MOVING FROM OBJECTIVE BASED TO LEARNING OUTCOMES BASED PROGAMMES OF STUDY IN COMPULSORY EDUCATION. DEVELOPMENT, IMPLEMENTATION AND IMPLICATIONS

M. Pace

University of Malta (MALTA)
A Learning Outcomes Framework can be considered as a keystone for learning and assessment throughout the years of compulsory schooling. The aim of the Learning Outcomes Framework should be to free schools and learners from centrally-imposed knowledge- centric syllabi, and to give them the freedom to develop programmes that fulfil the framework of knowledge, attitudes and skills-based outcomes that are considered national education entitlement of all learners. Learning objectives are clear and concise statements that describe the intended outcomes of instruction. Learning outcomes, on the other hand, represent the skills that learners can expect to demonstrate after completing the instruction. This means that Learning Outcomes must be specific, observable, and measurable. Whereas Objectives are intended results of instruction, Outcomes are achieved (measured) results of what was learned and describe significant and essential learning that learners have achieved at the end of a learning event. This also has implications on assessment strategies and methods. The assessment literature is full of terminology such as “mission”, “goals”, “objectives”, “outcomes”, etc. but lacking in a consensus on a precise meaning of each of these terms. Part of the difficulty stems from changes in approaches to education – shifts from objective-based, to competency-based, to outcomes-based, etc. have taken place over the years with various champions of each espousing the benefits of using a different point of view. Up to 2006 Malta had a highly centralised and selective compulsory education system. Malta has kept step with EU countries in practically all EU education benchmarks. Additionally, in recent years Malta has participated for the first time in the TIMSS, PIRLS and PISA international studies. These confirmed that whilst our top achievers compare well with those of other countries, we have an unacceptably high level of low achievers. Challenges in any educational system include addressing the gaps in learning processes that over the years have led to absenteeism, to significant rates of early school leavers and to low skills and competences for a proportion of students. A Learning Outcomes Framework will, as from 2017, be introduced with the aim of strengthening the already existing structures that are transforming schooling into learner-centred activities. It is also intended to lead to an increased participation rate in post-secondary and tertiary education and attract more students to lifelong learning, encouraging them to embark on further and higher education streams.