A feature of language teaching in recent decades has been the development of process-oriented approaches. This orientation towards processes encourages us to facilitate learner choice and individual development. However, it is challenged by the current educational climate, which prioritizes accountability and assessment. In this situation, a new perspective on process orientation has emerged. This perspective focuses not on the processes which occur as part of learning but on the processes which are the intended outcomes of this learning. Discrete features of the communication and learning processes become pre-specified ‘learning outcomes’, which are to be observed and assessed. Outcomes-based education is promoted as a means of empowering learners with the knowledge and skills required for living. However, it is also a powerful instrument for effecting compliance with centralized conceptions of education and can minimize the voices of learners and teachers in the process of education. Copyright © 2008 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press.