Use and problems in the language of discipline-based qualification statements: learning from Tuning and its analogues

  • Clifford Adelman Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), United States
Keywords: language, verbs, syntax, voice, and diction level, competence, meanings and contradictions, reference points, benchmarking versus Tuning


This essay is an empirical account of English language use, across three continents, in 40 Tuning and analogous discipline-based statements of desired demonstrated competences and learning outcomes in higher education. It is primarily concerned with lexical and semantic matters, takes the perspective of the student as the primary reader and beneficiary of these statements, and is as much proscriptive as it is analytical. It provides frequencies of verbs used in such statements, flags commonly but unacceptable verbs and syntax, offers a different grouping of competence-oriented verbs from that inherited from Bloom et al’s Taxonomy, and suggests what we should do in revisiting statements of learning outcomes that have taken root in the literature.

Published online: 4 July 2014


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Author Biography

Clifford Adelman, Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), United States

Clifford Adelman has been a Senior Associate with the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, DC since 2006. Prior to that point, he served 27 years as a Senior Research Analyst with the U.S. Department of Education, where he built three national longitudinal study data sets and published 15 monographs and reference works based on those data sets. Since 2006, he has published three studies of the Bologna Process and one on comparative international data on higher education. He is a co-author of the Degree Qualifications Profile, a founding member of the advisory board for Tuning USA, and, in 2013, a resident Tuning advocate in Japan. He has been a frequent presenter of scholarly papers to the European Association for Institutional Research, contributor to European Journals, advisor to the research of the Tuning Academy, and currently sits on the project advisory and review board for EUROGRADUATE. He is a recipient of the Suslow Award of the Association for Institutional Research for contributions to higher education research. Dr. Adelman holds an A.B. degree from Brown University, and a Ph.D. in the History of Culture from the University of Chicago.


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How to Cite
Adelman, Clifford. 2014. “Use and Problems in the Language of Discipline-Based Qualification Statements: Learning from Tuning and Its Analogues”. Tuning Journal for Higher Education 1 (2), 335-67.