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. This balances a traditional focus on education and training input, notably on duration and location of learning.  

Cedefop and learning outcomes

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

Latest developments

Cedefop has published the second edition of the European handbook on defining, writing and applying learning outcomes in 2022, which is an updated and extended version of Cedefop's  2017 European handbook on the definition and writing of learning outcomes which supports policy makers and practitioners in this area.  A key purpose of the handbook is to identify key guiding principles, challenges and alternative solutions as well as reflect on the conditions for implementing the learning outcomes approach for different purposes. The handbook provides a link to an extensive collection of national and sectoral examples and cases, allowing stakeholders to concretely compare approaches applied across (and beyond) Europe. 

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.
  • Herein you can explore subscribed scientific content brought to you by Cedefop’s Research Support Centre and open access journals from major sources. The list contains all relevant data from the past 5 years. You can further customise the results by limiting with filters (year, language, etc)



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