Rethinking Outcomes

The clear and measurable outcome has become the standard for what “counts” in education. But what, exactly, is it counting? In this track, we’ll rethink the concept of outcomes to include the less tangible aspects of a learning experience and articulate a new vision for outcomes that can replace (or supplement when replacing is not an option) the clear and measurable learning objective.

We’ll begin by unpacking learning activities for the implicit features that make them meaningful: the emotional tenor of the activity, the human connections formed, the moments of spontaneity and surprise, the ability to for students to have agency over their own learning. We’ll ask ourselves: When learning is primarily defined by clear and measurable outcomes, what happens to the learning experience? And what happens, in particular, when you translate this experience for online delivery?

We’ll then explore the values that underlie the focus on clear and measurable outcomes and measurement of learning through analytics. What/whose purposes do they serve? What do analytics actually measure? How might “outcomes” change if we start from a different set of values? If our goal is to promote student agency and a more equitable learning environment, what might our “outcomes” look like? Is there space for social justice in “outcomes”?

We’ll end the week by articulating a re-imagined vision outcomes. Our challenge will be to create an artifact that can not only empower our own teaching and course design practices, but that can share our ideas in an effort spur change beyond the boundaries of this conference.

At the conclusion of this course, participants will be able to … wait … you’ll have to answer that one for yourself.


Adrienne Phelps-Coco
Adrienne Phelps-Coco is the Associate Director of Online Pedagogy at the Harvard Division of Continuing Education and an instructor in the Learning Design Certificate at Harvard Extension School.
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