Learning outcomes can be understood as a kind of common reference for teaching, learning and assessment.
Without any doubt, an appropriate teaching and learning strategy enables learners to achieve learning outcomes. An appropriate assessment method is used to check if the learning outcomes have been achieved. Certainly, the alignment between learning outcomes, teaching, learning and assessment helps to make the overall learning experience more coherent, transparent and meaningful for learners
Then, regarding the teaching practices, theory and practical tasks are taught together depending on the type of learning module included in each professional qualification. Apart from that, even though each teacher must be strict with the learning outcomes defined in each programme they are free to to decide how to help learners attain these outcomes. In other words, there is a fair amount of autonomy and innovation among teachers As far as the assessment is concerned.
Some teachers may prepare a school-based training programme that implements the learning outcomes set out in the national written curriculum. Anyway, inspectors will check whether the local curriculum does match national requirements. Teachers are expected to conform to national standards, but there is some discretion: schools are given freedom to provide options in addition to national requirements, which leaves room for local flexibility.
On the other hand, one of the most powerful instruments used to promote learning outcomes approaches is being the evaluation and assessment frameworks supported by assurance and accreditation systems. In Spain, assessment criteria have been defined for each education cycle, in accordance with the standards of the curriculum. You can see in the different examples pointed out in the last question how the assesment criteria is defined and written.
In Spain, teachers responsible for the professional modules carry out assessment. During the training programme (cycle), the teaching team organises several assessment board sessions for discussing assessment and the grading of modules and also for deciding whether students can continue to the second year and to in-company training as well as deciding on the average grade for the qualification.
As regards the awarding, technician diplomas are awarded upon personal request by the education authority of the region where the training/cycle is completed. The VET school/centre delivering the training programme provides the necessary documentation, i.e. records of assessment, individual assessment reports and students’ academic records to the education authority. Technician diplomas include information on the final grade of each professional module specifying the year and course as well as the average grade for the whole training programme/cycle.
Calibration procedure in Basque country
The calibration procedure seeks to ensure that teachers who deliver the same professional module use similar assessment and grading criteria. Calibration is organised on an annual basis by VET schools/centres. Each teacher takes part every two years. The procedure includes the following steps:
- The teacher who is going to be calibrated provides a written test corrected by him/her, a copy of the uncorrected version and a template for correction (plantilla de corrección). Assessment criteria as well as acceptable differences in grading (with ± points) are clarified before the calibration takes place;
- The teachers, who calibrate the examination, correct the test using the template for correction. In doing so, they do not consult or influence each other. Individual assessments are then compared and considered reliable if they are within the limit of the acceptable differences in grading;
- The head of the department (who coordinates the teachers delivering the same professional module) describes in a document the results achieved through the calibration.
Spain make a large effort to create assessment settings as close as possible to real work environments. The aim of this approach is to ensure that IVET is providing programmes and competences that meet labour market needs.
Although these methods are more complex and often more costly than traditional assessment methods (e.g. written tests, oral exams), most IVET systems simulate real working-life situations in VET schools. Spain, Finland implement assessment in authentic work.
As regards learning materials there is evidence that a focus on learning outcomes in written curricula is feeding through to the design of learning materials, though this is working in a diversity of ways: assignment briefs, teacher produced materials, and authentic materials.
In Spain, VET centres tend to rely on old manuals and materials produced by publishing houses. National legislation does not specify who has responsibility for designing and producing learning materials, although in the Basque region, VET legislation makes reference to the provision of equipment, didactical and technological means for the implementation of vocational education and training (Boletin Oficial del Pais Vasco, 2008).