Outcome-based education: the ostrich, the peacock and the beaver

Ronald M. Harden

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    64 Citations (Scopus)


    Significant progress has been made with the move to outcome-based education (OBE) in medicine and learning outcomes are on today's agenda. Learning outcomes have been specified in a number of areas and frameworks or models for communicating and presenting learning outcomes have been described. OBE has, however, two requirements. The first is to make the learning outcomes explicit and the second is the use of the specified outcomes as a basis for decisions about the curriculum. It is the second requirement that is often ignored. Three patterns of behaviour have been identified - the 'ostriches' who ignore the move to OBE believing it to be a passing fad or irrelevance, the 'peacocks' who display, sometimes ostentatiously, a specified set of outcomes but stop there and the 'beavers' who, having prepared their set of learning outcomes, use this as a basis for curriculum related decisions. An OBE implementation inventory is described that allows schools to assess their level of adoption of an OBE approach in their institution. Schools can use this to rate their level of OBE adoption on a five point scale on nine dimensions - a statement of learning outcomes, communication with staff/students about the outcomes, the educational strategies adopted, the learning opportunities available, the course content, student progression through the course, assessment of students, the educational environment and student selection. A profile for OBE implementation can be prepared for the institution.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)666-671
    Number of pages6
    JournalMedical Teacher
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007


    • Clinical Competence
    • Competency-Based Education
    • Decision Making, Organizational
    • Diffusion of Innovation
    • Education, Medical
    • Educational Measurement
    • Humans
    • Learning
    • Models, Educational
    • Organizational Objectives
    • Problem-Based Learning
    • Program Evaluation
    • Schools, Medical


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