Tuning: Identifying and Measuring Sector-Based Learning Outcomes in Postsecondary Education


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Note: Appendices A, E and F are in the report.

Tuning Process Creates Practical and Measurable Learning Outcomes

Ontario is part of an international effort known as Tuning that brings together experts from across institutions to develop relevant and appropriate learning outcomes in postsecondary education. The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) initiated a Tuning project more than two years ago with college and university experts across the province to identify learning outcomes for the most common diploma and degree types in three areas: life and health science, physical science and social science.

The results are documented in Tuning: Identifying and Measuring Sector-Based Learning Outcomes in Postsecondary Education , which provides practical and measurable learning outcomes that can help institutions and faculty members develop outcomes-based programs. The report also provides examples of measurement strategies and ways students can demonstrate achievement to other institutions and employers.

Project Description

Beginning in 2011, HEQCO assembled expert groups for each of the chosen disciplines, who met regularly to develop learning outcomes for the four most common credentials in the Ontario postsecondary system: the two-year diploma, three-year diploma, four-year honours bachelor’s degree and master’s degree (research-based). Each group was led by two co-chairs, one each from the college and university systems. While the groups initially worked separately, it was determined that many of the outcomes they were developing were applicable across all three areas of study and they began working collaboratively. Common learning outcomes were developed for knowledge, critical and creative thinking, communication, social responsibility and personal and interpersonal capacities. Practice and methods outcomes were also developed, which are unique for each of the three areas of study. In addition to the learning outcomes themselves, clear expectations were developed for the characteristics of program activities for each qualification type.


The most significant hurdle for incorporating learning outcomes system-wide is effective assessment. Given the wide range of needs of governments, institutions, programs, faculty members and students, a standardized assessment framework was not feasible. Instead, the report offers some best practices for assessment and examples of evaluating specific outcomes developed through the Tuning process.

Once learning outcomes have been incorporated into program and course design, it is critical that students are provided with a clear method for demonstrating what they have achieved. Tools such as diploma supplements, learning passports, badges and e-portfolios provide employers with a record of a student’s achievements and skills and help institutions with credit transfer and student mobility.
Developing learning outcomes is only the first step in integrating them into a higher education system. To develop and share emerging best practices, HEQCO has created a consortium of six institutions working on various aspects of learning outcomes. HEQCO has also participated in large-scale learning outcomes assessment projects through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s  Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes international project and  the Council for Aid to Education’s Collegiate Learning Assessment and college-sector equivalent the Community College Learning Assessment .

Tuning: Identifying and Measuring Sector-Based Learning Outcomes in Postsecondary Education was written by Mary Catharine Lennon, Brian Frank, James Humphreys, Rhonda Lenton, Kirsten Madsen, Abdelwahab Omri and Roderick Turner.