CorePlanner Blog


The Learning Outcomes Principle


Creating a common language reduces barriers between education and training institutions

Learning outcomes are commonly defined as statements of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process, which are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competence.

Recent Cedefop studies show that European education and training policies and practises are increasingly influenced by the learning outcomes principle – notably through a redefinition of standards, curricula and assessment approaches.

In a situation where employment depends on continuous lifelong and life-wide learning, the shift to learning outcomes is important for a number of reasons:

• The learning outcomes perspective allows individuals to judge what is offered in a particular course and how this links with other courses and programmes.

• Using learning outcomes allows employers to judge what to expect from holders of qualifications and potential employees.

• By focussing on what has actually been achieved, and less on how it was achieved, the learning outcomes approach facilitates validation of non-formal and informal learning.

• The shift to learning outcomes is about creating a common language reducing barriers between education and training institutions and strengthening the link between education and training and the labour market.

• Learning outcomes are important for international cooperation, allowing us to focus on the profile and content of qualifications, rather than on the particularities of the institutions delivering them.

Most European countries now see the shift to learning outcomes as a condition for modernising their education and training systems. This conviction is, however, combined with a growing understanding that learning outcomes must be appropriately understood and applied - their use should be based on the principle of ‘fit for purpose’. The use of learning outcomes for referring national qualifications levels to the EQF is not the same as using learning outcomes when defining standards, developing curricula or designing assessment approaches.

Recent Cedefop studies have underlined that the shift to learning outcomes must be combined with a strong focus on learning processes and assessment forms. Learning outcomes need to be developed as an integrated part of education and training, not in isolation. The work of Cedefop has furthermore shown that the shift to learning outcomes is too weakly linked to systematic quality assurance and that this now needs to be given increased priority.
Ernesto Villalba-Garcia | Cedefop