Thursday, 12 July 2012

Generic Learning Outcomes - friend or foe?

This is a really quick post in my lunch break so apologies for the brevity.  I intend to blog more fulsomely about the joint MCG/DLNET Engaging Digital Audiences in Museums conference yesterday over the days / weeks to come but I wanted to follow up on one point.

I just want to continue discussion here if possible about one particular point: A mention of learning outcomes in the morning suggested to me that there was perhaps a little negativity around the concept. I tried to open up this discussion in an unconference session called 'Learning outcomes: Friend or foe' but most of us in that session were already regular users of the Generic Learning Outcomes and therefore we didn't have the lively debate that we expected to have so I wanted to continue the discussion here:

1. What does the term 'learning outcome' mean to you?
2. What are your experiences of working with learning outcomes?
3. Would you consider them to be a friend or a foe and why?

I'm moving into a new role at Museum of London next week (more on this later) and part of that job will be about bringing lots of digital sub-teams around the Museum of London together to work more collaboratively.  A better understanding of the kinds of differences of opinion / misconceptions / likes / dislikes / different vocabularies or whatever you want to call them about issues like this would be really useful for me to help plan how I go about doing this.

Please let me know your thoughts by commenting on this post!

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12 Comments:

Blogger Frankie Roberto said...

It seems to me that the negativity you sensed wasn't about the idea that people might have 'learning outcomes' (be they generic or specific), but was more about the process of trying to determine the learning outcomes before the experience, and then trying to measure it afterwards.

12 July 2012 14:09  
Blogger Rhiannon Looseley said...

I see what you mean by the difference and that's useful to hear - thanks. But surely it's ok to start out with some intended learning outcomes at the start, but be prepared to adjust them in the course of the project if necessary?

12 July 2012 16:05  
Blogger Mia Ridge said...

I think I was lucky in that I learnt about generic learning outcomes at the Museum of London, so had a clear picture of them as applying to 'learning' in really broad terms and as something that could be adapted for thinking about any type of engagement with museums.

I wonder if some of the (perceived?) resistance is because people don't realise GLOs include things like 'having fun', 'being surprised', 'being inspired' or 'empathy' as well as skills and knowledge?

By the way, you can only comment on your post if you have a google account - might reduce the number of comments?

14 July 2012 12:19  
Blogger Rhiannon Looseley said...

Thanks Mia. That was something I wondered too. Whether people equated learning outcomes with facts rather than also skills, enjoyment, change of attitude, behaviour and progression etc.

I think I put the Google only thing in place when I started getting loads of spam but I'll take a look. Thanks.

14 July 2012 12:24  
Anonymous Jack Kirby said...

I quite like GLOs, but then I spent a lot of time reading up on them when I was asked to use them for Social History Curators Group event evaluation forms about seven years ago. I have come across resistance, but I think the principle of setting learning outcomes is sensible, irrespective of how slavishly one follows the GLO framework. Here at Thinktank in Birmingham we set GLOs when planning exhibitions with both collections and interactive exhibits, in addition to our learning programmes

For me, the key point is to plan for outcomes to be achieved at exhibit level, even if you don't necessarily measure every single one. I see far too many digital interactives where the output (deliver an interactive) seems to have been considered more than the outcome(s) (what the user will take away from the experience). I also see some interactives that are concentrated on delivering information knowledge that could have been delivered by non-digital means at a fraction of the cost - here the output has been selected before the outcome has been considered. Set the outcomes and what the outputs are and how they are delivered should follow. In reality you tend to meet in the middle, but it's certainly helped us to improve our exhibit development.

I think your best hope of persuading people of the power of learning outcomes is (a) teach people the difference between an output and an outcome and (b) show them examples where learning outcomes have worked well (I'm sure you have loads from previous projects) and (c) show them examples of digital stuff where the absence (known or apparent) of clear learning outcomes limits both outcomes and engagement with the content.

