Research Handbook on Quality, Performance and Accountability in Higher Education
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Research Handbook on Quality, Performance and Accountability in Higher Education

Edited by Ellen Hazelkorn, Hamish Coates and Alexander C. McCormick

As higher education becomes a key determinant for economic competitiveness, institutions face increasing pressure to demonstrate their fitness to meet the needs of society and individuals. Blending innovative research with richly contextualised examples this unique Research Handbook provides authoritative insights from around the globe on how best to understand, assess and improve quality, performance and accountability in higher education.
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Chapter 5: Goals, guesses and gains: learning outcomes policies in regulatory activities

Mary Catharine Lennon


This chapter presents survey findings from a broader study of international quality assurance agencies’ activities in learning outcomes. The survey collected information on the state of learning outcomes policies from 74 international agencies and uncovered policy goals, activities and policy evaluations/research that had occurred. Analysis of the survey data exposed differences between the intended goals for learning outcomes policies, the perceived impact of the policies, and (for those who had conducted research) the actual impact of the policies for both quality assurance agencies and the institutions they manage. The results demonstrate significant differences in the goals, guesses and gains attributed to the policies, suggesting that there is widespread misunderstanding of what a learning outcomes policy is able to achieve. Given the considerable attention, political and financial support devoted to competency-based education and learning outcomes, making evidence-based policy decisions is critical.

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