What is AHELO?
The Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes will test what students in higher education know and can do upon graduation. More than a ranking, AHELO is a direct evaluation of student performance. It will provide data on the relevance and quality of teaching and learning in higher education. The test aims to be global and valid across diverse cultures, languages and different types of institutions. Brochure.
AHELO will be a tool for:
- Universities: to assess and improve their teaching.
- Students: to make better choices in selecting institutions.
- Policy-makers: to make sure that the considerable amounts spent on higher education are spent well.
- Employers: to know if the skills of the graduates entering the job market match their needs.
Why now and why the OECD?
Governments and individuals have never invested more in higher education. No reliable international data exists on the outcomes of learning: the few studies that do exist are nationally focused. Available rankings reflect neither the quality of teaching and learning nor the diversity of institutions. For more than 40 years, the OECD has been one of the largest and most reliable sources of comparable statistics as well as economic and social data. The Directorate for Education has ample experience is this area with projects such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) testing the knowledge and skills of 15 year olds and the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).
The test will look at:
Generic skills common to all students, such as:
Discipline-specific skills (in economics and engineering for the feasibility study)
Contextual information to link the data to student backgrounds and learning environments.
Find out more on the the assessment and the instruments here.
What each university brings to the learning process: the value-added measurement
Top universities that attract A+ students and turn out A+ graduate surprise no one. But what about universities that accept B+ students and produce A+ graduates? Which is doing the better job?
AHELO aims to assess both inputs and outputs: what a student brings to a degree programme is at least as important as what he or she graduates with. The success of a student’s education is greatly influenced by supportive teachers, available resources and an environment conducive to learning (or the lack thereof). By assessing students’ learning gain, a more accurate measure of quality can be determined.
Value-added - or learning gain - will not be measured during the feasibility study but methodologies and tools for evaluating it will be explored to feed into subsequent work if the study produces positive results.
Students will be tested at the undergraduate level (nearing the end of their first 3-or 4-year-degree).
Universities: for the purpose of the feasibility study approximately 150 higher education institutions will be involved (up to 10 in each of the 15 participating countries). Participation will be extended to many more institutions in the case of a full-fledged AHELO (decision at the end of 2012). Participation is voluntary. If your university would like to kept informed about the possibility of future participation, please contact email@example.com. Higher education institutions are also involved in the management of the feasibility study. AHELO is being developed within the Institutional Management of Higher Education (IMHE) programme and under its Governing Board which includes members from governments but also from higher education institutions.
Countries: 15 countries representing a wide range of cultures and languages are participating in the feasibility study. If your country wants to know more about participating please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stakeholders: the OECD has invited a group of organisations with a stake or interest in higher education to join the AHELO Stakeholders Consultative Group. It is a channel through which information about AHELO can be presented to, and discussed with these organisations. It is also a forum where those stakeholders can expose and formulate ideas about how the study can be implemented. Members of this group include international associations of quality assurance agencies, student organisations, universities, employers and unions, as well as representatives of the engineering and economist professions.
While AHELO takes a similar approach to other OECD assessments (like PISA) in that it will assess student knowledge and skills directly, it is only a feasibility study for the moment and will not provide information at national or system levels. The focus will be at the level of institutions and will not allow for comparisons at national level.
AHELO is not a ranking and will not provide league tables. At the feasibility study stage the participating institutions will be provided with anonymous data to allow them to benchmark their performance against that of their peers.
Phase 1 - January 2010 to June 2011 - development of testing instruments for the generic and discipline-specific skills in economics and engineering and small-scale validation of these instruments.
Phase 2 - January 2011 to December 2012 - administration of the tests (and contextual questionnaires) in participating institutions.
Final conference at the end of 2012 to discuss the findings of the feasibility study: Is the assessment scientifically and practically possible? For more, see the evaluation criteria used to answer this question.
Conclusion: based on the results of the feasibility study OECD member countries will decide whether to go through with a full-scale AHELO.
The work of the feasibility study has been financed by the participating countries and through generous contributions from Lumina Foundation for Education (United States), Compagnia di San Paolo (Italy), Hewlett Foundation (United States), Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Portugal), Riksbankens Jubileumsfund (Sweden), the Spencer Foundation (United States) as well as the Higher Education Founding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Higher Education Authority of Ireland (HEA). Testimonials from our sponsors and benefits of sponsoring AHELO are available here.