Learning outcomes at core of European education

Article provided by:

Catalina Constantin - EDUFOR

Actual education in Europe it’s based on learning outcomes. Now occupations/qualifications and training curricula are described in terms of learning outcomes. All European tools and initiatives are related to learning outcomes and use it.

So, it’s a must than every educational specialist to understand exactly which means the learning outcomes.

Cedefop provides two interrelated definitions of this concept:

(a) learning outcomes are 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’;

(b) learning outcomes are defined as ‘sets of knowledge, skills and/or competences an individual has acquired and/or is able to demonstrate after completion of a learning process, either formal, non-formal or informal’.

The relationship between these two definitions can be understood as the relationship – or feedback-loop – between intended and actually achieved learning outcomes.

In fact, learning outcomes are intentional. It represents that the learner must achieve. Actually achieved learning outcomes brings us to the concept of competence.

Cedefop define Competence as following:  the ‘ability to apply learning outcomes adequately in a defined context (education, work, personal or professional development).

To better understand those concepts, we can see its as both sides of a coin. One side it’s represented by learning outcomes and the other by competences. In fact, both sides are the same coin.

The improved Bloom taxonomy realized by Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) revised the cognitive domain of the taxonomy by changing the nouns used in the original version to verb. The idea is to create levels of complexity. Those verbs are usually used to describe learning outcomes.

Some examples of learning outcomes can be: understand concept of communication, apply communication techniques, analyze communication messages, develop communications with employees, etc.

Improved Bloom taxonomy - Anderson and Krathwohl (2001)

Learning outcomes are used in different contexts and fulfill different purposes.

These include qualifications frameworks (regional and national) level descriptors, qualification and education standards, curricula and assessment, and quality assurance. These tools are intended to improve links between education and labour markets and civil society, to promote learner mobility, and to improve the quality of learning.

The European Qualification Framework - EQF use descriptors for defining levels of learning outcomes. The EQF establishes 8 levels of qualifications describing learning outcomes in terms of knowledge, skills and level of responsibility and autonomy of learners.

As an example, a person who degree a university program will possess the level 6 for his learning outcomes. In conformity with EQF level this person will possess advanced knowledge of a field of work or study, involving a critical understanding of theories and principles; will have advanced skills, demonstrating mastery and innovation, required to solve complex and unpredictable problems in a specialized field of work or study and manage complex technical or professional activities or projects, taking responsibility for decision-making in unpredictable work or study contexts take responsibility for managing professional development of individuals and groups.

Too see the complete table of descriptors for all 8 levels please read the COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION of 22 May 2017 on the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning and repealing the recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning.

National qualifications frameworks - NQF set out standards for learning outcomes to be achieved. Standards set expectations and norms for performance and serve as a reference for the development of qualifications, assessment, curriculum and teaching and learning.

Curricula set out and structure the learning objectives, content, teaching and assessment methods that teachers are expected to implement in a given unit or course (Cedefop, 2014a). They are aligned with level descriptors and standards set out at national levels. In general, the learning objectives correspond to desired learning outcomes.

In assessment learning outcomes are measured against standards and criteria. At the end of evaluation process (through different methods) diverse juries will decide if a person possess or not given learning outcomes.

Quality assurance is also a powerful tool to reinforce the implementation of learning outcomes approaches; QA agencies may set out expectations that programme designers define and assess learning outcomes.

Quality assurance to support greater academic and labour market mobility is currently promoted at international level through EQAVET, the European standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the higher education area (ESG).



(1) Cedefop (2016). Application of learning outcomes approaches across Europe: a comparative study.

 Luxembourg: Publications Office. Cedefop reference series;

No 105. http://dx.doi.org/10.2801/735711

(2) COUNCIL RECOMMENDATIO of 22 May 2017 on the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning and repealing the recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning; Official Journal of the European Union

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