02 SES 14 B, Competency Based Learning and Assessment in VET
Countries are increasingly using learning outcomes-based approaches with a view to generating trust and to supporting the relevance of qualifications for the labour market and individuals. It is a key element of this approach that learners are assessed against a set of clear reference points, expressed in terms of learning outcomes. Learning outcomes in this context are understood as statements of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process.
It is expected that the shift to learning outcomes-based approaches will have an impact on assessment procedures in the medium to long run, supporting the quality and relevance of qualifications. However, current evidence also suggests that learning outcomes so far have limited impact on the ways in which learning is assessed.
This makes it particularly interesting to study how education and training institutions carry out their assessment procedures in practice, and the settings and arrangements in place to ensure that the assessment carried out complies with the set requirements.
The quality assurance of assessment very frequently refers to principles or characteristics such as validity and reliability that have to be achieved. Focusing on ‘practice-oriented assessment’, Stenström et al (2006) have identified the following set of characteristics: validity, reliability, objectivity, transparency, equity, and fairness. Validity in the context of assessment ensures that assessment methods, materials and instruments measure as precisely as possible the intended learning outcomes and that evidence fully supports the assessment. Reliability is about whether the same assessment results can be obtained in different cases (e.g. in relation to context, time, assessors or assessment tasks) (Cedefop, 2015).
The above mentioned increased focus on outcome-oriented approaches stems to a considerable extent from EU-level initiatives, such as EQF and EQAVET. EQAVET is the European reference framework for quality assurance in VET. EQAVET is not a quality assurance system, but rather a meta-framework for quality assurance. It invites countries to promote and monitor continuous improvement in their VET systems, through the use of a quality assurance and improvement cycle based on four phases (Planning, Implementation, Evaluation and Review), which are linked to quality criteria and indicative descriptors. The learning outcomes approach is central to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), which is a common European reference framework acting as a translation device to make qualifications acquired within the different education and training systems in Europe more readable and understandable.
This paper focuses on the application of the learning outcomes approach in assessment of learning in vocational education and training. The main research question is: "How does the learning outcomes approach contribute to achieving valid, objective and reliable assessment of learning in vocational education and training?"
The objective of the research undertaken is to find out how VET institutions assure the quality of their assessment procedures by applying the learning outcomes approach in practice. The principal aims include: to explore in more detail the different tools used as well as the challenges faced by institutions in order to make their assessment procedures more valid, objective and reliable.
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