Measuring learning outcomes


Publication date


Series/Report no

European Journal of Education;Volume 52, Issue 1



Document type


The growing interest for measurement of learning outcomes relates to long lines of development in higher education, the request for accountability, intensified through international reforms and movements such as the development and implementation of qualifications frameworks. In this article, we discuss relevant literature on different approaches to measurement and how learning outcomes are measured, what kinds of learning outcomes are measured, and why learning outcomes are measured. Three dimensions are used to structure the literature: Whether the approaches have an emphasis on generic or disciplinary skills and competence; whether they emphasise self-assessment or more objective test based measures (including grades); and how the issue of the contribution from the education program or institution (the value-added) is handled. It is pointed out that large scales initiatives aimed at comparison between institutions and even nations seem to fall short because of the implicit and explicit differences in context, while small-scale approaches are burdened with a lack of relevance outside of local contexts. In addition, competence (actual level of performance) is often confused with learning (gain and development) in many approaches, laying the ground for false assumptions about institutional process-quality in higher education.




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