To give an example of the latter, yesterday I used a touch table that allowed me to find out more about the organisation in which it was located, and explore some of its collections. Nicely done, good intuitive interface, hardware and software seemed reasonably robust overall, perhaps lacked a decent attractor loop, so nobody was actually using it other than me while I was there. One of the uses was quite relevant to a touch table, displaying maps and posters which work well at that scale due to their original size (frankly most of the rest of the content could have been on a smaller, cheaper screen or even better the web, rather than being limited to use in the institution).

Yet while there was a selection of historical maps of the locality, each only had a short caption. What was I supposed to make of these maps? The selection had been carefully curated (I could see, based on prior knowledge), but the potential of the interactivity hadn't been considered - why couldn't I overlay the maps on one another, find a particular location on each map, see images of the places depicted on the maps, improve my mapreading skills etc. Had outcomes been set for this fairly expensive project? Insofar as there was an outcome, it showed me the range of material held by the organisation, but my learning was limited to a few facts from the captions. (I did enjoy it, but then I'm a map geek so came equipped with my own knowledge and interpretation.) I rather suspect the output of a touch table had been defined before the content was considered. Learning outcomes could have made it so much better.

17 July 2012 20:09  
Blogger Rhiannon Looseley said...

Thanks so much Jack for such a considered and thoughtful post and for the good examples. Anyone else have any thoughts on what Jack says?

17 July 2012 22:19  
Blogger Culture Themes said...

As someone who just went through PGCE - dealing with learning outcomes and kicking and screaming the whole two years about how stupid they are - I will say learning outcomes are required and necessary. They are actually a positive 'goal' to have in mind as long as you recognize their flexibility. The learning outcome might stay the same but the approach can be modified many times along the way.

Once I *got* that, things made more sense. I will say that although I'm still anti-theory, anti-schemes of work, anti-paperwork, I do see the point for structure within a team project.

18 July 2012 10:44  
Blogger Rhiannon Looseley said...

Thanks Mar!

18 July 2012 12:44  
Blogger Bridget McKenzie said...

Overall I think the idea of using a generic and sector-wide framework for constructing and evaluating learning outcomes and social impacts is a really good one. If all museum activities are geared around agreed learning and social outcomes, there is much more clarity of purpose. The problem is that the ILFA framework was not iterative, so we weren't able to adapt it based on practice. There's maybe a chance to develop a common framework now that MLA is gone. I'd like to see a framework that makes much clearer distinction between factors that enhance learning (inputs), immediate evidence of learning (outputs), transformations in individuals (outcomes) and transformations in communities or cohorts (impacts, to include the Generic Social Outcomes).

20 July 2012 16:42  
Blogger Bridget McKenzie said...

Overall I think the idea of using a generic and sector-wide framework for constructing and evaluating learning outcomes and social impacts is a really good one. If all museum activities are geared around agreed learning and social outcomes, there is much more clarity of purpose. The problem is that the ILFA framework was not iterative, so we weren't able to adapt it based on practice. There's maybe a chance to develop a common framework now that MLA is gone. I'd like to see a framework that makes much clearer distinction between factors that enhance learning (inputs), immediate evidence of learning (outputs), transformations in individuals (outcomes) and transformations in communities or cohorts (impacts, to include the Generic Social Outcomes).

20 July 2012 16:44  
Blogger Comtessa said...

I think it's all been said. I think setting learning outcomes in advance gives you a steer in how you structure what you do and what content you include so are really necessary. Sometimes learning may occur where you didn't expect it, but that's OK! You just have to find some way of measuring that afterwards.

I find the GLOs invaluable, but have modified them from time to time to get other information from users. And they should always be accompanied by specific learning outcomes based on your project/ collection. I haven't used the social learning outcomes and haven't got to grip with those at all. Not sure how they would work in digital learning.

20 July 2012 20:03  
Blogger Rhiannon Looseley said...

Thanks Bridget and Comtessa. I think someone said at the conference that they had been to a meeting where ACE had discussed a next step after the GLOs. would be interested in more details if anyone has any?

20 July 2012 21:35  

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