EPA was invited to contribute on the parents’ view on the topic of learning outcomes in a great 2-day event organised at the headquarters of CEDEFOP, in Thessaloniki, Greece at the end of September.
The event was exploring the ways learning outcomes approaches are applied in initial vocational education and training (IVET) throughout Europe. It was to be the first in a series of events that aim to open up for a continuous process of sharing and learning in this area. The PLF will focus on the following questions:
- How are learning outcomes expectations defined and articulated?
- What is the content and profile of intended learning outcomes?
- Who are involved in the definition and articulation of learning outcomes?
- Why has a particular approach been chosen and to what extent is this embedded in particular education and/or employment policies?
The forum gathered experts and other stakeholders including Social Partners directly involved in the definition, writing and review of learning outcomes for VET. This ‘hands-on approach’ was suitable for an informed exchange of experiences potentially adding substantial value to existing national policies and practices.
In the event it was agreed on that different interpretations, eg. that of competences, are fine as long as they can be assessed and translated by the means of a common reference point, like the EQF that is most widely used today. There was substantial discussion on a topic reaching far beyond VET, namely if it is really necessary to differentiate between knowledge, skills and competences, or they should only be referenced as learning outcomes. While the participants agreed that it is vital to introduce a standardised format of writing learning outcomes for mutual understanding and recognition, it is a long-term and difficult task. Time and support, eg. that of CEDEFOP to achieve this. Fears of losing some local colours are also to be considered and eliminated.
There was agreement that learning outcomes should be addressed to different audiences, learners, educators, assessors, employers and parents among them, and they should be formulated in a way that deconstructs the barriers of technical language.
On the issue of levels and complexity the participants agreed that enough information on levels of proficiency is beneficial for the learners and their parents, it is also important to provide support for better alignment with assessment criteria, but it should be built with caution and guidance. The principle of KISS (‘keep it short and sweet’ or according to the original US Navy version ‘keep it simple, stupid’) is to be kept in mind when writing learning outcomes, meaning that they should not be too specific or detailed, while assessment criteria should. It should be described what the learner needs to know to be qualified. It should also allow adaptability to technological changes without having to rewrite them every time. It is also very important that it should be adaptable to local context and it should not be restricted to formal education.
We have learnt that in Poland they had started a new programme on the validation of learning done informally and non-formally. They are called ‘free market qualifications’. The responsible Polish people have expressed their interest to go into a strategic partnership on this with EPA, probably next year. (We hope the change of government will not have an effect on this will.)
You can read all background documents and the outcomes of the event following this link