FULT ePortfolio Blogs #8: Leaning Outcomes

The task is to rewrite an existing learning outcome using the algorithm:

writing learning outcomes

I like the really simple algorithm for constructing learning outcomes. The idea of always making them testable is useful for ensuring that alignment with assessment happens too.
The NSW Board of Studies used to have a list of verbs for use in all assessment tasks, individual questions etc. This was handy for teachers and textbook writers (like me) to be able to construct questions, eg “Calculate…” or “List..”, but it was very prescriptive and not extensive enough, for example “Draw” wasn’t on it, which meant I couldn’t include an approved BOSTES verb in questions asking students to draw a diagram. It also limited the vocabulary that could be used, for example “find” wasn’t there either, so everything with a number turned into “calculate” and asking for algebraic expressions was an effort in verbal contortion.

So I’m thinking that maybe having such a simple prescriptive algorithm is also a bit simplistic – we can’t include “appreciate” or “develop confidence”, but only measurable things. We lose access to the affective domain.

Maybe that doesn’t matter, but it starts to feel a bit like a Turing test or the “Chinese room”. As long as you can act like you appreciate diversity or feel confident in your ability to teach, perhaps it doesn’t matter what’s actually going on in your head (as long as you keep it there).  Actually, this is something I tell my kids when they get mouthy – if you keep it in your head, it wont get you into trouble, but as soon as it comes out your mouth I will deal with it.

But there’s a lovely quote, of questionable origin:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

As anyone who has suffered from depression can tell you, watching your thoughts is really important. What goes on inside your head is important.

Old learning outcome from Graduate Teaching Program:
Students will develop confidence in themselves as teachers.
New learning outcome: Students will demonstrate confident body language and voice patterns in the classroom.

Or maybe we need to be able to have course aims as well as learning outcomes, and then I could keep developing confidence as an aim, but not have to turn it into a measurable outcome.


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