22 SES 07 JS, Assessing Higher Education Student Learning Outcomes – Why, How and What Next in Australia, Finland and Norway
Joint Session with NW 09
The sustainability of knowledge economies rests largely on the ability of the higher education sector to ensure that students graduate with appropriate skills and knowledge. In a global environment it is important that these skills and knowledge can be benchmarked internationally. At present, however, there is no reliable means to make comparative judgments about the capabilities of students in different institutions and in different systems, or about the quality of teaching.
To address this imbalance, the OECD conducted the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) Feasibility Study between 2010 and 2012. The motivation underlying AHELO is that comparative information can contribute to institutions’ knowledge of their teaching performance, and thereby provide a tool for developing and improving teaching and learning. Two core research questions lay behind the AHELO Feasibility Study. First, is it scientifically possible to produce valid cross-linguistic, cross-cultural and cross-institutional comparisons of higher education learning outcomes? Second, is it feasible to implement a valid cross-linguistic, cross-cultural and cross-institutional assessment of higher education learning outcomes?
Lead and managed by the Australian Council for Educational Research, the AHELO Feasibility Study was implemented in 17 countries, including Australia, Finland and Norway. Assessment instrumentation was developed and validated in three core areas – Generic Skills, Economics and Civil Engineering. In addition, contextual instruments were developed to aid with the interpretation of assessment data. The assessment instruments were targeted at students in the final year of bachelor degrees and measured their capacity to apply their skills and knowledge to real-world problems. In total, the AHELO Feasibility Study collected data from 23000 students and 5000 faculty across 250 institutions. In late 2012 each institution received a report on the performance of their students against international benchmarks and also their institutional data set. Participating countries also received their national data set.
Now that the AHELO Feasibility Study is complete participating countries have the opportunity to analyse their own national data and reflect on their experiences. In this roundtable presentation the presenters will consider three key aspects of the assessment of higher education learning outcomes: why, how and what next. First, we will discuss the motivations of Australia, Finland and Norway for participating in the AHELO Feasibility Study and the reasons why the measurement of learning outcomes in the higher education sector is regarded as important in each country. Second, we will reflect on the experiences of the AHELO Feasibility Study and consider the strengths and weaknesses of the methodologies used. We will consider what worked well, the challenges that arose and the ways in which countries and institutions can use the data and reports they received to inform improvements in teaching and learning. Third, we will look to the future and discuss ways in which the methodologies used in AHELO can be further developed. We will consider the implications for international practice and various options for implementing the measurement of higher education learning outcomes around the world.
OECD (2013). Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes Feasibility Study Report: Volume 1 – Design and Implementation. Paris: OECD. Coates, H. & Richardson, S. (2012). AHELO Feasibility Report. Paris: OECD. Coates, H. & Richardson, S. (2012). AHELO Technical Report. Paris: OECD. Coates, H. & Richardson, S. (2012). AHELO Technical Standards. Paris: OECD. Richardson, S., Ferrari, A. & Keeley, R. (2012). AHELO Adaptation, Translation and Verification report. Paris: OECD. Richardson, S. & Coates, H. (2011). Assessing Student Learning Outcomes: the AHELO Feasibility Study. L.H. Martin Institute Insights Blog, 27 July 2011. Coates, H. & Richardson, S. (2011). Interim AHELO Feasibility Report. Paris: OECD Coates, H. & Richardson, S. (2011). An International Assessment of Bachelor Degree Graduates’ Learning Outcomes. Higher Education Management and Policy. 23(3): 1-19. Richardson, S. & Coates, H. (2011). International Learning Assessments Measure Up. Higher Education Update. 8: 2-3. Richardson, S. (2011). AHELO Scoring System Manual. Paris: OECD. Richardson, S. & Coates, H. (2011). AHELO Institutional Coordination Manual. Paris: OECD. Richardson, S. & Coates, H. (2011). AHELO Test Administrator Manual. Paris: OECD. Richardson, S. & Coates, H. (2011). AHELO National Project Manager Manual. Paris: OECD.
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