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Posts Tagged ‘outcomes

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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.

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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.

Here is an unoriginal thought: You can get into a state of flow no matter what video game you play.

My wife, my son, and I play very different games on our phones. My wife likes tile-matching puzzle games — she started with games like Bejeweled and now plays Simon’s Cat Crunch Time.

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My son plays a variety of games and seems to favour multiplayer inline battle arena (MOBA) games now. He is currently playing Mobile Legends.

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My main game is Pokémon Go. This is a location-based game that requires me to leave home to catch Pokémon, spin stops, battle rival gyms, and coordinate raids.

One more level to go!

Whatever game we play, we get into a state of flow. This is an almost zen-like state of focus, quick decision-making, and honed movements.

Different games and gameplay result in the same outcomes while allowing players choice of game based on their interests or strengths. If this sounds familiar, it is because the tenets are built on the same foundations as personal learning.

It does not take an external vendor, elaborate proposals, or a king’s ransom to implement personal learning. It takes actual gameplay and a willingness to reflect and try something new.

Yes, my mind goes off on tangents.

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I can watch a video like the one above about someone using candy like pixels and think about how it applies to teaching.

If you did not notice what the still grab of the video was, you would not know what the eventual artefact looked like. You would have to wait till later in the process to get an idea where the work was going. Despite this, you might continue watching to see how it ended because you enjoy discovery.

Looking at the thumbnail is like revealing the outcomes of a lesson before teaching. This lets learners know what to expect and do. However, this also removes other possibilities and might reduce the need for the process since the end result was already clear.

Sometimes teaching does not need to be preceded with outcomes. Sometimes the outcomes are emergent to allow for alternatives, good surprises, learner-defined outcomes, and unexpected but no less valuable results.

The first approach focuses more on teaching. This tends to be reductive and about the expert view of an issue or problem. The second approach is more about learning. It is about discovery and enjoying the process as it happens. While the approaches are compatible, they are also quite different, which might explain why teaching does not always lead to learning.

A question on the latest Star Wars movie prompted me to reflect on instructional objectives versus learning outcomes.

The person who wanted the Star Wars spoilers wished to know what to expect. This is like wanting to know the answers even before the questions are asked. Where is the anticipation and enjoyment?

In the mid-90s I showed student teachers how to write specific instructional objectives (SIOs). Combined with a misused Bloom’s Taxonomy — start with low level before moving to high level objectives — they were the truth of the moment in teacher education.

As I evolved as a teacher educator, I learnt what terrible mistakes those were. Bloom’s Taxonomy is descriptive and not prescriptive. It provides insight on how students might learn, but it does not (and should not) dictate how teachers should teach.

For example, there is no need to start with low level objectives all the time. Problems in life are rarely presented like the ones in school or textbooks. They are messy, not methodical. They are complex and connected, not devoid of context. Definitions and memorisation do not come first; the need to learn something does.

Teachers are often taught to be objective instead of to embrace the subjective or uncertain. This is one way objectives written from a teacher’s point of view might actually be a barrier to learning.

Learning outcomes, on the other hand, are as varied as the learners. A teacher might want to shape these outcomes, but s/he cannot determine them in entirety. This is not a bad thing.

Unexpected but worthwhile outcomes are a good thing. Teachers have learnt to call these “teachable moments”. My question is: Should all moments not be teachable?

All this is not to say that writing objectives or outcomes is bad. We should not be shackled to them.

My background in instructional design tells me to determine instructional objectives first, design assessment next, and then only determine content in between. This is putting into practice the principle of alignment.

Doing this also assumes that both teaching and learning are linear and straightforward. In practice, they rarely are. The instructional design can be robotic, the delivery can be disciplined, but the people are not.

How then might one counter this unproductive effort?

I have taught myself to design for multiple pathways, to teach my stakeholders that following old rules blindly without opening one’s eyes to current realities is foolish, and to include open-ended outcomes in my planning documents. Doing this dilutes the learning of content, but it also provides a focus on thinking.


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