1. bookVolume 6 (2021): Issue 2 (July 2021)
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access type Open Access

Quality model construction and continuous improvement mechanism design in OBE education

Published Online: 25 Nov 2021
Page range: 339 - 346
Received: 16 Mar 2021
Accepted: 23 Jul 2021
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
First Published
01 Jan 2016
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
Languages
English
Abstract

The construction of quality model for outcome-based education (OBE) Education Mode is an important foundation to guarantee the effective implementation of OBE education reform. The quality model for OBE Education Mode is constructed by layers in this paper according to the reverse design characteristics of OBE Education Mode, which is centred on the students’ learning outcome quality, and in accordance with the closed-loop control requirements for quality. Based on the design of the quality monitoring mechanism, the achievement evaluation mechanism and the feedback and improvement mechanism, a three-dimensional, linked and whole-process quality model system is formed with daily monitoring as the means, the achievement evaluation as the core, the feedback of evaluation result as the focus and the continuous improvement as the goal. Finally, the suggestions are made at the level of implementation to further guarantee the operation effect of the quality model, and so as to offer the important assurance for overall promotion of OBE Education Mode reform.

Keywords

Introduction

As a new education mode to be organised, implemented and evaluated with the focus on the students’ expected learning outcome, Outcome-Based Education (OBE) Education Mode has become a popular teaching mode in international engineering education. In June 2016, China officially became a full member of the ‘Washington Accord’, so as to get the ‘International Permit’ for Chinese engineering education; therefore, a number of Chinese colleges and universities plan to or are implementing engineering education reforms based on OBE Education Mode. During the process of planning or implementation, the reformers in engineering education must pay attention to and solve the critical problems, such as how to construct the quality model effectively, realise the continuous improvement of students’ learning outcome quality and guarantee the achievement of the expected learning goals.

Currently, some scholars are studying the quality model and the relevant mechanisms for OBE Education Mode. For example, Sun Aijing made exploration on the implementation of the course quality evaluation under OBE Education Mode [4]; Gong Jianmin studied the cultivation relationship between the learning goal and the course as well as the quality evaluation of course system design from the perspective of OBE course system design [8]; Cheng Tiantian conducted research and investigation into the security system based on the OBE philosophy and from the perspective of teaching quality investigation [9]. Often confined to the local level of the speciality or course, the foregoing researches and practices conduct the isolated and unrelated individual study on the quality system ignoring the intrinsic uniformity and correlation among the universities, specialities and courses under OBE Education Mode, and fail to review and construct with the overall perspective of the whole school, which is exactly the key to guarantee the successful implementation of OBE Education Mode reform. Therefore, it is urgently necessary to construct the hierarchical and intrinsically linked quality model and design the relevant continuous improvement mechanism based on the overall situation at the school, professional and course levels, and according to the requirements of OBE Education Mode, which is also the key to guarantee the smooth implementation of reform in OBE Education Mode.

Construction of quality model for OBE Education Mode
Basic principles for construction of quality model for OBE Education Mode
The quality model must abide by the reverse design characteristics of OBE Education Mode

The reverse characteristic of OBE Education Mode means that by pre-defining and determining the knowledge, skill and quality required for the graduates, the reverse design and achievement matrix of the course system shall be constructed to achieve and satisfy the cultivation goals and the graduation requirements, and the teaching staff and the teaching facilities shall be built to support the achievement of the instructional goals in the course system. Due to the reverse design characteristics, OBE Education Mode must take the achievement of the student cultivation goal as the core element and pay high attention to it during the whole process. Obviously, this is quite different from the outlook on quality in the traditional teaching mode with the focus on the classroom teaching quality, the classroom teaching effect and the teachers’ ability of teaching, which will be definitely embodied in the quality model and complied with in the construction of such quality model in all respects.

The quality model must reflect the practical demands of different stakeholders

The practical demands in the traditional teaching mode are usually confined to the internal factors such as the school's running orientation, talent training goal, course teaching goal and the needs of the teaching subject, whereas the external practical demands such as the regional needs for economic and social development, the needs of industry and the needs of employers are often unnoticed or ignored. OBE Education Mode makes the practical demands based on the result orientation, the regional needs for economic and social development are the main basis for the school to set the general goal of the school's running orientation, the needs of the industry and the employers are the important foundation for determination of goal of professional talent training and the overall description of the occupational and professional attainments to be realised within 5 years after the graduation, which constitutes the cultivation goal of the course. Therefore we can conclude that with regard to the practical demands in OBE Education Mode, it is required to realise not only the internal practical demands of the school, speciality and course but also the external practical demands of different stakeholders such as employers, graduates and student's parents for regional economic and social development. This is the intrinsic requirement for result orientation, and also the key to really realise OBE Education Mode, which shall be embodied and responded to clearly in the quality model.

