OBE: The Restructuring Of American Society.

There has been a concern for some time throughout America regarding the
quality of public education. Students are graduating from highschool without
adequate knowledge of the three R\'s. Universities are recruiting a multitude of
incompetent pseudo-scholars. Employers don\'t understand why the new generation
of workers do not possess the basic skills to perform the job. It would appear
that American students are not learning as much as their parents did. And yet,
teachers are still teaching, taxes are still being paid, and more funds than
ever are being appropriated for public education. What\'s going on in America\'s
Up until the 1980\'s most schools used a standards based curriculum. In
the traditional classroom setting, educators focused on the input side of
education, teaching a specific body of knowledge. Students were graded against
predefined standards and passed or failed based on their ability to meet those
standards. This method of teaching produced a graduate with a well rounded
education, and prepared him for further development of career skills. With the
exception of those who did not apply themselves, the system worked.
Today America\'s educators take a new approach in the classroom. The
focus of education has moved to measuring what students can do, rather than what
they understand. This is the core principle of Outcomes Based Education (OBE).
An outcome, by definition, is something that follows as a result or consequence.
So OBE then, is an approach to education where the end result is the most
important factor. This is very important in understanding what OBE is, and what
it intends to do. In the OBE classroom, every aspect of the curriculum is geared
toward achieving a small group of specific goals. To gain an insight into OBE,
it is necessary to learn something about its origins and those promoting it.
B. F. Skinner, a psychologist and learning theorist, developed the
techniques of learning (operant conditioning) based on conditioning phenomena
first analyzed scientifically by Pavlov. Skinner called his technique his
"teaching machine." Skinner thus developed the principles on which "Mastery
Learning" was developed by Benjamin Bloom.
Mastery Learning was the original name for the process known today as
Outcome Based Education, also known as Performance Based Education, or
Restructuring. Educational theories used in OBE are based on Benjamin Bloom\'s
Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. A curriculum, according to Bloom, "...may be
thought of as a plan for changing student behavior." (p 14 of Ron Sunseri\'s book
OBE: Understanding the Truth about Education Reform, Questar Publishers, P.O.
Box 1720, Sisters, OR 97759) Bloom called it "Mastery Learning." Techniques for
his new style of education, based on Skinnerian behavioral psychology, focus on
stimulus-response conditioning. Bloom said the mission of education is to change
the thoughts, actions and feelings of students. He held that the desired outcome
is "...formulating subjective judgment as the end product resulting in personal
values/opinions with no real right or wrong answer." With no absolutes, the goal
of teaching is to modify the "thoughts, feelings and actions" of the stude nt to
some replacement system supplied by the educational system.
William Spady, Director of the High Success Network and Director of the
International Center on Outcome-Based Restructuring, is the "father" of OBE. He
works with the federal government, foundations, states and school districts
helping them implement OBE.
According to Spady, we are faced with "a fragile and vulnerable global
environment that requires altering economic consumption patterns and quality of
life standards, and taking collective responsibility for promoting health and
wellness." The goal of education, Spady says, has to be to prepare students for
that future. Learning results are what is important, and his premise is that all
students can learn. It is not important how long it takes, as long as the
desired learning takes place. Since all will learn, grades are irrelevant in the
new system. All get an "A". Competition in schools in his estimation is a
negative influence impairing learning.
Spady\'s definition of an outcome is "the acceptable culminating
demonstration of a significant learning behavior." Subject knowledge and
concepts are not valid outcomes. In 1982 he observed that one of the four main
goals of Mastery Learning is a "system of supervision and control which
restrains behavior of kids. The outcome of the hidden agenda should be the
fostering of social responsibility and compliance." These goals "transcend
academics," and deal with attitudes and feelings. However, Spady rejected the
term "Mastery Learning" because of its monumental failures, renaming it so that
the system of OBE would not be rejected out of hand.
But how exactly does OBE work? In OBE, a student must demonstrate an
approved behavior defined