The concept of a curriculum traditionally included two elements:
- the content or what the students studied
- the examinations that were designed to assess the extent to which the students had learned the content.
This approach, where the emphasis is on educational process, results in the requirement for acceptance of the output, i.e. the graduate.
Outcome-based education is an approach to education in which decisions about the curriculum are driven by the outcomes the students should display by the end of the course. The outcomes are specified at the start of the planning process and define the product, i.e. what kind of doctor is produced, in the same way that an architect's drawing conveys an image of what the building will look like on completion. The curriculum, approaches to teaching and learning and the assessment are then planned to deliver and assess the pre-defined outcomes.
The Scottish Doctor Curriculum outcomes are an example of an outcome-based approach to education. The principles can be applied to any educational programme. The curriculum outcomes are based on a three circle model and include 12 outcomes. They define what the doctor is able to do, how the doctor approaches his/her practice and the doctor as a professional.