Sunday, November 13, 2011

Outcome Based Education (OBE) as Technological Determinism: A Personal Critique


I should know. I am an engineer.

“What is technology?”

The question was asked in the Philosophy of Technology course in my pursuit for Doctor of Philosophy in Electronics and Communications Engineering degree. I thought, at first, that this is a rhetorical question – but the professor is waiting for a reply. Confidently, I give my reply.

I was right – and I was wrong.

I was right in the example I have given, but I was wrong in the definition I have set my mind on technology. I sat up straight and waited for new waves of data to wash away the cobwebs in my thought process. In their quest to specialize and become expert on their chosen field of interest, six doctoral students are sitting up straight on the first day of class and are being led into the reception area of philosophy of technology. I was hoping that this visit will be memorable.

Philosophy of technology – that phrase caught the curious in me. I know all three words, but taken as one phrase … I simply do not have an iota of know-what or know-how. It took the next two months of class discussions and readings to give me a decent understanding of what philosophy of technology is about. Those two months did not pass by easily. We were required to read and report on a number of things. We were young recruits into the mindset of philosophy of technology – and we were paying our dues. We read pages of unfamiliar language, nuances and belief system. Soon, we were speaking the language and thought process, but we were not there yet. That is obvious to us, but we had grown to love the journey. It was a love-hate relationship at first. Then we have come to respect the course for what it is worth. We are walking on unfamiliar terrain, but we were not fearful. We had companions, all six of us.

I met new ones as well. Democritus, Aristotle, Plato, Bacon, Marx, Butler, Kapp, Ellul, Mitcham, Heidegger, Feenberg, Borgmann, Ihde, Winner, Skolimowski, Bunge, Jarvie, Ryle, Polanyi, Kuhn, Vincenti, Pitt, Simon, Kroes, Meijers, Latour, Callon, and Verbeek were some of the more prominent names we have grown familiar with as their work are scattered pages of literature in our way to find the reality of philosophy of technology. Their words and the ideas therein were expressive of the experiences they have had in their own journey. Some thinkers blazed new trail; others took the same path and left markings. The markings were very helpful and they had taught us an important lesson as well. In this discipline, one can always blaze a new trail or follow an old path; but always leave markings for others to learn from or follow. One could always turn to an opposite direction from a well-beaten path and cut through ominous vines of logic and ridicule and prickly branches of ontology, epistemology, methodology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics – and make your own contribution to the field of philosophy of technology.

For the time being, a major contribution is not expected from us. We were tasked to submit two requirements – a book report and a term paper. To read through one whole book on philosophy of technology and give a report on it is an immersion I was not really looking forward to doing. A kind of ‘culture shock’ is still lingering in my psyche. Admittedly, this is new – not only to me, but to all six of us. Doing philosophy was not an easy task, but doing post-graduate studies was not an easy choice either. So, I sucked it up and went about the business of learning the topic. Once the book report was done, I prepared to face the arduous task of writing a 20-page term paper. How should I start this?

What is Philosophy of Technology?

I started my journey to finding a worthy subject for a term paper with that question. We were asked that question before. We were not ready to give an educated answer then. I still felt not ready to give an educated answer, but I could take a chance on a learned opinion.

Philosophy of technology, to me, is a discipline that considers the different aspects of concern with regard to the use or abuse of an object meant to aid man in his quest to better himself, his environment, and society. There. That took me about a minute to think of that description and write it in this paper. I believe I have learned something – with sincere gratitude to our teacher.

Yet, this is an academic portfolio. I should at least show how deeply I have searched for answer and how widely I have journeyed to learn from other learned men and women. If we were standing on the shoulders of giants to presently see high and far, I needed to see who are the giants whose shoulders I have stood over, who would take me on a journey to discover the story and the history of philosophy of technology.

I know technology – or, at least, that was what I thought. I sought what others know about technology. My first ‘giant’ was Carl Mitcham.

