Office of Education Development and Gateway Education

What is Outcomes Based Teaching and Learning (OBTL)?

Quite simply, OBTL is a student-centred approach to learning and teaching, which has been widely adopted in universities across the world. Many teachers are initially confused about the differences between the concepts of outcomes, aims, and objectives and do not understand why OBTL which uses outcomes is seen as more student-centred, so here is an explanation of the differences:

AIMS: The aims of a course or programme should summarise broad purposes and goals. Aims can be aspirational and are not necessarily easily measurable. For example, we might have a set of aims or attributes for the City University Ideal Graduate but these might, by their very nature, be more difficult to measure than intended learning outcomes for a particular course.

OBJECTIVES: These are best seen as specific intentions that indicate the steps to be taken to achieve our aims or goals as teachers. They should be measurable and indicate the teaching intentions.

OUTCOMES: These describe what the learners will be able to do when they have completed their course or programme. They are expressed from the students' perspective so most outcomes statements begin with the phrase: "By the end of this course/programme you will be able to . . . " followed by a short list of outcomes (normally around five). Outcomes MUST be measurable and assessable.

Therefore, outcomes are more student-centred because, whilst objectives indicate the intentions of the teacher, outcomes are the specific measurable achievements of the successful student.