Outcome-based teaching reflects a shift in thinking from teaching to learning - that is, a change in perspective from “What is the content I want to convey?” to “What are the goals my students are expected to reach?” This shift is important, because learning does not result automatically from teaching; rather, the two share a complex interrelationship. By focusing on learning processes rather than teaching procedures, academic instruction can become considerably more effective.
Contemporary research in higher education has shown that the “knowledge transfer? metaphor falls short of describing the complex processes involved in successful teaching. A more fitting summary of current educational research is expressed in a quote by Aristophanes: Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.
With the new outcome-based approach, the emphasis in higher education has shifted from compiling course content or fine-tuning instructional techniques to crystallizing the objectives that students are expected to achieve. Thus, effective teaching can be said to consist of a series of well-placed impetuses that reinforce students' self-study efforts toward reaching the desired learning outcomes.
Depending on students' prior level of expertise and the difficulty of these outcomes, face-to-face teaching may not always represent the most effective type of impetus. A more useful approach may consist in monitoring students' level of knowledge closely in order to continually adjust course content to their current requirements. In addition, outcome-based examinations (i.e., tests designed according to the constructive alignment principle) are a valuable means of enhancing transparency and motivating students to tackle their self-study phases independently on the basis of clear-cut goals. Thus, well-defined learning outcomes constitute an essential planning and controlling tool for higher education.
In the long run, the “shift from teaching to learning? prescribed by the Bologna process will bring about a fundamental change in educational style - a paradigm shift involving more than just a new set of buzzwords. Ultimately, this new model represents an invitation to teaching staff to assume a new role - and an opportunity for those who may have seen themselves as conveyors of knowledge to reinvent themselves as self-study coaches. On the one hand, the current focus on learning outcomes places unprecedented demands on instructors and students alike. Yet if both parties actively participate in sharing the responsibility for successful learning outcomes, a greater openness and creativity will ensue - and teaching and learning will quite simply be more fun.