Carl Mitcham defined technology as ‘the making and using of artifacts’. He pointed out four deeper aspects : technology as object, technology as knowledge, technology as action, and technology as volition. When technology is understood as object, the focus is on the artifact being made or used. When technology is understood as knowledge, the focus is on the facts and skills on making and using artifacts. When technology is understood as action, the focus is on the act of making the artifact with related technical knowledge and related action in using it. When technology is understood as volition, the focus is on the will to bring knowledge to bear on the physical world to design products, processes and systems, and to reflect on the purpose of such artifacts or instruments.

Carl Mitcham was a giant large enough to survive the unrelenting tide of changing perspectives and propositions among other great minds. The definition he has given allowed me to explore possibilities of what could be considered as technology. Yet, understanding technology is only half the task. The final half is understanding philosophy.

Philosophy is generally understood as ‘the love of wisdom’. It is that particular discipline that aims at systematic reflection on all aspects of reality. It has five fields of concern : ontology (what is, what exists), epistemology (nature of knowledge), methodology (the way through which something happens), metaphysics (visions on reality, teleology), and ethics and aesthetics (values). These five concerns morphed well with the four aspects of technology : object and ontology; knowledge and epistemology; action and methodology; and volition and teleology, ethics and aesthetics. Nevertheless, this correspondent relationship is not strictly the case for every discussion – or technology, for that matter.

And who is the giant who said that?

I don’t know if he is a giant, but he has been a great help on this journey. Please welcome Marc J. De Vries, the author of the book ‘Teaching about Technology’ (the book for my book report).

The circle is now complete. Philosophy of technology, then, is a discipline whose intent is to study and reflect systematically all aspects of reality about technology as object, as knowledge, as action, and as volition.

Didn’t I just define ‘philosophy of technology’ in page 4?

I did. That was my own. This new definition is my synthesis of what I have discovered from the writings of Mitcham and De Vries and other learned men. Both men were far more learned than I am. I am willingly – and for a long time still – taking instructions from the recognized giants of the discipline. Incidentally, my readings through the book ‘Teaching about Technology’ and through the term paper on technological determinism written by Richard Li, former student of the Philosophy of Technology course, has somehow helped focus my term paper on one strain of thought : technological determinism.

Technological Determinism

With the working definition of philosophy of technology, I sought to find an interesting topic to explore and be the basis of the required term paper. It took awhile before I decided on a topic – technological determinism. The origin of the term ‘technological determinism’ was attributed to Thorstein Veblen. Admittedly, technology has influenced social change one way or another. The central controversy is the extent of influence of technology in setting the conditions for social change. I am not about to settle the controversy. I believe the same will outlive my children and me and the foreseeable future generations. There are several other forms of ‘determinism’ and some of these are listed below :

  • biological (genetic) determinism (‘seeks to explain social or psychological phenomena in terms of biological or genetic characteristics’)
  • linguistic determinism (‘our thinking is determined by language, a theory which links it to certain forms of technological determinism’)
  • environmental determinism (stresses the importance of nature or heredity in social phenomena) 
Determinists are mono-causal (‘single cause’) in their explanation of social change, and that ‘cause’ is technology. Yet, even among thinkers, it is a recognized condition that it is not easy to isolate ‘cause’ from ‘effect’, or to distinguish cause from effect. Technological determinists often use reductionism (reduce the complex whole to the effects of one part to another). Reductionism runs counter to the belief of holism (study the complex interactions of a whole rather than its parts). It is holistic to believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The doctrine of technological supremacy is invoked when a perspective placed technology first (the case for technological determinism). Leslie White put it succinctly:

'We may view a cultural system as a series of three horizontal strata: the technological layer on the bottom, the philosophical on the top, the sociological stratum in between... The technological system is basic and primary. Social systems are functions of technologies; and philosophies express technological forces and reflect social systems. The technological factor is therefore the determinant of a cultural system as a whole. It determines the form of social systems, and technology and society together determine the content and orientation of philosophy.'
This is technological determinism. It is mostly tied to technology as action and volition. It is also often tied to the notion of inevitability. This notion is itself tied to the doctrine of technological imperative. The doctrine of the technological imperative states that an action either ought to (as a moral imperative), must (as an operational requirement) or inevitably will (in time) be taken if a particular technology is available that could make the action possible.

