Publications & Resources

Ontology-Based Educational Design: Seeing is Believing

Dec 2012

Eva L. Baker

Compounding the problem of imprecise communication is the proliferation of standards for each subject area at every grade level, and the incoherence of their articulation within and across levels. For many states, the number of standards advanced for each subject area far exceeds what feasibly can be addressed during an academic year and the progression of standards within and across years does not align well with reasonable sequences of learning. As a result, “covering the standards” trumps dealing with them in any depth and serious development of competency relative to standards can get short shift. Rather than being led by a common understanding of what is important for students to know and be able to do, curriculum mirrors the limited sample of items included on state tests, and test content becomes the de facto goal of the curriculum. Left behind are the more complex and challenging implications of written standards for student learning and performance. As a result, despite intentions, current standards-based reform may divert rather than support coherent learning, effective teaching, and significant accomplishments of students, teachers,and schools.

We believe that new approaches using an ontology-based design to specify expectations can provide an important tool for building consensus on the core of what students should be expected to know and be able to do and can provide critical, learning-based structural underpinning for aligning standards, curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development, among other educational resources.

Baker, E. L. (2012). Ontology-based educational design: Seeing is believing (Resource Paper No. 13). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).