The quality model must be based on the overall situation and focus on the quality of learning outcome

As a new talent training mode, OBE Education Mode carries out a subversive reform in traditional teaching mode and teaching method, involving the change in the teachers’ teaching concept and the change in the course teaching method; more importantly, it is a significant reform in the traditional teaching system. Different from the local reforms at the professional or course level, OBE Education Mode covers the whole process of the professional talent training, and even extends to the development of students within 5 years after the graduation. Therefore, the implementation of OBE Education Mode reform shall be inevitably based on the overall situation of the school, and the quality model for OBE Education Mode must be designed and realised in such a way as to monitor, evaluate, feedback and continuously improve the students’ learning outcome quality during the whole process from the overall perspective of the school, so as to ensure the smooth implementation of the reforms in OBE Education Mode and to guarantee the achievement of the students’ learning outcome quality.

Hierarchical logical system of the quality model for OBE Education Mode

OBE Education Mode places the emphasis on the learning outcome quality, involving the course teaching, the professional training and the school running. The course teaching focuses on the teaching process of various courses, the professional training focuses on the process of professional training and the school running focuses on the whole process of school training. Such hierarchical design not only embodies the connotation of OBE Education Mode but also provides the basis for the logical construction of the quality model for it. In accordance with the closed-loop control requirements for monitoring, evaluation, feedback and improvement of the quality system, and based on the characteristics of hierarchical implementation of OBE Education Mode, the logical system is designed hierarchically for the quality model for OBE Education Mode. The details are shown in the Figure 1:

Fig. 1

Logical system of quality model for OBE Education Mode. OBE, outcome-based education.

In the above logical system, at the level of course, it is designed with the monitoring, evaluation, feedback and improvement mechanisms, as well as closely around the teaching goals of the course, so as to ensure the achievement of the teaching goals in the course system; at the professional level, in addition to the achievement of the teaching goals in the course system, the attention is also paid to the achievement of the training goals and the goals as required for graduation; the school is responsible for monitoring, running and evaluation of the whole continuous quality improvement system, with the focus on the achievement of the school's running orientation goal. On the basis of the above hierarchical, unified and linked logical model design, the intrinsic requirements of OBE Education Mode are satisfied, the requirements for continuous quality improvement are reflected and most importantly the achievement of the students’ learning outcome quality is guaranteed.

Construction of quality model system for OBE Education Mode

As in the hierarchical logical model, the quality model is constructed at the course, professional and school levels, as well as at the links of monitoring, evaluation, feedback, and improvement based on the principles of unified planning, hierarchical layering of closed loop and three-dimensional linkage. By defining the subject of responsibility, strengthening the development of standards, making evaluation of scientific achievement and making continuous improvement effectively at each level, it is possible to ensure the achievement of the goal at each level, guarantee the effective running of the whole quality system based on the design of quality monitoring, achievement evaluation and other mechanisms and realise the effective achievement of the learning outcome quality.

As the central organ of continuous quality improvement system in the whole school, the school's teaching decision-making organ is responsible for guiding, coordinating and supervising the running of the quality assurance system at three levels, issuing quality instructions in due time, monitoring the running quality and guaranteeing the achievement of the goals. At the course level, it is constructed around the achievement of the course teaching goals, with a focus on monitoring whether the students’ learning performance in the process of course learning meets the requirements of the course teaching goals. At the professional level, it is constructed around the achievement quality of the cultivation goals and the graduation requirements. At the school level, it is constructed around the achievement of the needs of different stakeholders such as students’ parents and employers. On such basis, the achievement evaluation and the hierarchical feedback of results are made from inside and outside the school, including the feedback to the course instructor and the professional leader at the course level, the feedback to the professional leader and the professional construction committee at the professional level and the feedback to the teacher development centre, the student management department and the teaching guarantee department at the school level. The improved results after the feedback shall be supervised by the school's teaching decision-making organ. The details are shown in the Figure 2:

Fig. 2

Quality model system for OBE Education Mode. OBE, outcome-based education.

The whole quality model system is designed based on hierarchical architecture and closely around the students’ learning outcome quality, so as to form a three-dimensional and continuous quality improvement system linkage model with daily monitoring as the means, the achievement evaluation as the core, the feedback of evaluation result as the focus and the continuous improvement as the goal. While guaranteeing the achievement of the expected learning outcome goals at all levels, this model strengthens the combination of the evaluation inside and outside the school, and forms a three-dimensional and linkage quality system with clear goals and responsibilities, covering the whole process from enrolment to 5 years after graduation of the students.

