LOBSTER – Learning Outcomes: Best practice Schemes, Transparency, Experience and Research

Project summary

The LOBSTER project aims at mapping, supporting and communicating practices of the learning outcome approach and learning outcome descriptions. In this way, the project takes high quality learning outcome descriptions not only to be a vital part of the quality of the NQF and the EQF, but also that the infrastructure that these practices constitute, is prerequisite for the lifelong learning objectives of the NQF philosophy. Focusing on practices of education providers, the project sets out to support a bottom-up development of learning outcome descriptions. The project is threefold, aiming firstly to provide an overview over existing knowledge and research on learning outcome descriptions. Secondly, to map, describe and disseminate best practice models in dialogue with the educational sector. Thirdly, to provide a comprehensive information dissemination, guidance and network approach to communicate knowledge, best practices and tools for education providers at large.

Needs analysis

We have identified three main challenges in the Norwegian context that need to be tackled. These challenges have become visible for the project group through the processes of quality assurance and accreditation, through dialogue with education providers, education stakeholders and other target groups, and through empirical data, such as national surveys. The overall picture is that whereas the NQF is fully operational within the Norwegian education sector, and hence, the study programs are in compliance with the NQF regulation, there is still room for improvements and knowledge when it comes to practices underpinning the learning outcome approach, the complexity of learning outcome descriptions, as well as its workings with the NQF and EQF. These three challenges are as follows:

  1. There is a lack of empirical data on the practices in Norwegian education institutions surrounding learning outcome descriptions, how they are organized, to what end they are structured, to what extent stakeholders and target groups are involved and how they are evaluated and improved. Equally, although relevant research has been conducted both in the Norwegian and in the European context, there is a lack of collected information and overview into this research regarding the impact of the learning outcome approach for learners, teachers, employers and other stakeholders. There is, however, relevant data in research and evaluation, but also in external quality assurance, that could and should be systemized and analyzed, the results of which should both be disseminated and provide a foundation for the development of new practices.
  2. There are several communities, both in Norwegian higher education and in higher vocational education, that have a longstanding commitment to the learning outcome approach, and which can provide good evidence of the potential benefits of the approach. At the same time, we do find that the knowledge of EQF and NQF tools in general, as well as of this potential specifically, are quite varied in two sectors providing education to close to 300 000 students. We find that the challenges of developing and ensuring good practices leading to high quality learning outcome descriptions are at least partially due to lack of knowledge, lack of relevant networks and platforms, and of practical models.
  3. NOKUT, as an external, government quality assurance authority, has a long history of information about the EQF and the NQF, and of the learning outcome approach – in particular when it comes to regulations, and when it comes to minimum standards of level, scope and form of the learning outcome descriptions in education. There has, however, been less attention given to the underlying practices, as well as resources and capacity for education providers to create and develop high quality learning outcome descriptions. Partially due to the lack of ownership of these practices, partially due to lack of relevant dialogue and exchange platforms, the work on learning outcome practices has been short of systematic information dissemination, guidance and exchange based on partnership between regulating authorities and education providers.

Specific objectives

The challenges we have identified are strongly interconnected and are equally relevant for most aspects of the NQF. These include transparency and portability of qualifications, validation of non-formal and informal learning, labour market relevance, student mobility, and quality of education. We propose to address these challenges through achieving three distinct objectives:

  1. Overview: The project aims at collecting, organizing, analysing, and disseminating data from existing research, evaluations and audits, both from external and internal quality assurance work and from traditional academic research. We will look to relevant work connected to qualifications frameworks in the European context, research into uses and impacts of the learning outcome approach – in particular in the Norwegian context – and data from systematic work on quality in education. The objective is to construct a general overview over what we know about practices of learning outcome descriptions and to make these findings available both for a general public, and for education providers in particular. As such, the first objective is a descriptive approach to the current state of knowledge.
  2. Best practice: Acknowledging the vast work and competencies of education providers, academic and vocational teachers, as well as other education communities, the project aims at creating and providing platforms, meeting points and workshops for discussion, exchange of experience, and presenting learning outcome practices within these communities. Through these arenas, the project wishes to establish partnerships in order to map, describe, and categorize existing practices. Combining this approach with the descriptive work on learning outcome practices in objective 1, the project wants to provide forums for engaging in peer-learning activities. The outcome should be descriptions of models for Norwegian best practices in learning outcome descriptions. As such, the second objective is a constructive approach to learning outcome practices.
  3. Dissemination, guides, handbooks and network: The project aims at using the outcomes of the two first objectives to make a comprehensive assemblage of guides, handbooks, and networking activities in order to systematize and disseminate the project results. The objective is to bridge the gap between learning outcome regulations good practices underpinning learning outcome descriptions. By presenting guidelines, advice, experiences, knowledge and models of best practice, the project aims at reaching out to education providers at large – regardless of size and resources – with the tools for improving their existing practices. The outcome should take into account the differences between the relevant education providers, both in terms of size, experience and resources, and in terms of sectorial specificities (e.g. higher education, vocational educational, professional). Another dimension of this project objective is to establish a network for exchange of ideas and discussion between different stakeholders, and between stakeholders and NOKUT. Thus, the project aims at providing different tools for improving, such as guidelines and handbooks, as well as facilitating arenas, inviting to peer-learning and self-improvement amongst education providers. As such, the third objective is a normative approach to learning outcome practices.

Project implementation timeline: 1 April 2021–31 December 2023.

For more information:

Merima Cengic, Project Manager
Tel. (+47) 412 10 069