The development of qualifications based on learning outcomes

This system level case study explains how Romania quality assures the development of initial VET qualifications which are based on learning outcomes. The development of qualifications for school and work based learning is based on the following main phases:

  • occupational analysis - each occupation is described in relation to the main tasks and requirements;
  • competence description – the production of a detailed description of the competences which are required for each task;
  • development of learning outcomes – a description of the learning outcomes which are expected. These are mapped against the National Qualification Framework;
  • the learning outcomes are clustered or ‘grouped’ into units;
  • the development of assessment criteria for each unit

Each phase of the development is subject to an internal evaluation and improvement plan. This ensures there is:

  • for the occupational analysis and the competences description:
    • consistency with up-to-date jobs requirements;
    • alignment with national and international requirements/standards (ISCO, ESCO, etc.);
  • for the development of learning outcomes:
    • alignment with the NQF level descriptors;
    • fulfilment of the quality criteria for learning outcomes;
    • consistency of expectations in terms of learning outcomes for different qualifications, from a horizontal perspective (qualifications in the same sector) and from a vertical perspective (qualifications at different NQF levels).
  • for each unit based on learning outcomes:
    • coherence inside the unit;
    • autonomy of the unit.
  • for the assessment criteria:
    • validity, reliability, practicability and fairness

Each phase of the design and internal review of qualifications is based on an iterative process which follows the quality assurance cycle (Plan – Design - Internal review Internal Evaluation-Improvement of the output.) The development of a qualification is also based on two loops (the first is an internal evaluation conducted by VET and sector experts; the second is an external evaluation conducted by representatives from the Sectoral Committees). Each loop is based on the quality assurance cycle and aims to assure consistency within and across qualifications based on learning outcomes. Each qualification is validated by one of the Sectoral Committees.

The following quality assurance principles are used to develop qualifications:

  • the use of an iterative process based on the quality assurance cycle;
  • a strong emphasis on monitoring and improving quality by combining internal and external evaluation/review;
  • separating responsibility for the design and evaluation. Different experts are involved in developing qualifications, in internal evaluation and in the external evaluation and validation;
  • a broad range of expertise as the panel of experts represent the world of education, training and the labour market;
  • the production of guidance materials and methodologies. This guidance includes:
    • a methodology for the revision of qualification;
    • a methodology for the revision of the curricula;
    • a manual for writing learning outcomes based training standards which includes a template for describing the qualification, quality criteria for the learning outcomes and examples of learning outcomes;
  • training (before they begin) for all the experts involved in the process.

This quality assurance practice has not been independently evaluated, but as the qualifications which have been developed using this approach are in use, the improvements are already visible. It is clear that there are better connections between the new qualifications and the needs of the labour market.

Lessons learnt

The success of the approach relies on the accountability of the representatives from the labour market/Sectoral Committees who are involved in the internal and external evaluation.

The development of qualifications based on learning outcomes requires a fundamental change in the paradigm of education and training. To ensure success it is essential that support (such as the production of guidance materials and methodologies) and training is available for all the experts involved in the process.

As the qualifications’ development is output and outcome oriented, attention has to be paid to the quality assurance of the assessment and certification processes. This includes clear descriptions of the assessment criteria and the quality of the assessment criteria, in terms of their validity, reliability, practicability and fairness.

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