K-12 public schools across Minnesota are currently working toward implementing an outcome-based curriculum. Some schools are well along in the process, some are experimenting with it in selected classes, and others have barely begun the conversion. This metamorphosis, which must be completed by 1995, is an enormous task - and, as one might guess, the outcome-based initiatives are being met with a combination of applause, apprehension, grumbling, and consternation by the state's public school administrators and teachers. Furthermore, Minnesota's legislature and state department of education have directed all teacher education programs in the state's public and private colleges to implement an outcome-based system of teacher education by 1995.

Though OBE clearly has its strong points, I have a number of grave concerns about the supposed wisdom of Minnesota's decision to jump on the outcome-based bandwagon, particularly in regard to teacher education. These concerns will be discussed later. But first, let us become better acquainted with outcome-based education.


The Minnesota State Department of Education has adopted the following definition of outcome-based education:

Education that is outcome-based is a learner-centered, results-oriented system founded on the belief that all individuals can learn. In this system:

1) What is to be learned is clearly identified;

2) Learners' progress is based on demonstrated achievement;

3) Multiple instructional and assessment strategies are available to meet the needs of each learner; [and]

4) Time and assistance are provided for each learner to reach maximum potential.(1)

William Spady, a key advocate and developer of outcome-based education, outlined the core beliefs that undergird this concept. For Spady, OBE is a means of "organizing for results, basing what we do instructionally on the outcomes we want to achieve."(2) OBE practitioners start by determining the knowledge, competencies, and qualities they want students to be able to demonstrate when they finish school and face the challenges of the adult world. Then they design curricula and instructional systems that they believe will produce these "exit outcomes." For Spady, OBE is not a program, but a way of designing, developing, delivering, and documenting instruction in terms of its intended goals: "From my perspective, it [OBE] means having all students learn well, not just the fastest, the brightest, or the most advantaged. Unfortunately, our educational systems, schools, and instructional programs are not organized to achieve or ensure successful results; instead, they are organized primarily for student custody and administrative convenience. …

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