Constructing Learning Outcomes in Europe: A multi-level analysis of (under)achievement in the life course

The CLEAR research project (2022-2025) responds to the Horizon Europe’s Call HORIZON-CL2-2021-TRANSFORMATIONS-01-04: Addressing poor learning outcomes in basic skills and early school leaving at national, regional and local level in Europe and seeks to better understand the factors that affect the quality and the construction of learning outcomes in Europe.

The specific approach of CLEAR is centred on the process of constructing learning outcomes, which we interpret as the result of manifold intersecting factors and people: institutional arrangements, spatial and socio-economic determinants, discursive and socio-cultural influences, as well as individual experiences, dispositions, cognitive and psycho-emotional abilities.

CLEAR’s overall aim is to examine the combination of multiple factors shaping learning outcomes and thus affecting their quality. Based on a better understanding of the processes of constructing learning outcomes, CLEAR inquiries into the impact of policies to boost achievement and tackle underachievement, design participative activities at local level that spark innovative policy solutions and increase social upward mobility for young people.

The CLEAR research project is conducted in eight EU countries – Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain – which represent more than half of the EU’s population with diverse governmental and education systems, economic and labour market structures, and socio-cultural contexts. By conducting comparative research in the countries studied, CLEAR will generate new comparative knowledge on the existing educational policies targeting learning outcomes of young people aged 18–29 and attaining secondary and post-secondary education and training. Hereby, the CLEAR project gives a special attention to groups that are multi-disadvantaged and/or in vulnerable situations, as they have been massively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic’s ramifications.

Conceptually, CLEAR adopts dynamic and relational concepts – Life Course, Intersectionality, Spatial Justice – that will help explore the several mutually intersecting dimensions of the issue – individual, institutional, structural, relational, and spatial. The three theoretical frameworks bridge education, sociology, social and youth policy studies, and political sciences making it possible to explore the five analytical dimensions, and to adequately conceptualise information for research site selection. Furthermore, combining these theoretical views brings together different disciplinary approaches, which enables us to address the complex methodological issues in a dynamic and interdisciplinary manner.

CLEAR Life Course
Life Course perspective offers us a logical framework to explore the individual and subjective dimensions in the construction of LOs and (under)achievement in a lifelong learning perspective. It enables us to study the experiences, expectations, visions, and perceptions of young Europeans, and their ability to create subjective meanings and continuity along the different phases of their life courses, as well as to consider their diverse socio-economic and spatial contexts. CLEAR applies the theoretical instruments of life course research to policy analysis, specifically to understand how various policies interact with individual life courses of young people and to localise the points of possible change. It will apply the paradigmatic principles of the life course perspective, in particular the role of individual agency recognising that young people do not accept their social and historical circumstances passively; they actively construct their own life course through the choices and actions they take within the opportunities and constraints of history and social circumstance.
CLEAR Intersectionality
Intersectionality supports us in assessing educational inequalities more holistically, sharpens our view on educational policies targeting low-achievement, and helps us to devise intersectional solutions to intersectional problems. The intersectional approach helps to connect different analytical perspectives to gain a multidimensional understanding of the tackled phenomena and apply a context-sensitive approach based on the idea that identity categories are always contextually constrained and facilitated by intersectional identity locations. With respect to the policies studied, the critical intersectional approach informs the research that even well-intentioned policies may fall short if they assume that all inequalities share the same ontological history and internal logic and, thus, ignore the historical and contextual realities of the different forms of inequality. Intersectional thinking further strengthens the project’s analytical scope by emphasising that eventually any policy dealing with (under)achievement is embedded to various degrees in regimes of class, gender, ethnic, and other inequalities. CLEAR focuses on variable configurations of socio-economic, ethnic, and gender divides among young people in the EU member states and regions.
CLEAR Spatial Justice
Spatial Justice draws our attention to the interaction of space and power, and enables us to study the spatial distribution of resources and opportunities of young people and their impact on the quality of LOs and definitions of (under)achievement. Since education is embedded in the inter-relations that form the opportunity structures in a given place, CLEAR adopts the critical perspective of spatial justice to unveil how spaces interact with the life courses of young people, how the spatial organisation of society affects educational policymaking, and how unjust spatial dispersion of population creates conditions that further stigmatise and marginalise disadvantaged groups. Thus, spatial justice helps to conceptualise LOs and (under)achievement as spatially conditioned phenomena as it emphasises both the significance of space as an active force shaping human life, and the intersection of space and power in the distribution of socially valued resources and opportunities to use them.

Methodologically, CLEAR relies on proven and field-tested comparative research and combines well-established designs of mixed-method, multi-level analyses with novel participatory strategies, thus actively stimulating informed decision-making to support policy design and implementation. CLEAR uses a plenitude of methods and conducts quantitative and institutional analyses, web-based expert surveys, and qualitative and comparative analyses. It also applies innovative participatory strategies and runs Innovation Forums with various audiences and local/regional experts. Our methodological contribution also includes identification of sparse or missing data at various governance levels and enhancing the data quality of relevant regional and national bodies, which will help to spark innovative policy solutions.

The CLEAR Consortium met in Vienna for the fourth Consortium Meeting

Empirical Research Takes Center Stage at the fourth CLEAR Consortium meeting in Vienna Vienna, Austria - From April 4th to the 5th, 2024, the CLEAR Consortium met once again, this time in the City of Vienna, hosted by the university of Vienna, bringing together the...

Interactive map with the research sites online

An interactive map has been added to the CLEAR-website in order to give an overview over our research sites! Based on previous research and a complex selection process sixteen regions in the European Union have been chosen for the conduction of our empirical field...

The CLEAR project is now on LinkedIn

The CLEAR project is now on LinkedIn! As of December 2023, you can find more news and information about the CLEAR project on our new LinkedIn profile, which can be accessed via the following link: CLEAR Project HORIZON Europe | LinkedIn