Defining and Measuring Learning Outcomes
What kind of education do students need from our institutions of higher learning and what skills should these institutions teach and develop in their graduates? The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) staged an international conference in May 2011, which illustrated the growing trend toward defining, implementing and measuring learning outcomes. The conference proceedings are available in a book, Measuring the Value of a Postsecondary Education, edited by Ken Norrie, former vice-president, research and Mary Catharine Lennon, senior research analyst at HEQCO.
Now, HEQCO is conducting three major research projects focused on defining and measuring learning outcomes, working with Ontario’s colleges, universities in partnership with international organizations. The projects build on the provincial government’s work in quality assessment and learning outcomes.
Originating in Europe to promote mobility, credit transfer and degree recognition, Tuning was designed to establish what students should know and be able to do within a discipline. The initiative has since been reproduced by nations around the world. In Ontario, the project brings faculty members from various disciplines together into sector groups of social sciences, physical sciences and life and health sciences to identify learning outcomes across diploma, degree and master’s levels. HEQCO will work with interested Ontario colleges and universities faculty members to identify learning outcomes and create implementation and evaluation plans.
The Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) is an OECD program to determine if standard generic and discipline-specific tests can be used in different countries to measure what final-year university students know and are able to do. With Ontario’s participation in the global project, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has asked HEQCO to administer the pilot test with provincial civil engineering degree programs. The civil engineering pilot is also underway in Australia, Columbia, Egypt, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the Slovak Republic. The OECD will produce a report that compares the aggregate test scores, although institutions will be anonymous.
AHELO Feasibility Study Report
Volume 1: Design and Implementation
Volume 2: Data Analysis and National Experiences
The Collegiate Learning Assessment and Community College Learning Assessment were developed by the Lumina Foundation and the Council for Aid to Education to identify the value added from a college or university education. The tools test critical and analytical thinking skills at the beginning and end of a degree/diploma program. Already in use and well regarded in the U.S., the test will be piloted in a compacted timeframe by HEQCO with a dozen or more Ontario universities and colleges across a range of disciplines. Designed to determine if the tests are valid in the Ontario postsecondary context, the pilot is part of an international exploration of the tests’ validity and usefulness.