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Further reading : Learning outcomes

UNESCO-UNEVOC has compiled a short selection of academic or professional articles that might help to clarify the signification and the use of the term "Learning outcomes". It goes thus beyond the definitions stored in TVETipedia while not pretending to offer an exhaustive bibliography on the topic.

Do you know about relevant resources that could be added to the list ? Please contact us or share it on our e-Forum!

Using learning outcomes By the EU Commission (2011)

"Learning outcomes" is one of the key-concept of the European Qualifications framework for Lifelong learning. The term is therefore analyzed by many European publications, such as the following “note”. Published by the Commission, it is addressed to “national stakeholders” – policy makers or experts. The note answers a wide range of practical questions such as “can all learning be written as learning outcomes” or “what evidence do we have that learning outcomes have an effect ?”.

The selected quotes highlight that defining "learning outcomes" is first a matter of context, the concept being used in many different fields outside qualifications framework.

Learning outcomes approaches in VET curricula and The role of modularisation and unitisation in vocational education and training By CEDEFOP (2010/2015)

Those two european reports -separated by 5 years- highlight the great diversity in terminology around learning outcomes,as well as the common concepts and believes that still binds them. The first report focus on "learning outcomes" -its meaning and its importance - in 9 European countries. The second report does the same in 15 countries, this time for modularisation and unitarisation - 2 terms deeply related to elarning outcomes.

The selected quotes from the first report stress the political and theoretical background behind “learning outcomes”, with a focus on its link with the "theories of learning", showing how the concept swings between influences that can be contradictory. The selected quotes from the second report develops on how diversely unitarisation is coined and understood.

Selling-Out Education: National Qualifications Frameworks and the Neglect of Knowledge (Free preview) By Stephanie Allais (2014)

Distancing itself from the first two references, this recent publication tries to “demonstrate that, far from being beneficial, outcomes-based qualifications frameworks are at best a waste of time and resources, and at worst destructive of education systems”. The book aims to “convince educationalists about the value of organized bodies of knowledge and that a primary role of education is assisting learners to acquire this knowledge”. The stand is rather controversial but the book is documented and the author an expert of the field.

In the selected quotes, she stresses – like the previous references - that terms such as “learning outcomes” cannot be reduced to a single definition. She claims however different arguments like the political choices behind the terms, or the constant evolution of the ideas carried by words like "learning outcomes", "competences"... The author finally shares her own solution to this "terminological challenge".

The implementation and impact of National Qualifications Frameworks By Stephanie Allais, ILO (2010)

This publication is a “cross-country empirical study” comparing national qualifications framework in 16 countries all over the world. It was written 4 years before the previous reference by the same author, but under the supervision of ILO. It provides relevant examples of learning outcomes applied to National Qualifications Frameworks.

The selected quotes are no longer on the definition but rather on the effects - real or expected - of “learning outcomes”. The author sums up here some of the positive effects of “learning outcomes” in other fields before questioning their role within qualifications frameworks.

See also

  • On how to write “learning outcomes”, a guide from the Dublin Institute of Technology
  • On Bloom’s taxonomy. When it comes to learning outcomes, Bloom’s taxonomy is frequently mentioned as both a precursor and a reference, still influential today. Initiated in the 50’s, it defines levels of educational activity in 3 domains: cognitive, affective and psychomotor. Another influential work would be Jessup’s on “Outcomes: NVQs sand the emerging model of education and training” (Not freely available)
  • On National Qualifications framework, another TVETipedia “Further reading” article.

This article is an element of the TVETipedia Glossary.



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