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Issues In Educational Research, Vol 17, 2007
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Clare McBeath

There are two articles on outcomes based education in this edition of Issues in Educational Research. They are from Western Australia and Queensland respectively, the two States which have had the most trouble with OBE. It is interesting that the debates in the various States of Australia have been different, even as all States have adopted at least some aspects of OBE. The Western Australian article by Richard Berlach and Keith McNaught reflects the anger and frustration experienced by some of the teachers in that State. However, it must be remembered that OBE has been in place in Western Australian schools for a decade already, and it was only when it was about to be introduced in Years 11 and 12, and materials were not in place to support it, that the outcry occurred.

There are three ways of looking at outcomes, each creating its own set of concerns. One is concerned with the outcomes themselves, and this was the main issue for debate in USA during the 1980s. Debate in NSW and Victoria has been largely about what to include as outcomes, and much of the NSW curriculum has been heavily influenced by the Mayer key competencies defined in the 1990s. The second deals with the dissemination and implementation of the structures and materials of OBE - helping teachers to understand and accept them. It is at this level that the recent debate in WA has occurred, as Year 11 and 12 classrooms teachers found that they were not ready for the change. The third approach digs deeply into the concepts of learning behind outcomes, exploring ideas like constructivism, as Richard Cooper does in his article. This approach is very important as a next step in the introduction of a national OBE system.

A further point for debate is whether it is desirable to mandate compulsory outcomes for everybody, leaving no room for choice. Other arguments stem from the perceived impossibility of stating unambiguously what students will learn, when we know in fact they will not all learn the same things from the same inputs. However, outcomes based education probably deals with what is possible to learn, what is desirable to learn, rather than what has to be learned.

We have learned a lot about learning in the last half century. The arguments about behavioural objectives, aims and objectives, competencies, key competencies, and now outcomes, have sown a wide swathe of new ideas and understandings about learning. It was a difficult journey and we still do not have all the answers to the 'what', even as we slowly come to grips with the 'why'.

We are hoping to follow up with a further article on outcomes based education in the next edition of Issues in Educational Research.

There are also two interesting qualitative studies based on narrative interviews in this edition. The article by David Hodgson on early school leaving and that by Glenda Jackson on transition between home education and formal schooling, make some unexpected matches, dealing as they do with pupils' comments about schooling, some positive and some very negative. One impression I had on reading the two articles was that liking or disliking school is not necessarily related to how intelligent a pupil is, or how successful he or she is at school.

The study by Francis Mangubhai, Perc Marland, Ann Dashwood and Jeong-Bae Son from the University of Southern Queensland, examines the quality of written texts on Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) to ascertain how they treat the various concepts used to describe CLT and the use of CLT in classrooms. The limitations revealed in the texts may help explain why many teachers are not using CLT as well as they might in their teaching.

Emotional intelligence and teacher self efficacy is explored by Andrea Penrose, Chris Perry and Ian Ball in terms of the contribution of teacher status and length of experience, gender and age. They found that length of teaching experience and current status add significant direct effects on predicting teacher self efficacy but did not moderate the relationship between emotional intelligence and teacher self efficacy.

Finally Anthony Stokes looked at the factors influencing the decisions of university students to become high school teachers. With teacher shortages throughout Australia, and existing research concentrating on how to improve teacher satisfaction and reduce attrition, this study takes a different angle and analyses factors which would convince graduates to go into teaching instead of alternative careers.

Clare McBeath
IIER Editor

Please cite as: McBeath, C. (2007). Editorial 17(1). Issues In Educational Research, 17(1), v-vi.

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