Design of relevant mechanisms of quality model for OBE Education Mode
Design of quality monitoring mechanism

The quality monitoring is the basic work in the quality assurance system whereas the mechanism design of the quality monitoring is the precondition for construction of the quality assurance system. The traditional teaching quality monitoring is often based on monitoring of the classroom teaching quality, and is used mainly to monitor the teachers’ teaching level, the integrity of the knowledge system and the standardisation of teaching materials, highlighting the teachers’ teaching quality, but ignoring the students’ learning performance and quality. This is obviously inconsistent with OBE Education Mode in which the attention is paid to the students’ learning outcome quality; therefore, the quality monitoring mechanism in OBE Education Mode shall be designed at the levels of course learning, professional cultivation and achievement of stakeholders’ goals, so as to monitor the quality information on the students’ learning performance during the whole process.

At the course level, the subject of the quality monitoring is the course instructor, who shall carry out the quality monitoring to assess whether the teaching contents, teaching means and teaching methods of the course can support the students to achieve the teaching goals, whether the teacher's teaching ability and the teaching conditions can guarantee the achievement of the teaching goals, whether the assessment of course can reflect the students’ learning performance should achieve the expected goals and whether the student management can support the achievement of the expected goals of the course. In accordance with the requirements of OBE reverse design, graduation requirements refer to the knowledge, ability and quality requirements that students should have when they graduate, which determine the curriculum system and whether the achievement of each course objective in the curriculum system can ensure the satisfaction of graduation requirements. The quality monitoring system at the level of course learning is mainly constructed from three aspects. First, the quality of course is monitored by peer evaluation at the level of teaching and research section where the teachers are; second, the evaluation of course learning is carried out by the student affairs managers using various methods such as class meetings regularly organised by the class tutor; third, the evaluation of course learning is carried out by all levels of various expert groups through attending lectures, after-class communication with students and other ways.

At the professional level, the responsibility for quality monitoring is undertaken by the professional leader, who shall monitor, collect and analyse the quality information at the professional level by utilising the results of discipline competitions and the professional ability test for students, the achievement of graduation conditions, the expert survey and the professional certification results of the third party. The quality monitoring at the professional training level should be continuously improved in relation to two aspects. On the one hand, continuously increasing the depth of the analysis carried out on students’ professional learning data constantly improves the quality monitoring at the professional training level through implementation of the analysis results; on the other hand, continuously building the quality monitoring mechanism for third-party professional evaluation institutions to participate in the professional training is necessary so as to utilise the third-party test results to optimise the quality monitoring at the professional training level.

For the stakeholders such as enterprises, students’ parents and alumni, the subject of quality monitoring for achievement of goals is the teaching management organ at the school level, who shall monitor and collect the quality information on achievement of the stakeholders’ goals by means of regular research, alumni association discussion, issuance of investigation questionnaire and introduction of the third-party graduates investigation. By this way, a hierarchical, three-dimensional, unified and harmonised quality monitoring system covering the whole process of student cultivation will be established.

Design of achievement evaluation mechanism

As the core of quality assurance system, the achievement evaluation is an important way to measure whether the students’ learning performance goals are achieved. According to the requirements of the quality model system for OBE Education Mode and in combination with the requirements of the continuous quality improvement mechanism, the mechanism instituted to assess achievement evaluation is hierarchically constructed at the course, professional and school levels. The details are shown in the Figure 3:

Fig. 3

Three-level achievement evaluation mechanism of quality model for OBE Education Mode. OBE, outcome-based education.

When designing the achievement evaluation at the course level, the achievement of the indication points in the course and at other teaching links supporting the graduation requirements shall be evaluated by means of course assessment, questionnaire and expert survey; and the subject of the evaluation implementation is the course instructor. The achievement evaluation at the professional level is mainly based on the achievement of graduation requirements, and made mainly by means of the students’ participation in discipline competition, the graduation ability test, the completion of graduation design and the result of professional certification by the third party. The subject of evaluation implementation is the professional leader. The achievement evaluation of the stakeholders such as employers and student's parents shall be organised uniformly at the school level. The achievement of goals from graduation and within 5 years after graduation of the student shall be evaluated by means of teaching quality report, employer survey and third-party graduate follow-up survey. Such evaluation shall place the emphasis on the school running orientation and the achievement of the cultivation goal. The school's teaching management department shall be responsible for implementation of the evaluation under the supervision of the teaching steering committee. In view of the difficulty in implementing the evaluation of stakeholders’ achievement degree in practice, the introduction of the third-party evaluation institution makes the evaluation of achievement degree in terms of employment quality, salary, professional development, career growth, etc. become operational within the time period of 5 years after the students graduate, which provides support for the evaluation of stakeholders’ achievement degree.

