The systemic implications of constructive alignment of higher education level learning outcomes and employer or professional body based competency frameworks

The past 50 years has seen the development of schemes in higher education, employment and professional work that either identify what people should know and/or what they should be able to do with what they have learned and experienced. Within higher education this is usually equated with the learning outcomes students are expected to achieve at the end of studying a course, module or qualification and increasingly the teaching, learning and assessment strategies of those courses, modules or qualifications are being designed to align with those learning outcomes. In employment, there has been the emergence of job and role specifications setting out the knowledge and skills required of incumbent and recruits alike. Where professional bodies confer (often statutorily recognised) status in employment sectors they also increasingly set out their expectations of members through competency frameworks. This paper explores the varied relationships between these three means of measuring knowledge and skills within people including the nature of the knowledge and skills being measured as well as the specificity of the knowledge and skills being measured, using the case study of environmental management in the UK. It then argues that there needs to be a more constructive alignment between these three forms of measurement, achieved through a dynamic conversation between all concerned, but also that such alignment needs both to recognise the importance of less tangible ‘systems thinking’ abilities alongside the more tangible ‘technical’ and ‘managerial’ abilities and that some abilities emerge from the trajectories of praxis and cannot readily be specified as an outcome in advance.
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Conference Name
The Online, Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference 2017
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