Professional Frameworks


If your course is intending to prepare students for a particular profession, perhaps a formal accreditation system at the end of their degree, it’s very important that at the very beginning of the course design process, you are aware of all the various facets of that profession that need to be built into the course at the beginning.

So, there are usually standards and frameworks that we can work around as course designers, and point our outcomes towards those at a programme level, subsequently to the course level. And obviously, all of the objectives that we teach to, will all be mapped back to those professional standards and frameworks.

There may not be a formal statement from the profession as to what they expect graduates to have at the end of their degree, but you can always piece these together, and map your degree programme accurately onto the professional expectations. Ethical guidelines are the obvious place to start in the absence of a formal standard. But, you will almost certainly find for any serious profession, there are competency statements available.

If your particular country doesn’t have one, it’s always worth looking to see what international standards are available, and map your design onto that. Your students will thank you for it in the long run.

Those standards, of course, can be varied. They can be quite specific to an aspect within a particular profession, or they could be quite generic. So it’s important that you do search quite robustly to make sure that you’ve got a good picture of what the guidelines are, what the competency statements are, and what standards do exist.

Failing that, it’s worth asking a professional body in your particular region or, country. Do they have frameworks? Are there particular competency frameworks for existing professionals in that particular domain? Is there anything you can learn from them?

Those professional associations will definitely have guidelines. Their websites are definitely the first place that you should go to try and get your head into this space. But you’ll also find that if you look at journals and conferences, they’re very often a little bit ahead of wherever the professional association is. If you think your undergraduate is going to take 3, 4, 5 years to get their degree, you need to be thinking a little bit ahead in terms of, what kind of outputs you want to give those students? The kind of outcomes that the student will want to leave your degree with, are possibly a little bit ahead of what the current profession is expecting of its current practitioners, and a good place to get a sense of the future travel in your discipline is to look at journals and conferences.

Handout: Professional Frameworks


Quality, Levels and Benchmarks


Let’s now look at the relationship between outcomes and quality assurance agencies, levels, and subject benchmarks. Now this will be very different depending on where you are in the world. It’ll depend on how your institution manages its own quality systems,  which national or regional authorities they’re ultimately responsible to.

So, do please take this with a pinch of salt. You need to map whatever I’m sharing with you, from my experience, and map it onto your own particular context. But I want to just think a little bit about why quality assurance agencies are so keen on well-structured learning outcomes (if they are indeed able to get their heads around it.)

The idea is that if you have consistent outcomes, you’re more likely to be able to guarantee academic standards across different institutions. So there’s a degree of comparability across institutions, teaching the same programme at the same level. Not necessarily exactly the same curriculum. But the same ideas, the same outcomes, the same targets that everyone is aiming towards.  It also allows you to then quantify the assessment of those outcomes at a national level, or regional level, and that’s also a very important comparator.

One of the reasons why institutions are starting to be a little bit more serious about writing really good outcomes is it makes the process of credit transfer between institutions, the recognition of prior accredited learning so much easier. If you have meaningful outcomes; if a student can present you with a course transcript that says these are the outcomes that I was assessed against at this level; it’s much easier to map that onto your own institutional expectation.

There are also then subject benchmarks and level frameworks. And both of those two things vary hugely depending on the international situation that you are in. But in most organizations, most countries, the quality assurance agency does have some oversight of both subject benchmarks and level frameworks. Each different quality assurance agency, each different national regime or international framework will have some variation.

You can see illustrated here, we’ve got the English framework for higher education qualifications with various levels, and particular awards pegged to that particular level. And you can see that that’s being mapped here onto the European Qualification Framework. There are links in the notes for a number of different national bodies that will give you a sense of how they map onto each other.

And you need to examine your own framework internationally to work out what level you are actually teaching at. It’s easier to think about it in terms of the first, second, third, fourth year of undergraduate study or postgraduate study, but it’s very difficult to peg that directly onto a specific level, because as I say, they vary from one country to the next, but you do need to be aware of what your level framework looks like in your country.

It’s worth also looking at whether there are subject benchmark statements for the discipline that you are writing your course. These are usually designed in fairly generic terms around whole discipline areas or fields of study. It could be history, business, architecture… and they are usually generic frameworks that state the kinds of things we would expect the student to be exposed to if they are to be awarded a named qualification in that field of study.

So this example is from the United Kingdom quality assurance agency. You need to explore whether there are similar instruments in your particular area as well.

Handout: Quality, Level, and Benchmarks


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