oa Journal of Education - Outcomes-based quality assurance: What do we have to lose?



This paper explores a deep conceptual flow in the emerging approach to quality assurance in South Africa � that the quality of an academic course can be evaluated through judging it against pre-specified learning outcomes. The central claim in the paper is that the internal coherence and the substance of a learning programme that are produced, in the main, by the logic of the discipline knowledge that informs it, cannot be externally regulated by a quality assurance process that condenses knowledge into learning outcomes. By implication, we question the validity of judgments made about quality that are based on the specifications of outcomes. We argue that this approach inevitably marginalizes discipline content, even when there is a formal assurance to value it, and even when peers are used in the evaluation process. The paper is divided into 4 parts. The first is a discussion on the context and principles that inform the formation of quality assurance systems in South Africa. The second analyses a small case study in quality assurance. The third part elaborates on the logic of a quality assurance process that relies on statements of outcomes rather than on discipline and content related statements. The fourth part analyses recent policy developments in quality assurance in Higher Education and their implications for evaluation of academic work.


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