Modeling and measuring competencies in higher education

International conference “Modeling and Measuring Competencies in Higher Education — Validation and Methodological Innovations” from September 12-13, 2019, in Germany

The German research program “Modeling and Measuring Competencies in Higher Education (KoKoHs) – Validation and Methodological Innovations”, which has been funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in two phases from 2011 to 2019, organizes an international conference from September 12-13, 2019, at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The conference will take place at the Helmholtz Institute on the Gutenberg campus.

Over the past decade, tertiary education has been gaining increasing importance in society. Developments such as the continuously growing number of students in higher education and increasing student mobility have raised questions of efficiency and effectiveness in tertiary education, calling for valid assessments of competencies and student learning outcomes. Assessments of the output of higher education can yield important evidence regarding the effectiveness of this highly important educational sector and thus provide a basis for improvement measures at the institutional and individual levels.

Modern higher education focuses on the acquisition of domain-specific knowledge and on the development and promotion of generic (interdisciplinary) skills (e.g. critical thinking), which, according to current surveys amongst employers, is increasingly gaining significance in the 21st century. Such a competence portfolio, acquired over the course of academic studies, is crucial for all professionals and globally engaged citizens and allows for lifelong learning, which is necessary in a continuously changing age of information.

Despite this sociopolitical consensus and the growing competence orientation (in the context of the Bologna reform), there have been only few evidence-based insights up until the last decade, particularly regarding the competencies of higher education students. That is why the Federal Ministry of Education and Research established the Germany-wide research initiative Modeling and Measuring Competencies in Higher Education (KoKoHs) in 2011.

In the 85 KoKoHs projects, theoretical-conceptual competence models and corresponding measurement instruments were developed and successfully validated for selected large study domains (e.g. economics, teacher education, STEM) that differentiate, reliably describe, and assess the competences of students in different phases of higher education – entry, undergraduate studies, postgraduate studies. Over 100 newly developed innovative video-, computer-, and simulation-based test instruments were validated across Germany at more than 350 universities with over 75,000 undergraduate and Master’s students. The assessments focused on both discipline-specific competencies and generic skills that students and graduates should acquire over the course of their studies and that employers and other stakeholders expect according to the professional and social requirements of the 21st century.

Building on best practices from the first funding phase of the KoKoHs program (2011-2015), the following funding phase ran from 2015 to 2019 and brought together experts from various fields and with different methodological backgrounds in cross-university project alliances within a joint international and interdisciplinary research network. Based on the models and instruments for the reliable and valid assessment of competencies acquired in various study domains in higher education developed and empirically tested in the first funding phase, the actual research phase in KoKoHs aimed to increase the explanatory power and broaden the scope of use of the KoKoHs test instruments through in-depth validation as well as to drive methodological innovation in competency assessment in higher education.

So far, KoKoHs is the only existing nationwide program in which students’ learning outcomes in higher education are systematically, validly, and objectively assessed and analyzed. The KoKoHs program provides globally unique findings on the acquisition and development of students’ competencies in higher education, which form a significant basis for the optimization of learning and teaching practice.

The scientific coordination and the transfer project are led by Professor Olga Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and Professor Hans Anand Pant from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

The conference will provide insights into the key results of the KoKoHs program and present an outlook on the next phase, in which the developed and validated competence measurement instruments will be transferred into university practice.

The conference will take place on September 12-13, 2019, starting at 10:00 a.m. at the Helmholtz Institute Mainz at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

Participation in the conference is free of charge, and registration is possible until September 2, 2019, by sending a brief e-mail to [email protected]


For further information, please visit

The conference program is available at

Media Contact
Miriam Toepper
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