The name is Hasan Ozbekhan. He provided the words explaining the doctrine of technological imperative. That somehow gave me an idea of why technology was tagged as the prime mover of history and of civilization. ‘Adapt or be rendered obsolete’ appeared to be the mentality of those who support technological determinism. Technology seemed to be ‘forced’ on a ‘slaved’ humanity – our only response was supposedly to comply with what is inevitable.

I believe that what is inevitable is change, and change does not always happen the way people want it to happen. ‘Not always’ also means that there were times that they do. If one takes a hard stance on technological determinism, one gave up on free will – the path has been chosen for us and not us willing the path we are taking. Taking the soft stance means to allow for a limited free will – but just the will to roll the dice of life pushed by technological advancement and innovation. People like me who believe in freely willing our actions with certain bias to certain moral imperatives are absent in a society of technological determinists. Yet, the absence of the ability to freely will our actions or responses is tantamount to being not responsible for such actions or responses. In a society of technological determinists, no crime will ever be committed. Not that there is no criminal act, but no one is going to be responsible for it since there is no free will – or, at least, so I thought.,

W. E. Moore (in Potter and Sarre) once remarked:

‘[a]mong the proponents of the primacy of technological change, there is evident an unmistakable tone of moral disapproval directed against... [cultural] lags - that is, resistances to structural and normative adaptations occasioned by innovation.’
As technology is not merely object but can be knowledge, act or volition, resistance to such technological innovations as abortion, contraceptive mentality, same-sex marriage, and similar strains is viewed as ‘medieval’ thinking – too old to still exist on this day and age. There is indeed an ‘unmistakable tone of moral disapproval directed against’ those who espoused such ‘medieval' thinking from those who promote ‘normative adaptations occasioned by innovation’. Traditional technologies must make way for modern technologies – or so the technological determinists say.

With that, I believe I have a substantial grasp of what technological determinism is and how it manifests itself. I still have one problem, though. I want to tie technological determinism to a specific current technology and provide a critique for that technology as one manifestation of technological determinism. But what technology?

It took a while to find the appropriate subject. One technology that had become a repeated topic of discussion in the classroom is outcome-based education or OBE. How it was presented in the classroom in relation to the Washington Accord sounds like technological determinism to me. With this presumption, I did a background check on outcome-based education and came up with a lot of information. I decided to provide a critique of this technology as the topic for my term paper.

What is Outcome-Based Education?

Dr. Roy Killen identified three perspectives from which to judge the quality of an educational system : 1. the inputs to the system, 2. what happen within the system, and 3. the outputs from the system. Two basic types of outcomes are identified : 1. test results, completion rates, post-course employment rates, etc., and 2. what students know, able to do, or are like as a result of their education. According to Dr. Killen, it is the second type of outcomes that is normally implied when outcome-based education is discussed. He quoted William Spady – a recognized world authority on OBE in Australia – as saying :

‘Outcome-Based Education means clearly focusing and organizing everything in an educational system around what is essential for all students to be able to do successfully at the end of their learning experiences. This means starting with a clear picture of what is important for students to be able to do, then organizing the curriculum, instruction, and assessment to make sure this learning ultimately happens’
The favored approach to OBE is known as transformational OBE where ‘learning is not significant unless the outcomes reflect the complexities of real life and give prominence to the life-roles that learners will face after they have finished their formal education’. The least favored concept is transitional or traditional OBE. It was unfortunate that I had not enough time to explore the case, though. So, let us go back to transformational OBE.

There are three underlying premises of transformational OBE :

  1. all students can learn and succeed, but not all in the same time or in the same way; 
  2. successful learning promotes even more successful learning; and 
  3. schools (and teachers) control the conditions that determine whether or not students are successful at school learning. 

