The learning outcomes principle is - explicitly since 2004 - systematically promoted in the EU policy agenda for education, training and employment. The learning outcomes approach binds together important European tools developed during the last decade, notably the European Qualification Frameworks (EQF). At national level, the learning outcomes form the basis on which national qualifications frameworks  are built and is increasingly influencing the definition and writing of qualifications and curricula as well as the orientation of assessment and teaching and training.  

What are learning outcomes?

The 2017 EQF recommendation defines learning outcomes as ‘…statements of what an individual should know, understand and/or be able to do at the end of a learning process, which are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and responsibility and autonomy’. The learning outcomes perspective is used for a number of different purposes, the most important being:

  • Qualifications frameworks and their level descriptors
  • Qualification standards
  • Curriculum development
  • Assessment and validation
  • Quality assurance
  • Teaching and training

For all these purposes the learning outcomes approach strengthens the focus on the individual learner and the level of knowledge, skills and competence s/he is expected to achieve. 

Recent developments

Cedefop has started in 2023 a new study The shift to learning outcomes; rhetoric or reality? that will map and analyse the transformation of intended learning outcomes into achieved learning outcomes. The research will focus on initial vocational education and training, in schools and apprenticeships, seeking to understand the factors influencing the transformation of intentions into actual teaching learning and assessment processes.

The study will focus on the following 5 themes:

  • the influence of learning outcomes on pedagogical theory and tools;
  • the impact of learning outcomes-based curricula on teaching practices (in school-based programmes);
  • the influence of learning outcomes-based curricula in company training (part of apprenticeship programmes that takes place in companies);
  • the influence of learning outcomes on assessment;
  • The final theme of the study will build on the four preceding parts and further develop suggestions/lessons for the way forward supporting stakeholders and policy makers in addressing future challenges and opportunities in this area

Past developments

Cedefop has carried out a number of studies mapping and analysing the use of learning outcomes for different purposes. These studies support policy developments at EU, national and sectoral level and analyse how an improved use of learning outcomes can promote lifelong learning and reduce barriers to progression and mobility.  

Cedefop is regularly organising events on the topic of learning outcomes, allowing policy makers and practitioners to compare practises and exchange experiences.

  • European conferences: 20132007
  • Policy learning fora: ​​​​​​ 2022201820162015
  • Peer Learning Activities, jointly with European Commission and Member States 2016
  • Support the EQF-Europass AG Project Group on short descriptions of learning outcomes

Thematic Bibliography Corner

  • VET-Bib, Cedefop’s bibliographical database, offers a selective collection of European VET literature. You may find targeted results on learning outcomes.



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