PH.D.-Profil: Hanne Kvilhaugsvik
My Ph.D. project explores the role of learning outcomes and relevance in higher education. How are learning outcomes and the criteria of relevance used to steer and evaluate higher education?
Learning outcomes is a relatively new concept in higher education, and highlights what the students are intended to learn in a study program or a course unit. Learning outcomes have mainly been of interest in the field of pedagogy, where they have been connected to a paradigm-shift “from teaching to learning” or “from input to output”. But during the last years, European higher education institutions have been required to introduce descriptions of learning outcomes for all courses and study programs. This development is connected to the introduction of qualifications frameworks, the Bologna process, and the OECD. Some of the goals of introducing learning outcomes are to improve the quality of education, to shift focus from input factors to output factors, to increase transparency, to ensure relevant qualifications, and to provide better opportunities to steer education. Learning outcomes and relevance can therefore be seen in connection with accountability and governance in the public sector.
Learning outcomes are used to describe knowledge, skills, and general competence, and are therefore connected to questions about relevance: What should the students learn? Which study programs and courses should universities offer and why? And who decides what is relevant? By focusing on what the students learn, learning outcomes can provide actors both at the national level and in the labor market with new opportunities to influence higher education.
The aim of my PhD project is to explore and compare the use of learning outcomes and relevance in higher education in Norway and Denmark. At the national level, I will study how learning outcomes are used to steer and evaluate higher education, especially by the national accreditation agencies. The project will also compare the use of learning outcomes and relevance within a university and two disciplines in both of the countries: How are learning outcomes and relevance mediated in different contexts, and do they lead to new connections between universities, disciplines, and the labor market? And what does this mean for the higher education institutions and the study programs?