I am not an educator by training, but I have been teaching for over fifteen years. I believe that these three have been the underlying premises of what I have been doing in the classroom. So, what is new? From these three premises, William Spady is said to have developed four essential principles of OBE :

First Principle : clarity of focus
- everything the teacher does must be clearly focused on what he want learners to ultimately be able to do successfully

Second Principle : designing back
- starting point for curriculum design must be a clear definition of significant learning that students are to achieve by the end of their formal education

Third Principle : high expectations
- teachers must establish high, challenging standards of performance in order to encourage students to engage deeply with the issues about which they are learning

Fourth Principle : expanded opportunities
- what really matters is that students learn the things that are important and not that they learn them in a particular way or by some arbitrary point in time

Again, there is nothing new here for me. Yet, to always achieve all four all the time in a given academic year will be great news for me – and my students. I honestly felt lacking in competence to delve into what I believe to be the province of philosophy of education – I mean to know the answer to the question : what is education?

Dr. Roy Killen of the Faculty of Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia, is of the opinion that only when the above principles are used as the core of an educational system that we can legitimately call that system outcome-based education. William Spady further suggested ten categories of outcomes, based on fundamental life performance roles :

  1. learner and thinker 
  2. listener and communicator  
  3. implementer and performer  
  4. problem finder and solver  
  5. planner and designer 
  6. creator and producer 
  7. teacher and mentor
  8. supporter and contributor
  9. team member and partner
  10. leader and organizer 

In addition, William Spady suggested that, to prepare students for these life roles, teachers need to –
‘continually engage students in both individual and team activities that explore important issues or phenomena, use multiple media and technologies, create products that embody the results of students’ explorations, and call for students to explain their work and products to adult and student audiences.’
That is a lot of work for a teacher in a 40-student classroom. Yet, all that is well and good – from a layman’s point of view.

Let me define a layman as a person who has not been completely initiated into the intricacies, nuances and idioms of a given field of study he is currently being exposed to. In that sense, I am a mere layman in the field of educational technologies. The proponents have been using the right words and the right issues to sell their ideas to me. Nevertheless, I believe I have to ask : does everyone like OBE?

Does Everyone Like OBE?


There are many critics to this technology. Some, I have found, are quite virulent in their attacks or criticisms. Many are quite civil about it; writing scholarly papers to advance their arguments to the mainstream media. Indeed, I also saw some merit in their arguments. Yet, access to such scholarly output is seldom free.

How do we get to read and know the opposite view? One needs only to find a single link that is positively critical about OBE and you can go from there. Although I would be quite cautious in accessing and indulging myself with such literature for a length of time, I still must satisfy my primary need to find the truth. Sometimes, the vitriolic comments are just too much to take. Scholarly works are available online, but are just too long for the purpose of this term paper. Personally, keeping students engaged will take a lot from us teachers – that is, if OBE is going to be used in our classrooms. What about those who have used – or are using – OBE in their classroom?

Perhaps the most critical published material I have come across is the work of Charlotte T. Iserbyt entitled ‘Back to Basics Reform’. It is a 47-page booklet first published in 1985. What is available online is the 2004 edition with this note:

“This 2004 reproduction is for public distribution. Send this information to local school board members, state legislators, U.S. Congressmen and Senators. Elected officials MUST be informed about the damaging, dumbing down activities that state/federal education reform policies and public tax dollars have supported and continue to support, all in the name of "accountability to the corporate/federal government partnership," NOT to the parent or local school district.” (original emphasis retained)
(NOTE : The charge on ‘accountability to the corporate/federal government partnership’ is essentially confirmed in Dr. Roy Killen’s paper entitled ‘Outcomes-Based Education : Principles and Possibilities’.)

This tiny booklet has 40 sections – from the Introduction to the Index. What caught my attention are the sections with headings such as ‘Are the “New Basics” what you think they are?’ and ‘International consensus on what is worth learning’. The first heading suggests that something was hidden from full exposure, and the second heading smelt like technological determinism. My curiosity was again ticked. Out of all hubbub about outcomes-based education, a dissenting voice may not be heard or be allowed to speak in a wider forum. Call it luck. Call it fate. I am inclined, though, to call this booklet a ‘call in the wilderness’. Yet, this particular wilderness may just give birth to wild beasts rearing to pounce on their prey.

