Ljiljana Krstić is a recent graduate from the UiO’s Higher Education Master’s Programme. Her prior education includes a degree in the Greek language and literature as well as the human resources management. Main research interests involve organisational change within universities, management and internationalisation of higher education.
The idea to write the thesis about learning outcomes resulted from the article I read on how research has pointed out to the discrepancy between the narrative and actual application of the concept in practice, and how in fact application has turned out to be the slow and difficult (Adam, 2008). In addition, a CEDEFOP study (2012) confirmed that interpretations of the concept vary throughout Europe, and even within individual institution (Dobbins, Brooks, Scott, Rawlinson, Norman, 2014). Research indicates that application of such a broad concept may cause a variety of interpretations, misconceptions and misuses.
In general the problem with the reform rhetoric and changes that follow, are empirically unverified beliefs and assumptions of the reform policies. Some are expected to be adopted even if they lack empirical verification, normative agreement and clear theoretical propositions (Maassen, Olsen, 2007). Learning outcomes exemplify how a policy debate throughout Europe has the tendency to become more similar, despite the different traditions and varieties between the counties, implying the willingness of national actors to follow the new terminological fashion (Teichler, 2004) and to emphasise the “European perspective’.
Therefore I decided to write about perspectives necessary for understanding the concept of learning outcomes and empirically verifying whether some of them are more dominant than the other. Additionally, I wanted to hear the voices of academics and academic leaders as the ultimate recipients of the policy, responsible for its reshaping in practice and enquire about their interpretation of the concept and its embeddeddness within the institutional context of the University of Belgrade. Lastly, I used the data to find patterns in the perceptions of changes which occurred as a result of the application of learning outcomes in practice.
As for the methods of inquiry, University of Belgrade was treated as an embedded single-case study, with three faculties as sub-units integral to the University as a whole. The selection of faculties reflected the classification of disciplines into four broad headings: hard-pure, soft-pure, hard-applied and soft-applied (Becher, 1989; Neumann, Becher, 2002).
Understanding and interpretation of learning outcomes may vary respectively to the perceived learning orientation and purposes of the concept among academic community who assume different functions within the University. Thus, it was essential for the study to explore the perceptions of academics and academic leaders. Empirically, the thesis is built upon twelve in-depth semi-structured interviews and relevant university and legislative documents. The respondents are academics and academic leaders from: soft-pure, hard- pure and hard-applied faculties respectively.