Why the need for TLO statements?
All Australian universities have reviewed their Learning Outcome statements for all courses in recent years in order to ensure that they comply with the standards that were prescribed by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).
From late 2013, the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) took responsibility for determining that universities had Learning Outcomes suitable for the qualifications offered and could show evidence that their graduates met those outcomes.
The AQF (2013: 11) says that Learning Outcomes should be “constructed as a taxonomy of what graduates are expected to know, understand and be able to do as a result of learning. They are expressed in terms of the dimensions of knowledge, skills and the application of knowledge and skills.” The AQF defines the levels of achievement and broad learning outcomes that students must achieve in order to pass their studies and attain a qualification. Learning standards are different from teaching standards, which are the inputs and processes to assist students to achieve learning outcomes.
JoMeC’s Development of TLOs in Response to the AQF
With the support of Office for Learning and Teaching funding*, the JoMeC Network has developed Threshold Learning Statements (TLO) statements for Australian Bachelor-level programs with majors in the Journalism and Public Relations and draft TLO statements for Communications and/or Media Studies. TLOs identify the minimum knowledge, skills and capabilities expected of a discipline’s graduates.
The JoMeC Network’s TLO statements are guidelines to be referred to when benchmarking. They have been designed to help programs along the path to ensuring quality outcomes are both desired and achieved.
Individual universities will often have additional or specialised learning outcome expectations of their graduates that are not listed in the TLO statements that have been developed by the JoMeC Network. Responsibility for providing evidence for a program’s learning outcomes – being able to demonstrate that qualifications offer appropriate and sufficiently rigorous content, quantities of work, assessment norms, and other learning elements – remains with individual universities themselves.
AQF Learning Outcomes Descriptors for Bachelor Degrees
The AQF (2013: 16 & 48) states that a ‘Bachelor Degree qualifies individuals who apply a broad and coherent body of knowledge in a range of contexts to undertake professional work and as a pathway for further learning’, and defines the Learning Outcomes expected of all Bachelor Degrees (in any discipline) as follows:
Graduates of a Bachelor Degree will have a broad and coherent body of knowledge, with depth in the underlying principles and concepts in one or more disciplines as a basis for independent lifelong learning.
Graduates of a Bachelor Degree will have:
- cognitive skills to review critically, analyse, consolidate and synthesise knowledge
- cognitive and technical skills to demonstrate a broad understanding of knowledge with depth in some areas
- ognitive and creative skills to exercise critical thinking and judgment in identifying and solving problems with intellectual independence
- communication skills to present a clear, coherent and independent exposition of knowledge and ideas
Application of knowledge and skills
Graduates of a Bachelor Degree will demonstrate the application of knowledge and skills:
- with initiative and judgment in planning, problem solving and decision making in professional practice and/or scholarship
to adapt knowledge and skills in diverse contexts
- with responsibility and accountability for own learning and professional practice and in collaboration with others within broad parameters
It is understood that Learning Outcomes may overlap, and no single standard can be evidenced in isolation.
Uses of Learning Outcomes in University Accreditation
The Australian Qualifications Framework describes the Learning Outcomes expected of 10 levels of tertiary qualifications, with Level 1 being a Certificate 1 and Level 10 being a Doctoral qualification. The levels of relevance to universities are:
- Level 7: Bachelor Degree qualifications
- Level 8: Bachelor Honours Degree
- Graduate Certificate and Vocational Graduate Certificate qualifications
- Graduate Diploma and Vocational Graduate Diploma qualifications
- Level 9: Masters Degree qualifications
- Level 10: Doctoral Degree qualifications
The AQF (2013: 49) notes that, when accrediting Bachelor Degree qualifications, accrediting authorities must ensure that:
- Graduates of the qualification type will achieve learning outcomes at Level 7 (Bachelor Degree).
- All the learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and the application of knowledge and skills) of the Bachelor Degree qualification type are evident in each qualification accredited as this type. Some may have more emphasis than others in different Bachelor Degree qualifications depending on their purpose.
- Generic learning outcomes are explicitly identified in the qualification and align with the level of the qualification type, the purpose of the qualification and the discipline. Generic learning outcomes fall into four broad categories: fundamental skills; people skills; thinking skills; and personal skills. In the higher education sector they are generally known as graduate attributes and are defined by each higher education institution.
- The relationship between the learning outcomes in the AQF Level 7 criteria, the qualification type descriptor, and the discipline is clear.
- The design of the components of the qualification will provide coherent learning outcomes for the level and qualification type and will enable graduates to demonstrate them.
- The volume of learning is sufficient for graduates to achieve the learning outcomes for a qualification of this level and type.
* The views expressed on this website and in JoMeC Network reports do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office for Learning and Teaching.