Charlotte T. Iserbyt started her exposition with a quote from Prof. Benjamin Bloom :

“In fact, a large part of what we call ‘good teaching’ is the teacher’s ability to attain affective objectives through challenging the students’ fixed beliefs and getting them to discuss issues.”
What is wrong with that? To my untrained mind, nothing. So I read on. One example was given as an implementation of this belief. An elementary-level Social Studies program called Man : A Course of Study (MACOS) was implemented in the United States. The program was supposed ‘to help children understand what made them human by exploring in depth the lifestyle of an obscure Eskimo tribe’. The record in the United States congressional investigation stated that –
“[t]he course was designed by a team of experimental psychologists under Jerome S. Bruner and B.F. Skinner to mold children’s social attitudes and beliefs along lines that set them apart and alienate them from the beliefs and moral values of their parents and local community.”
Both Bruner and Skinner were – and still are – prominent names in the history of OBE in the United States and its educational system. In this program, ‘fifth grade children were required to read ugly stories which promoted infanticide, cannibalism, incest and senilicide—the deliberate shoving of aged relatives out on the ice to die alone’ (quoted word for word from the booklet). Further reading of the booklet is not easy. The evidences presented in this booklet bug the mind. Why is this information not out there and informing the public? Is this how ‘challenging students’ fixed beliefs and getting them to discuss issues’ implemented? If that is how it goes with a fifth grader, how would it be implemented to a university student?

Daniel Chandler wrote that

‘[a]s an interpretive bias, technological determinism is often an inexplicit, taken-for-granted assumption which is assumed to be 'self-evident'. Persuasive writers can make it seem like 'natural' common sense: it is presented as an unproblematic 'given'. The assumptions of technological determinism can usually be easily spotted in frequent references to the 'impact' of technological 'revolutions' which 'led to' or 'brought about', 'inevitable', 'far-reaching', 'effects', or 'consequences' or assertions about what 'will be' happening 'sooner than we think' 'whether we like it or not'. This sort of language gives such writing an animated, visionary, prophetic tone which many people find inspiring and convincing.’
Have I just been forewarned unintentionally?

Safir-Whorf hypothesis states that our thinking is determined by language (linguistic determinism) and people who speak different languages perceive and think about the world differently (linguistic relativity). Extreme ‘Whorfianism’ is espoused by Edward T. Hall in ‘The Hidden Dimension’ in writing that :

‘people from different cultures not only speak different languages but, what is possibly more important, inhabit different sensory worlds’
Although extreme Whorfianism is as heavily criticized as technological determinism, moderate form of Whorfianism is widely accepted by scholars. It states that the ways in which we use language may have some influence on our thinking and perception, but they stress a two-way relationship between thought and language and also the importance of social context – and societies vary between cultures, ethnic groups, or even people with structured belief system.

Are the proponents of outcomes-based education just using words that are understood differently by laymen and women than by professionals of the field? Words – whether English or Tagalog – are often understood within its cultural context based on my own experience and on the writings of expert on that field. How do the cultures who originate the technology understood the words used to describe this particular technology? I guess this one falls in the epistemology aspect of the philosophy of technology.

It cannot be that bad

I hope so.

With the implementation of Washington Accord, we were told in class that we have to adopt outcome- or outcomes-based education, or else become inconsequential in the engineering field around the region (even around the world) as our diploma or license will not be of any value in the global industry. That is a horrible future to contemplate. Can the Philippines isolate herself from such tidal wave of change? It could – but at what cost?

Although no picture was painted about the future after adopting OBE, the basis for seemingly positive reception of OBE in the Philippines was the contention that the student outcomes expected by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) was ‘all good’. (I will be commenting on that list later.) The ‘all good’ description of the expected outcomes comes with the presumption that the implementation of OBE will also be ‘all good’. Yet, even those who endorse OBE recognized that there is some vagueness in how ‘measurable outcomes’ is implemented and tested during the assessment of students. Since OBE is recognized as a loosely-bound collection of ideas, one may think that an OBE was implemented when it was not OBE in reality – probably just a ‘ghost’ of it or simply a mimic of its activities.

