The Validation of Learning Outcomes
Learning outcomes are the knowledge, skills and social competences acquired through the learning process. In other words, learning outcomes determine what a person knows and understands, what he or she is able to do, and the commitments he or she is prepared to make.
Qualifications included in the Integrated Qualification System consist of learning outcomes. Learning outcomes are formulated a way that allows them to be observed, measured and assessed.
More on this topic can be found in the publication „How to describe market qualifications for the Polish Qualifications System. A Guidebook”.
Validation is a process that assesses whether an applicant seeking a particular qualification has attained a specific part or all of the learning outcomes required for that qualification, regardless of his/her learning path.
Validation is a multi-dimensional and multi-stage process. It includes the identification, documentation and assessment of learning outcomes. This makes it possible to identify the knowledge, skills and social competences attained outside of organised forms of learning (e.g. at work, through volunteering or developing their interests) by learners and to present them in a way that can be confirmed. Validation understood in this way is often accompanied by career counselling offered to people entering the process.
The validation of learning outcomes is required in order to attain the qualifications entered in the Integrated Qualifications System. As such, the validation process must be quality assured and performed only by authorised entities.
More on this subject can be found in the publication „The Validation of Learning Outcomes in Poland – New Opportunities for Attaining Qualifications”.
The Integrated Qualifications System (IQS) is a set of principles, standards, new functions, roles, and procedures regulating the way in which various entities (individuals and institutions) operate to award qualifications. It specifically includes:
- the principles of describing qualifications attained outside the education system and the manner of assigning them a Polish Qualifications Framework level,
- the principles of including qualifications in the IQS and entering them in the Integrated Qualifications Register,
- the principles and standards of awarding qualifications and the quality assurance of this process.
The main components of the IQS are:
- The Polish Qualifications Framework – a tool allowing different types of qualifications to be compared,
- The Integrated Qualifications Register – a public register containing all qualifications included in the IQS (that can be attained in the formal general, vocational and higher education systems as well as outside of those systems).
The IQS was introduced by the Act of 22 December 2015 on the Integrated Qualifications System. The Act can be found here (PL only).
The following stages can be distinguished in the validation process:
- identification of learning outcomes – identifying and analysing the knowledge, skills and social competences that have already been acquired by a candidate; it may be conducted either independently or with the support of a validation counsellor;
- documentation of learning outcomes – gathering evidence proving the achievement of selected learning outcomes (e.g. in the form of certificates, documents attesting to completed internships, work samples, videos, recommendations, job descriptions, etc.); it may be conducted either independently or with the support of a validation counsellor;
- assessment of learning outcomes – confirming the achievement of certain learning outcomes by using the appropriate methods. In the case of validation aimed at having a specific qualification awarded, the results of the assessment are compared to the learning outcomes required for that qualification.
Catalogue of Validation Methods
The catalogue is a source of information on:
- selected methods used in the validation of learning outcomes at different stages of the process,
- selecting methods in such a way as to maintain the accuracy, reliability and adequacy of validation.
This tool is intended to help in designing and improving the validation of learning outcomes attained outside formal education.
The catalogue is intended primarily for people designing validation requirements when describing a qualification and for the staff of awarding bodies who are preparing a validation scenario.
Moreover, the catalogue will be useful to ministries responsible for particular qualifications as one source of information helpful in considering applications for including a qualification in the Integrated Qualifications System and applications for obtaining the authorisation to award a qualification.
The catalogue can also be a source of information for the staff of external quality assurance entities when performing external evaluations.
Information on the methods contained in the catalogue may also be of interest to those who are seeking the validation of learning outcomes.
The catalogue contains:
- information on selected methods used in validation, including:
The catalogue consists of two parts. The first is informational, and presents the selected validation methods and example techniques. The second is instructional, and contains useful information when choosing the proper method and constructing assessment tools.
Both sections can be accessed from the main page (clicking on the relevant topic opens the appropriate subpage) and by using the top navigation bar.
The information from each subpage – the descriptions of the individual methods and the instructional materials – can be downloaded as pdf files.
