Edition 173 - September 2015

New kid on the block: CALOHEE project

The debate on the value of measuring student learning outcomes is firing up again. A new feasibility study on assessing learning outcomes in higher education will launch this autumn, aiming to determine the measurability of students’ knowledge, skills and abilities, and their comparability across European countries. The Measuring and Comparing Achievements of Learning Outcomes in Higher Education in Europe (CALOHEE) project, led by the International Tuning Academy, will cover five different academic domains and involve 75 higher education institutions from 15 European countries in its pilot phase. The project is co-financed under the framework of the Erasmus+ programme, with the European Commission contributing EUR 500 000 towards the total budget of EUR 667 600.

Intended to illustrate whether university students are achieving internationally standardised levels of competences, the feasibility study –which covers Engineering (Civil Engineering), Health Care (Nursing), Humanities (History), Natural Sciences (Physics) and Social Sciences (Education) – will be developed in three phases. Initially, the focus will be on fine-tuning the existing “frameworks of reference points” for each of the five subject fields, both at bachelor and master level. These frameworks have been previously developed and include information such as typical degrees offered within each domain and agreed learning outcomes per cycle. Once refined and updated, these frameworks will be used to develop a clear set of assessment criteria per subject and level (second phase), which, if successful, will allow for the development of multidimensional tests (third phase). The five assessment frameworks and eventual test blueprints will be tailored not only to each subject area, but also –rather mysteriously –to the “diversity  of  missions,  orientations  and  profiles  of  universities  in  Europe  and  their  various  degree programmes,” as stated in the press release. 

The project has already generated criticism from the OECD, whose very own Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) project, seen as the university-level equivalent of its K-12 brainchild PISA, failed to gain traction among OECD education ministers after completing its pilot phase. As reported in the Times Higher Education, according to Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, CALOHEE will give universities considerable leeway to adjust the assessment frameworks according to their needs, and will therefore not allow for real comparison between universities and countries. Seeing as support for AHELO is low, can CALOHEE expect a warmer response from institutions? For this answer we might have to wait until the release of the first results of the feasibility study, in the spring of 2017.

Press release

 Times Higher Education

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