Warnings were blaring around OBE. One that I heard stated that :

“At first, people tend to agree with the broad premise of outcomes-based education – that all children can learn, that schools should set clear goals for students, that teachers be given the means to help students achieve the goals and that students be required to demonstrate what they know and are able to do. The problems crop up in the details.”
The quote above is from Ann Dykman who was quoted by Richard G. Berlach in his paper entitled ‘Outcome-based Education and the Death of Knowledge’ presented at the The Australian Association for Research in Education Conference in Australia last 2004. That paper was an indictment of the failure of OBE in Australia.

Note that Australia and South Africa, two of the original signatories of the Washington Accord, has suffered setbacks on its implementation of OBE. Western Australia, in January 2007, has capitulated to the massive opposition of parents and teachers against the implementation of OBE. This is a classic example of a case against technology being always the prime mover of societal change. In retrospect, though, it was technology that had allowed parents and teachers to organize on a massive scale to oppose an already ‘given’ technology meant for adoption.

OBE in South Africa met a worst end. Outcome-based education was introduced in 1997 as part of the Curriculum 2005 program of the government then. In 2010, the new government scrapped the program as it was widely viewed as a failure.

Having spent millions in preparing ourselves to welcome this new technology in our shore, how sure or secure are we that ‘our way’ of doing OBE will be more successful than that of Australia and South Africa? Is the risk we are taking worth the millions we are spending? Can we suspend further implementation of OBE across all universities until verified data in the local scene are gathered? Again, it goes back to the question : can the Philippines afford to isolate itself from the world?

At what cost?

ABET and Washington Accord

I may be wrong. I am not in a position to know more or to verify the claim, but the perception I received from those who should know is that ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), an organization based in the United States, has become the standard body tasked to accredit institutions of higher learning in the field of engineering and technology in accord to the expressed criteria by the Washington Accord.


I have to ask the question. Not to ask is a betrayal to the goal of philosophy – to learn about the reality of things. Yet, to ask is to expose one’s ignorance to ridicule. Call me naïve. Call me anything, but please call me when you have an answer to my query.

ABET has published its criteria for accrediting engineering programs for the accreditation cycle year 2011 – 2012. It has incorporated all changes approved by its board of directors as of 30 October 2010. This document is available online. In the United States, all engineering and technology schools need to comply. What seems to tickle my mind is the possibility that, among the board of directors, there are those that are not technically engineers but are loosely called social engineers. Social engineers seem to inhabit many professional societies in the United States and many of its educational boards as mentioned in the booklet 'Back to Basics Reform’ by Charlotte T. Iserbyt. To put things into context, I understand social engineers in its negative connotation.

ABET provided eight general criteria for engineering programs. The most important criteria for the topic at hand is criterion number three :

Criterion 3 : Student Outcomes

(a) an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering;

(b) an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data;

(c) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability;

(d) an ability to function on multidisciplinary teams;

(e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems;

(f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility;

(g) an ability to communicate effectively;

(h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context;

(i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning;

(j) a knowledge of contemporary issues; and

(k) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.
I find nothing wrong with these preferred outcomes as most of these are also the intended outcomes for most of the courses in most engineering curricula in the country. I am amused, though, by the fact that letter h seems to propose the necessity of philosophy of technology as a course for engineering students. I positively concur. The course has taught me a lot – one of that is to always try to reflect on the reality of things, to listen, to meditate, and to ask more questions if needed.

What catches my attention, though, is the preceding paragraph of this document. On page 2, one can read this statement :

“These criteria are intended to assure quality and to foster the systematic pursuit of improvement in the quality of engineering education that satisfies the needs of constituencies in a dynamic and competitive environment.” (emphasis added)

The word ‘competitive’ just does not fit well in the current context. If ABET is intent on pursuing outcomes-based education, competition has no room in the classroom. Al Mamary made the claim that outcome-based schools work to attain such objectives as ‘excellence is for every child and not just a few’ and ‘students should collaborate in learning rather than compete’. How then could an engineering graduate trained not to compete but collaborate actualize himself in what ABET recognizes as a dynamic and competitive environment, that world beyond the classroom? Yes, that is not a rhetorical question and that is a large discrepancy between what ABET sees and what ABET does – but, as a newly-minted student of the philosophy of technology, I could very well be wrong. I pray so, because – if I am right – there is a big hole in that ship called ABET and we should not get aboard.


