CEDEFOP conference on the impact of the learning outcomes approach

The shift to learning outcomes and its impacts: taking stock of European policies and practices

Thessaloniki, 21 and 22 November 2013



"Cedefop is organising a conference on the ongoing shift to learning outcomes across European education and training systems. The wide range of stakeholders involved in the shift will look in detail at recent developments and discuss benefits and challenges of:

  • learning outcomes as a prerequisite for flexible (lifelong) learning;
  • governance through learning outcomes;
  • learning outcomes and teaching and training.

The conference aims to take stock of European developments during the past decade and discuss how the shift to learning outcomes affects policies and practices in education and training.

Thematic focus

(a) Learning outcomes as a prerequisite for flexible (lifelong) learning

The learning outcomes approach is considered crucial for creating flexible learning pathways allowing learners to progress according to their needs, based on already acquired skills and competences. Learning outcomes are expected to increase permeability of education and training systems and  also ease transfer from education to work and vice versa. A combination of tools at national and European levels – such as qualifications frameworks, credit transfer and recognition arrangements – have been put in place to accomplish this. Discussions will focus on learning outcomes’ contribution to increased transparency and permeability and their benefits for individual learners and employers.

(b) Governance through learning outcomes

The shift to learning outcomes is considered a form of governance by many stakeholders. Introducing qualifications frameworks (at European, national and sectoral levels) and rewriting standards and curricula can be seen as examples, explicitly expressing society’s and the labour market’s expectations of teachers and learners. The conference will discuss opportunities and dangers associated with this governance approach. Does it enable decentralisation and institutional autonomy? Can it be seen as a form of centralisation, limiting the scope of local and institutional choice? Does this approach reflect labour market needs for relevant, high-quality skills and competences?

(c) Learning outcomes and teaching and training

Learning outcomes – as statements of expectations – are intended to orient and guide teachers and trainers responsible for or involved in the learning process. The extent to which this is actually the case is open for discussion, and the conference will present a range of examples showing possibilities as well as pitfalls. An important aspect is whether learning outcomes can be (easily) assessed. A clear reference for assessment is crucial for a positive impact of the learning outcomes approach on teaching and training.

Expected outcomes

The event provides an opportunity for policy-makers, practitioners and researchers to exchange experiences in a field where all groups are or should be actively involved. It will explore the following challenges:

  • applying the learning outcomes approach in a way that promotes future developments of European tools in education and training, and their implementation at national level;
  • defining learning outcomes that leave room for individual and institutional interpretation and initiative, while presenting clear directions and expectations.

The conference will feed into Cedefop’s new research project, the shift to learning outcomes, launched in July 2013. This project, follow-up of the 2006-08 Cedefop project on the same topic, will provide a review and analysis of developments in EU/EEA countries and subsystems of education and training."

Further information: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/events/LearningOutcomes-2013/index.html