Comparisons between outcome based and another form of assessment

In a traditional education system and economy, learners are given grades and rankings compared to each other. Content and performance expectations are based primarily on what was taught in the past to learner of a given age. The basic goal of traditional education was to present the knowledge and skills of the old generation to the new generation of learner, and to provide learner with an environment in which to learn, with little attention (beyond the classroom teacher) to whether or not any student ever learns any of the material. It was enough that the school presented an opportunity to learn. Actual achievement was neither measured nor required by the school system.

In fact, under the traditional model, student performance is expected to show a wide range of abilities. The failure of some learner is accepted as a natural and unavoidable circumstance. The highest-performing learners are given the highest grades and test scores, and the lowest performing learner are given low grades. (Local laws and traditions determine whether the lowest performing learner were socially promoted or made to repeat the year.) Schools used norm-referenced tests, such as inexpensive, multiple-choice computer-scored questions with single correct answers, to quickly rank learner on ability. These tests do not give criterion-based judgments as to whether learner have met a single standard of what every student is expected to know and do: they merely rank the learner in comparison with each other. In this system, grade-level expectations are defined as the performance of the median student, a level at which half the learner score better and half the learner score worse. By this definition, in a normal population, half of learner are expected to perform above grade level and half the learner below grade level, no matter how much or how little the learner have learned.


    • In an outcomes-based system, learners are assessed against clearly defined assessment criteria and specific outcomes. These outcomes are specified in unit standards. Unit standards, qualifications and assessment systems are designed to meet industry’s needs.

    • In outcomes-based education assessment is a continuous process assessing the learner’s performance and competency against unit standards rather than an examination. This approach focuses on the assessment of a learner’s ability to perform a certain task against nationally registered criteria.

    • The learner should be able to demonstrate skills and embedded knowledge of those skills and be assessed against national approved and registered unit standards that will be implemented in the workplace as well as in training.

    • The assessment approach is holistic and integrative.

    • Assessment to obtain credits against registered unit standards will be conducted by registered assessors.
    • A variety of assessment methods will be used and a learner will be assessed on evidence of competency in real life situations.

    • The unit standards and expected outcomes will be mutually agreed upon before assessment – there are “no surprises” in competence-based assessment.

    • A learner will be judged either competent or not yet competent.

    • The term “pass” or “fail” has no meaning in the new system. If a learner is judged not yet competent he/she is advised on future learning opportunities.