Another dot in the blogosphere?

Taskmaster lesson: Objectives vs outcomes

Posted on: September 14, 2021

Video source 

The comedic game show, Taskmaster, is chockablock with tasks like the one above. In this challenge, participants had to think of ways to Impressively Throw Something Into Something.

In the task below, contestants were challenged to Camouflage Yourself As Well As Possible.

Video source

The only thing that seems to happen consistently is how each person comes up with a different way of doing the same thing.

Viewed through an educator’s lens, I might conclude that these are examples of achieving the same ends through different means. This is like having shared goals and objectives.

However, the similarity ends abruptly there. In most schooling, there are vain attempts to standardise the means in order to reach the same ends. Sameness is valued over differentness. 

While there is a place for sameness, that mindset stifles creativity, exploration, and risk-taking. Educators might consider focusing on learning outcomes instead. 

Consider intended learning outcomes. These are only superficially similar to shared objectives. Objectives focus on teacher behaviours and expectations. Outcomes focus on learner actions. If learning outcomes are aligned to a teacher’s objectives, then one might call them intended learning outcomes.

Then there are unintended learning outcomes. Some of these outcomes might be unanticipated and therefore unplanned, but this does not make them undesirable. For example, a group project might have curricular outcomes, but accidental outcomes might include close friendships or better communication skills.

Another set of unintended learning outcomes is those that the learner defines. These are like the Taskmaster contestants’ efforts. The Taskmaster gives them an objective and each person interprets the instructions, rules, and limits on their own. They seem to go off on tangents, but in doing so shape and attain their own outcomes.

I could be wrong, but I think that schools are generally the least comfortable with learner-defined outcomes. They value objectives that provide the illusion of standardisation and conformity.

The reality is that students need to grow out of rigidity and operate in higher education and a working world where tasks rely independence and agency. Unlike Taskmaster, these tasks are not just for laughs. The sooner we get learners to operate more autonomously, the better we prepare them for life.

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