Project Details Best practices in the use of learning outcomes in chemistry education

Project No.:
Start Date:
01 June 2012
End Date:
30 June 2017


Learning outcome driven chemistry education is increasingly practiced, providing new opportunities for international comparisons. We will develop a method for benchmarking (i.e. learning by sharing and comparing best practice) these outcomes, to enhance learner-centered chemistry education both in the developed and developing world. The project builds on and extends task group members’ experiences from national and international projects.


The interest in intended learning outcomes and constructive alignment has grown in many parts of the world due to both research in higher education (see e. g. Biggs, J.B. & Tang, C.S. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student does) and political decisions (e. g. the Bologna process).

Guiding chemistry education for the future requires the exchange of perspectives on core knowledge, skills and competencies. We will evaluate how learning outcomes for courses and modules are linked to each other and to learning outcomes for educational programs and how the expected learning outcomes can be aligned with learning activities and assessment.

2012: Collect information from and compare tuning, evaluation and benchmarking projects in the regions represented by the task group members (Europe, North America and Australia).

2012: In a meeting before the ICCE conference in Italy, the comparisons will be discussed and used to develop guidelines for self-evaluation which will focus on local learning outcomes for chemistry education including courses/modules, compared with national and/or international descriptors and with attention to alignment with learning activities and assessment. During the conference an open workshop will be given, with exchange ideas for quality enhancement of learning outcomes. Participants from different countries will give insights in applicability both in developed and developing countries. At a meeting after the conference we will decide on the final form for the self-evaluation.

2012-2013: All task group members write the self-evaluation together with universities that they select for a pilot study.

2013: At a workshop at the GA in Turkey, the self-evaluations will be compared and the task group members will exchange feedback. Other GA-members will also be invited to give feedback and learn from the experience. A full electronic report and manual for the benchmarking procedure will be produced, including a collection of examples of good/best practice for dissemination.

We will make use of the international framework and multicultural competence of CCE to successfully create a benchmarking method and criteria applicable to chemistry education all over the world.

We expect that the method can be spread both to developed and developing countries by all task group members, who first participated in the benchmarking process, or by activities within the Flying Chemist program.


The main analysis process took the form of two consecutive workshops with participants from the USA, Australia, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The overall project design was discussed during a workshop in conjunction with the International Conference on Chemical Education in Rome 2012. After that a matrix comparing the overarching documents from the USA (the ACS guidelines), Europe (the Eurobachelor) and Australia (the Learning and Teaching Academic Standards) was constructed. A tool for self-analysis was also fashioned incorporating the comparison.

A second workshop (in conjunction with the IUPAC GA in Istanbul 2013) was dedicated to discussion, comparison and further analysis. Firstly the overarching documents were discussed further. Continuing on to the degree curriculum and course/module levels the workshop participants analysed documentation at the bachelor level from their respective institutions, using the tool for self-analysis. Important for the process at and between the workshops was the heavy emphasis on discussions and critical analysis that took place between participants. The comparative approach both across and within the borders of educational systems was crucial for developing a “best practice” process, that can be applied more widely. The vivid discussions also enabled continuous evaluation and development of both the tool and the process itself.

The utility of the tool were probed in an open workshop at the IUPAC International Conference on Chemical Education 2014 in Toronto. It was clear that educators who had not taken part in the first phase were nevertheless perfectly able to use the tool. The process and the tool for self-analysis enabled the workshop participants to lift the discussion about learning outcomes to a higher level of abstraction. At the same time, specifics such as the learning activities actually employed and details of assessments still had a place. The workshop concluded with discussions on how to use the insights gained to make real changes to enhance student learning, in which the participants expressed that the tool would make it easier to discuss important issues at their respective institution.

The results from the project have been published in Journal of Chemical Education (Elmgren et al. 2015; In addition to the findings, the process was described and the tool was made available (download pdf – tool for self-analysis). This enables others to use the method for analysis. The method was also disseminated through an open workshop at the IUPAC International Conference on Chemical Education 2014 in Toronto. Another report has been published in Chem. Int. Jan 2016, p. 13;

last update 11 Jan 2016