Philosophy is about reality, and philosophy of technology is about reality of technology. The reality that I have discovered about outcome-based education is enough to give a serious thinker a pause before proceeding any further. Three months is not enough to follow grasp the situation – and I maintain that I have not grasp the situation that well. What I know right now is that the technology – outcome-based education – has loopholes in its principles and its implementation as well as in the understanding of what outcome-based education truly is and how it should have been implemented by those teachers who are on the thick of the fight for its acceptability.

A number of literatures – technical papers and journal articles – decry the lack of verifiable evidences proving the impact and fulfilled promises of such technology. This lack of verifiable evidences can be attributed to the fact that outcome-based education does not have a concrete/definite form. You could be using inquiry-based, problem-based, experiential, active, or any other learning approach, and you may still not be doing outcome-based education. Some who may technically be doing outcome-based education are using competition in the classroom as stimulus for learning – a big no-no for some proponents.

The ‘inevitability’ of outcome-based education coming into every engineering classroom in the country has seemingly been determined. Nevertheless, the possibility of society rising up against technologically deterministic agenda is quite possible. It happened in South Africa. It happened in Australia. I can happen in the Philippines.

Personally, I am positively inclined to work for the outcomes enumerated in criterion 3 for accrediting engineering and technology curricula by ABET. Though I have been using problem-based cooperative learning approach in some classes and I have read that cooperative learning approach is one of the methods used in outcome-based education, I don’t believe that I have been doing outcome-based education. For one, there are a number of competitive activities I have designed and implemented with generally very positive response from affected students. I also emphasized grading outcomes where possibly only a few may earn an excellent grade. Experience has taught me that there are other ways to prepare students for the real world. That is evidence enough for me.

For whatever it is worth, I am thankful for the philosophy of technology course. I believe I would never take the time to examine outcome-based education on my own volition. The course has allowed me to examine the reality of outcome-based education and find out for myself the truth that it holds. I hope that, even as a new recruit into this discipline, I have articulated my thoughts well.

When he who hears doesn’t know what he who speaks means, and when he who speaks doesn’t know himself what he means – that’s philosophy. (Voltaire)


Carl Mitcham (2011), ‘Philosophizing About Technology : Why Should We Bother?’ (Interview), Ethix Online Publication, Center for Integrity in Business, School of Business and Economics, Seattle Pacific University.

Marc J. De Vries (2005), ‘Teaching about Technology: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Technology for Non-philosophers’, Springer, P.O. Box 17, 3300 AA Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

Daniel Chandler (1995). ‘Technological or Media Determinism’, (online) media/Documents/tecdet/tecdet.html (visited on 15 August 2011)

Leslie A. White (1949). ‘The Science of Culture: A Study of Man and Civilization’, New York: Grove Press

Hasan Ozbekhan (1968). 'The Triumph of Technology - "Can" implies "Ought"'. In Cross et al. (1974), op. cit.

David Potter and Philip Sarre (Eds.) (1974). ‘Dimensions of Society: A Reader’, London: University of London Press/Open University Press

Thorstein Veblen. ‘The Engineers and the Price System’

Roy Killen (2000). ‘Outcomes-based education: Principles and possibilities’, Unpublished manuscript, University of Newcastle, Faculty of Education.

William Spady (1994). ‘Outcome-based education: Critical issues and answers’, Arlington, VA : American Association of School Administrators.

William Spady (1998). ‘Paradigm lost: Reclaiming America’s educational future’, Arlington, VA : American Association of School Administrators.

David Krathwohl, Benjamin Bloom and Bertram Massia. ‘Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, The Classification of Educational Goals, Handbook II: Affective Domain’, p. 55.

Ann Dykman. ‘Fighting words: Across the nation outcomes-based education is embroiled in controversy’, Vocational Education Journal, November/December 1994, pp. 36-39, 79.

Al Mamary (1991). ‘Fourteen principles of quality outcomes-based education’, Quality

Outcomes-Driven Education, October 21-28.

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