Defining professional excellence: overlapping learning outcomes in Dutch honours education

Patricia Robbe, Marjolein Heijne-Penninga, Josephine Lappia, Annedien Pullen, Marike Lammers, Marca Wolfensberger

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperOther research output


Honours programs are selective programs that offer challenging educational opportunities for talented students who are willing and able to do more than regular programs offer them (Wolfensberger,2012). For optimal learning, these programs should focus on three dimensions of teaching approaches: community building; enhancing academic competence, and offering freedom. The amount of freedom in honours education is the most distinguishing aspect from regular programs (Wolfensberger,2012), however, also for honoursstudents an amount of structure is needed to enhance engagement (Lang,2010) and performance (Locke & Latham,2006; DeShon & Alexander,1996). Explicit learning outcomes can be a way to provide this strucure. In the Netherlands, honours programs of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) aim to prepare students to become the excellent professional of the future. Since it is not clear which competencies define this excellent professional, each institution determines the learning outcomes for their honours students. For instance, Hanze University of Applied Sciences (UAS) focusses on how the working field defines an excellent professional, developing an evidence-based competency profile specific for each discipline. Rotterdam UAS, developed the profile for Innovative Action for all disciplines, and Saxion UAS established the Reflective Professional profile to define learning outcomes for their honours students, both based on literature research. In a collaborative project, these three aforementioned HEI gathered honours programs descriptions of 8 HEI to assess overlapping competences they adopt as learning outcomes for honours students. Preliminary results indicate substantial overlap and an alignment between working field perceptions and available literature.In this session, the following issues will be discussed: •The added value and content of competency profiles defining learning outcomes in honours education;•how specific these profiles should be (discipline-specific or general);•the added value and possibility of a shared (inter)national honours competency profile;•potential risks: limiting freedom in honours education, cultural differences regarding definition of excellence. Description of the session (100 words): the session starts as focus group discussion facilitated  by a moderator and concentrating on the question: Which competences / learning outcomes should honours programs concentrate on? Aim is to explore opinions and views of the participants. Afterwards three higher education institutes present shortly the competencies and learning goals they adopt. Next, a round table discussion takes place, based on statements. Participants choose their position (pro or con) before the discussion starts, discus their views, and indicate afterwards whether their opinion is changed. Aim is to indicate pro’s and con’s for (inter)national uniform honours competences and learning goals. 
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventUtrecht Honours Conference 2016: Honours Futures - Utrecht Science Park, Utrecht, Netherlands
Duration: 2 Jun 20163 Jun 2016


ConferenceUtrecht Honours Conference 2016


  • honours education
  • netherlands


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