Summary: Harvey Weingarten, President of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, describes learning outcomes as a "game-changer." A report by Richard Shireman argues that setting out learning outcomes has become, in some cases, nothing more than "worthless bean-counting and cataloging." In this extract from the draft version of my CEA Presidential Address, I talk about how, in theory, learning outcomes are supposed to improve university education, and why professors might rationally resist their imposition. I argue that the keys to using learning outcomes to improve university teaching are
- persuading faculty members to sit down and have conversations about curriculum, teaching, and student assessment. This may require good management and leadership
- giving instructors regular and collegial feedback on their teaching performance and methods and
- mandating the teaching of core skills.
Learning outcomes may facilitate getting faculty members to think carefully about curriculum design, or giving instructors feedback on their teaching - but are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for these things to happen.