Designing qualifications based on learning outcomes
In December 2015, the Greek delegation to the EQF Advisory Group presented an update on quality issues in the education system and the steps which have been taken to improve quality assurance in all education sectors. In this discussion the referencing of the Hellenic Qualifications Framework (HQF) to the European Qualifications Framework was approved. The HQF Referencing Report sets out the quality assurance regimes that currently apply to the design and award of qualifications in each educational sector in Greece.
One significant change relates to the legislation (Law No 3879/2010) setting out learning outcomes as a prerequisite for any qualification to be included in the HQF. After developing descriptors based on learning outcomes for each level and qualification type - the two key classification tools of the HQF - Greece is in the process of re-organising each (named) qualification in terms of learning outcomes. However with a traditional input oriented education system, there are significant questions about the availability of the appropriate knowledge and expertise to design competence-based qualifications.
The term ‘learning outcomes’ is not commonly used in Greece. Teachers refer to ‘content’ to create relationships between learning objectives, learning content, teaching methods and the instruments which are used to assess learners’ achievement. In addition there is a need to consider the assessment/certification processes when designing learning outcome-based qualifications using occupational profiles.
The process for developing quality assured VET qualifications based on learning outcomes has involved consultation with all relevant stakeholders particularly the education institutions. The process includes:
- establishing committees with representatives from employers’ and employees’ organisations; educationalists; and experts from the field of each relevant occupation
- a recently established (2016) more effective mechanism to forecast skills. This mechanism is based on a more effective way of identifying labour market skills needs and will have an impact on the development of VET qualifications and relevant curricula
- a database (the Greek Qualifications Register) of all the qualifications in the HQF which are linked to the EQF data base (http://proson.eoppep.gr/el)
The development of occupational standards for more than two hundred occupational profiles has been completed in a very short time, and in some cases, this has raised questions about the accuracy and validity of the learning outcomes, particularly in relation to the associated assessment and certification processes.
What problems were encountered and overcome in using this EQAVET+ indicative descriptor?
The rapid development of so many occupational profiles means action is required regarding:
- the provision of training and other information relating to quality assurance and the use of learning outcomes. Training and materials are needed to support those who are involved in the development process (teachers/trainers, social partners and professionals from each relevant field);
- the availability of guidelines and instructions for using new teaching methods based on learning outcomes as well as guidelines on how to develop standards and assessment criteria;
- the extent to which there is genuine support for the development of a learning outcome based approach throughout the education and training system.
To overcome, or reduce the number and size of potential obstacles, EOPPEP, (Greece’s National Reference Point for EQAVET) has initiated actions to address the quality assurance aspects of defining, describing and most importantly assessing learning outcomes. These interventions include the creation of instructions and guidelines for developing assessment standards and criteria based on learning outcomes. In addition EOPPEP organised consultative and information activities to create a common understanding of learning outcomes in relation to assessment, certification and regulations. As EOPPEP operates as an umbrella organisation for three other European networks (Europass, Euroguidance and EQF-NCP) it has been able to facilitate and enhance convergence and created synergies in relation to disseminating new ideas about learning outcomes. These actions, funded through the Erasmus+ Programme, will continue as part of the EQAVET Restricted call (2017-2018)
What lessons have been learnt by using this EQAVET+ indicative descriptor?
The research shows that, for some countries, the introduction of learning outcomes based VET qualifications has been an ambitious, demanding and exceptionally time-consuming project. To ensure this type of project succeeds there is a need for high levels of know-how and expertise; the involvement of a large number of stakeholders; a stable/permanent form of tripartite (state-employers-employees) collaboration. These are preconditions to ensure a high quality outcome from the process.