The Funniest Wikipedia Article I Have Ever Seen: Outcomes Based Education

Perhaps my sense of humor is completely warped. Perhaps I am just a mean and hateful person looking for the negative in everything. But I found the following WikiPedia article totally funny. It is really the first example I have seen where WikiPedia contains content while appearing to be factual has a cleverly encoded contrarian perspective hidden inside.

As best I can tell, this is a classic Marc Anthony, “I came to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” speech. While appearing to be factual and neutral, the underlying theme of this writing is that Outcomes Based Education taken to excess is a mistake. But the “this idea is overhyped” message is cleverly wrapped in highfalutin passive voice academic writing to the point that nearly masks the intent of the writer.

I think that many of the sentences in these paragraphs are dripping with sarcasm. The real message is just barely visible under the surface of the prose. I copy the verbatim text from Wikipedia here in the off chance that someone will edit the article to remove the delightful, deadpan sarcasm.

Outcome-based education (OBE) is a recurring education reform model. It is a student-centered learning philosophy that focuses on empirically measuring student performance, which are called outcomes. OBE contrasts with traditional education, which primarily focuses on the resources that are available to the student, which are called inputs. While OBE implementations often incorporate a host of many progressive pedagogical models and ideas, such as reform mathematics, block scheduling, project-based learning and whole language reading, OBE in itself does not specify or require any particular style of teaching or learning. Instead, it requires that students demonstrate that they have learned the required skills and content. However in practice, OBE generally promotes curricula and assessment based on constructivist methods and discourages traditional education approaches based on direct instruction of facts and standard methods. Though it is claimed the focus is not on “inputs”, OBE generally is used to justify increased funding requirements, increased graduation and testing requirements, and additional preparation, homework, and continuing education time spent by students, parents and teachers in supporting learning.

Each independent education agency specifies its own outcomes and its own methods of measuring student achievement according to those outcomes. The results of these measurements can be used for different purposes. For example, one agency may use the information to determine how well the overall education system is performing, and another may use its assessments to determine whether an individual student has learned required material.

Outcome-based methods have been adopted for large numbers of students in several countries. In the United States, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills started in 1991. In Australia, implementation of OBE in Western Australia was widely criticised by parents and teachers and was mostly dropped in January 2007. In South Africa, OBE was dropped in mid 2010. OBE was also used on a large scale in Hong Kong. On a smaller scale, some OBE practices, such as not passing a student who does not know the required material, have been used by individual teachers around the world for centuries.

OBE was a popular term in the United States during the 1980s and early 1990s. It is also called mastery education, performance-based education, and other names.

Yeah, what might be some of those other names that might be used to describe OBE?

Yes, I know – I am just like those old guys on the Muppet Show – always finding something to be grumpy about :).

P.S. I am not anti-Outcomes based education – i think good teaching draws from a lot of techniques. There is no single silver bullet that “solves teaching”. All too often experts pick one technique and then run around like Mario with his hammer in Donkey Kong just banging the same hammer over and over everywhere they go. Real teaching is very dynamic and requires a good teacher to use the right technique at the right time.