A higher education institution’s graduates reflect the achievement of intended learning outcomes as well as successful learning and teaching practices. Jurgita Vizgirdaite from the Kaunas University of Technology discusses challenges in the assessment of learning outcomes and shares recommendations and good practices from her university.
Inspired by the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area, universities across the continent have been increasingly participating in international exchange programmes, developing and organising joint and double-diploma programmes, and collaborating in various study projects. Furthermore, the first part of the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance emphasises the quality of study programmes, learning, teaching and assessment, student-centred education, and student study success, among others. Thus, it has become important to discuss these topics among European partners. This is what EUA has been doing through its Learning & Teaching Thematic Peer Groups. The main goal is to strengthen the European dimension in learning and teaching.
Driven by the new generation of learners, the shift of the learning paradigm, globalisation, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the Super Smart Society, the Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) in Lithuania has started extensively discussing curriculum enhancement. A key focus is a competence-based curriculum tied to the achievement of intended learning outcomes. This is where study programmes become highly significant.
Outstanding achievement of the learning outcomes is the main evidence of quality learning and teaching. Thus, a well-educated student/graduate should be the core goal of every higher education institution. Simultaneously, highly competent teachers and teams of teachers should be the main person(s) able to implement well-prepared curricula through necessary learning and teaching techniques and through the realisation of constructive alignment. KTU is currently creating a digital tool for assessment and for giving feedback to the students. The tool will assist the teachers in choosing the most fit-for-purpose learning and teaching activities, methods and assessment as well as feedback practices in order to achieve necessary learning outcomes.
Moreover, the evaluation of learning and teaching should not be approached as an isolated item, but instead as a systemic one. On the national level, a very specific policy on learning and teaching, as well as on the assessment of learning outcomes, is necessary. In addition, all higher education institutions should implement a policy on learning and teaching and the assessment of learning outcomes. Moreover, various stakeholders should participate in creating and developing the quality of studies. Finally, students and teachers should be provided with appropriate support to achieve the intended learning outcomes.
KTU is a flagship and a trend-setter in Lithuania in enhancing learning and teaching. Assessment of learning outcomes in KTU programmes is based on a competence-based curriculum and constructive alignment. KTU maintains a very clear policy on learning and teaching and on the development of a teacher’s educational competences, which is implemented by the unique KTU Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning. KTU has a system-based approach to learning and teaching, based on regular assessments, analytics and statistics. Emphasis is put on the performanceof a teacher, based on his or her educational competences. This is assessed through regular student feedback. A team of trainers runs courses on how to apply the methodology of innovative practices such as design thinking, project-oriented problem-based learning, case studies, virtual learning environments and tools.
To make sure that the application of innovative practices becomes an integrated part of teaching and learning, a follow-up program has been developed. The centre also organises regular teacher consultations by experts, participates in the observation of lectures when requested by teachers, builds professional communities among teachers via thematic cafes, shares experiences with external stakeholders and continuously maintains relationships with international partners, participating in projects on learning and teaching.
In addition, the centre makes sure that teachers are recognised through awards in innovative teaching and organises open events in which teachers have an opportunity to showcase their best practices, experience and lessons learned. KTU teachers are also encouraged to publish research findings based on the application of innovative teaching practices. The centre uses the constructive alignment as the basis for the achievement of learning outcomes through adequate learning and teaching. KTU sees this as an integral process, thus various stakeholders engage in the quality assurance of learning and teaching including faculty management, study programme directors, the student association, and external social partners. Finally, students are provided with a full range of services to achieve their learning outcomes, including continuous support via a unique mentorship program.
Overall, learning outcomes are not easy to formulate, implement, or assess. But if done well, they can certainly lead to quality.
Jurgita Vizgirdaite was a member of EUA’s Learning & Teaching Thematic Peer Group on “Evaluation of learning and teaching”.
All views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of EUA.