Design of feedback and improvement mechanism

The feedback mechanism is an important link to realise continuous improvement whereas the improvement mechanism is the key to achieve quality goals. The feedback and improvement mechanism of the whole quality model, under the unified guidance of the school's teaching decision-making organ, carries out the directional feedback of the evaluation result and the inspection of the improvement result according to the responsibility subjects. The feedback and improvement mechanism at the course level means that the course leader shall make the individual or collective feedback by means of personal communication, teaching and research activities, collective lesson preparation and regular discussion, and that the feedback shall be developed in accordance with the evaluation result of the course and shall be prepared only after monitoring the progress and result of the course improvement. The feedback and improvement at the professional level means that the professional leader shall make the directional feedback according to the subject of implementation and in accordance with the achievement result of the professional goals, and monitor the improvement result by means of regular lecture attendance, survey, discussion and symposium. At the school level, the responsibility subject shall make feedback and improvement according to the evaluation result.

Suggestions on implementation of quality model for OBE Education Mode

In order to ensure the effective running of the quality model for OBE Education Mode, and achieve the continuous improvement goals of the learning outcome quality, the attention shall be paid to the following three aspects during the process of implementation:

First, the system design is the basic requirement and a precondition. The system is the foundation to realise and guarantee the effective running of the quality model. OBE Education Mode is a brand-new education mode. The original education and teaching management system cannot be applied equivalently as there is certain institutional gap. So, the system of continuous improvement mechanism needs to be reformulated. The effective system design can not only unify the student-centred ideological understanding but also promote the understanding of personnel at all levels on the quality of OBE Education Mode. The quality can be monitored effectively, the feedback and continuous improvement can contribute better value and the quality model can run efficiently only by perfecting the system and putting the system into action effectively.

Second, the transformation of outlook on quality is the key. The reform in OBE Education Mode involves all aspects of course teaching, professional cultivation and school management, and extends from the enrolment to 5 years after graduation of the student; so, the traditional outlook on quality, which is centred on evaluation of teachers’ teaching level, is obviously not applicable. Within the whole school, especially at the school level, the quality concept of students first shall be established gradually, the quality awareness of results orientation shall be strengthened continuously at the professional level and the quality requirement centred on students’ learning outcome quality shall be improved constantly at the course level; the successful reform in OBE Education Mode can be ensured fundamentally provided the previous wrong outlook on quality of paying attention to teachers’ teaching quality and ignoring the students’ learning outcome quality are changed and thereafter continuously monitored; and the importance of the continuous improvement in the process of quality goal achievement is strengthened constantly.

Third, the hierarchical linkage is the core. In the substructure of the quality system realised at classroom, professional and school levels based on the connotation of OBE Education Mode, each level focuses on different quality sub-goals, but ultimately serves the general goal of achieving better students’ learning outcome quality. The achievement of the course system quality goal determines the achievement of the professional cultivation quality goal while the achievement of the professional cultivation quality objective supports the achievement of the school's running orientation goal. Therefore, the professional cultivation shall be implemented at the course teaching level, and the school's running orientation shall be refined at the professional cultivation level. During the process of implementation, the linkage between such three levels is very important. Guaranteed by the effective linkage at three levels, through the hierarchical implementation, the quality information can be transmitted to monitor the effectiveness of the scientific evaluation, make classified feedback and implement continuous improvement in a timely manner, so as to realise the running of OBE Education Mode effectively, and finally achieve the goal of best outcome quality.

Conclusion

Nowadays, the implementation of reform in OBE Education Mode has become an important means for colleges and universities to improve the quality of talent cultivation, and moreover the important role of its quality model in guaranteeing the reform in OBE Education Mode has become a consensus among colleges and universities. However, in actual practice, due to the insufficient understanding of the connotation of OBE Education Mode, the interest and demands of some stakeholders cannot be embodied if the quality model is constructed at the course or professional level. Therefore, to ensure an optimal students’ learning outcome quality, it is important to construct a quality model for OBE Education Mode hierarchically in accordance with the connotation requirements of OBE Education Mode and based on the overall situation of the school; and cooperation/coordination in the scientific design of relevant continuous improvement mechanism is essential, and it is also deemed to be the important foundation for smooth promotion and implementation of the reform in OBE Education Mode.

Fig. 1

Logical system of quality model for OBE Education Mode. OBE, outcome-based education.
Logical system of quality model for OBE Education Mode. OBE, outcome-based education.

Fig. 2

Quality model system for OBE Education Mode. OBE, outcome-based education.
Quality model system for OBE Education Mode. OBE, outcome-based education.

Fig. 3

Three-level achievement evaluation mechanism of quality model for OBE Education Mode. OBE, outcome-based education.
Three-level achievement evaluation mechanism of quality model for OBE Education Mode. OBE, outcome-based education.

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