Learning outcomes and ULLL

It is argued that learning outcome are particularly helpful for supporting ULLL. However, it is necessary to take a balanced view.  Pat Davies, in a recent presentation, proposed a list of advantages and disadvantages of the use of the notion  of learning outcomes for universities in general but ULLL in particular:
Advantages of learning outcomes that are claimed

  • Applicable at course, national and international level
  • A change in emphasis from teaching and teachers to learning and learners
  • Integration of academic and vocational, LLL and RPL
  • Direct relationship with levels and level indicators
  • Cannot be separated from teaching, learning and assessment
  • Can help consistency across modules and programmes
  • Aid curriculum design
  • Promote reflection on assessment and diversity of assessment criteria and methods
  • Increase transparency and comparability between and within qualifications
  • Act as point of reference for establishing and assessing standards
  • Clear information for learners, employers and civil society
  • Contribute to mobility by facilitating recognition of qualifications
  • Provide a common format for different forms of delivery and contexts of learning
  • Promote the recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning that takes places outside the university
  • Have the capacity to link vocational and academic provision
  • Assist in the development of multiple progression routes through and between different education systems
  • Offer a common currency between different systems
  • Provide a common language to talk to employers and professional associations

Disadvantages of learning outcomes that are claimed

  • Academic values where learning is open-ended does not fit easily with the idea of units and outcomes defined in advance
  • Supports a target-led culture
  • Limit learning, stifle creativity, reduce teaching to simplistic
  • Represents an instrumentalist approach
  • Conversion of programmes to learning outcomes would be a huge task with enormous cost implications
  • Technical problems
  • Can easily be over-described and/or under-described - either way it is not helpful
  • Requires EQF for advantages to be realised
  • Advantages are potential
  • Implies a functionalist approach to learning
  • Tends to be normative
  • Relationship with ECTS and workload is problematic

Of course most of the advantages and the disadvantages are potential rather than real and an investment of resources would be necessary to ensure the benefits and to avoid or address the disadvantages or dangers.  So this is only the beginning of a debate that it likely to last for some years.