Yes, the materials available in the catalogue can be copied. Individual topics (method descriptions, instructional materials) can be downloaded in printer-ready pdf files.
One of the premises of the Integrated Qualification System is to give awarding bodies a degree of freedom in designing validation. Therefore, if the requirements for validation and the awarding bodies set forth in the notice on the inclusion of a qualification in the IQS do not impose specific methods, awarding bodies may choose those that they believe will be appropriate (e.g. due to the specific characteristics of their clients).
The issue of choosing the appropriate methods is discussed in detail in the instructional part of the catalogue „Selecting Validation Methods”.
No, the catalogue contains information about the methods most commonly used in the validation of learning outcomes. This list is in accordance with the methods used in Europe as reported by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop).
It is assumed that new methods may be included in the catalogue.
Yes, various factors (e.g. technological progress) influence the fact that both the methods and the way they are used may change.
It is assumed that the information on validation methods contained in the catalogue will be updated.
Yes, descriptions of the selected methods used in validation include:
- brief examples of use, or
- links to more extensive information contained in the database on “Good Practices. Validation and the Quality Assurance of Validation and Certification”.
A validation method is a set of general assumptions used to confirm whether an individual has achieved the learning outcomes of a qualification, regardless of how they were acquired. An example of a method is “observation in simulated conditions”.
A technique is a way of doing a particular task in a given method, used to collect and analyse data proving that a person has achieved the learning outcomes. An example of a technique used for the method of observation in simulated conditions is the “practical assignment”.
A tool is a specific measure within a given technique used to collect and analyse data to prove that a person has achieved the learning outcomes, for example, an “assessment sheet” to be filled out by the assessor for the observation in simulated conditions of the practical assignment.
The description of each method contains information on example techniques.
No, the catalogue provides information on examples of the techniques most commonly used for a given method.
It is assumed that additional techniques may be included in the catalogue.
The tools used in validation are specific measures within a given technique used to collect and analyse data to prove that a person has achieved the learning outcomes. The proper design or selection of tools is as important as the choice of the right method and technique. This process should take into account the type and scope of information an assessor wants to obtain about the candidate and his/her learning outcomes. This depends, among other things, on:
- the purpose of the validation,
- its course,,
- the distribution of costs.
For this reason, the catalogue does not contain ready-made tools.
Selecting Validation Methods
Several factors influence the choice of the right validation method. First of all, the following should be taken into account:
- the nature of the learning outcomes contained in the qualification,
- the validation stage,
- the needs of the person seeking validation (e.g. how the learning outcomes were achieved, the purpose of seeking validation),
- the validation requirements contained in the description of the qualification – if the method is selected when the validation procedure being prepared in a specific awarding body.
It should be remembered that more than one method can be used in the validation process – both at different stages and within the same stage (identification, documentation, assessment). Decisions concerning the choice of methods have a significant impact on the quality of validation.
The issue of choosing the right methods is discussed in detail in the instructional part of the catalogue „Selecting Validation Methods”.
Yes, several methods can be used simultaneously in the validation process.
Combining different methods is advisable because one method can rarely identify, document and assess all the learning outcomes at the same time. Similarly, knowledge, skills and social competences can rarely be confirmed using a single method. The use of several methods is particularly advisable for qualifications with more sets of learning outcomes.
In practice, the use of several methods in combination is relatively frequent. An example of this is testing skills by using a practical assignment (as part of observation in simulated conditions) and knowledge through an interview with the assessor (as part of a theoretical test).
The use of diverse methods ensures that validation is more reliable and relevant and makes it easier to adapt the process to the needs of the person seeking validation.
The description of each method contains information about the possibilities of combining it with other methods.
Some methods can be used at each stage of validation (e.g. unstructured interview). Others are only relevant in specific stages (e.g. the skills audit is only used in the identification and documentation stages). Some methods – although they can be used in all stages – are best suited to one of them (e.g. the theoretical test in the assessment stage).
The description of each method contains information about the stage of validation for which it is particularly recommended.