OECD Education Working Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected studies drawing on the work of the OECD Directorate for Education. Authorship is usually collective, but principal writers are named. The papers are generally available only in their original language (English or French) with a short summary available in the other.

English, French

Assessment of Learning Outcomes in Higher Education

a comparative review of selected practices

Higher education institutions (HEIs) have experienced increasing pressures to provide accountability data and consumer information on the quality of teaching and learning. But existing ratings and rankings of HEIs tend to neglect information on student learning outcomes. Instead, they focus on inputs, activities and research outputs, such as resources used, classes taught, and articles published. Such indicators provide no indication of the degree to which HEIs actually develop the knowledge and skills of their students. In most countries, hardly any comparable information is available on the educational quality of different programmes and institutions. In some countries, approaches to assess higher education learning outcomes have been developed, but little cross-country information is available on the characteristics of the instruments used. This paper provides an overview of experience gained in this domain across OECD and partner countries. Based on illustrative evidence collected for 18 assessment instruments, it examines conceptual, organizational and methodological aspects of existing assessments. It proposes a typology of higher education learning outcomes and reviews the ways in which these have been assessed across countries. Examples are drawn from Australia, Brazil, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States.


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