I understand that the QAAHEA's soon-to-be-revealed ESD guidance document for universities will set out over 50 new learning outcomes. That is, it will specify 50+ additional things that graduates should be able to know, understand and be able to do after a period of learning covered by the guidance – over and above all those already expected of them in their main degree studies. Thankfully, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) has confirmed that students won't have to pay extra for any of this as it's covered by existing fees. What a bargain!
But, there is something beyond irony in such attempts to specify detailed learning outcomes for ESD when the world we live in is increasingly characterised by complexity and uncertainty – if not, by indeterminacy. As Stephen Sterling wrote in WWF Scotland's Linkingthinking (Unit 1, p. 11) ...
"In complex situations, it is simply impossible to determine or predict the outcome of an action or intervention. We live in a culture interested in certainty, prediction, and control through setting measures such as 'performance indicators', and 'specific learning outcomes'. Yet increasing uncertainty means that we need to become more comfortable with ambiguity and approximation."
Just so. Learning is always complex and its outcomes indeterminate – but not, it seems, to QAAHEA.