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Learning Gain Cross-Institutional Network

22 February 2018 Networking Event - Summary

This event was held at Sheffield Hallam University and brought together the universities of Anglia Ruskin, De Montfort, Derby, Liverpool, Liverpool Hope, London, Newcastle, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam, Sunderland and Warwick to discuss how learning gain could be used to support student outcomes. Specifically this was explored by considering 3 questions:

Which areas of learning are perceived to be most relevant?

There is a caveat to the responses as it was generally acknowledged that learning gain is highly dependent on context and is mediated by subject / discipline studied and demographic factors. Participants did feel that graduate attributes, confidence, self-awareness, adaptability and resilience were key factors as was the embedding of learning gain within the curriculum to increase staff ownership and engagement. An effective learning gain process also requires a continuous feedback loop so that data is used to support change.

Which kind of methodologies would you draw on to measure learning gain?

Qualitative and quantitative processes should be used in tandem but some participants felt that a qualitative focus at scale could be too resource intensive. It was felt that a repertoire of methodologies should be used rather than seeking out a unitary construct.

What are the barriers, opportunities and challenges to implementing learning gain in your institution?

Barriers
  • Once there is a learning gain 'measure' universities will gamify this to show the best rating they can (without necessarily improving anything)
  • Higher education learning is complex and a learning gain measure takes decision-making out of choosing a university as students will base their decision on yet another ranking measure
  • You can't look at learning gain in isolation as it's part of an overall experience
  • Learning gain is another factor which reinforces "consumerism" over "learning experience" or signing up to be a "student/partner in learning" (reinforces a transactional experience)
Opportunities
  • Impact of student wellbeing as a factor in learning gain
  • Embed learning gain into the educational experience and do it for the right reasons (to improve learning) but there is no benefit of adding a numeric measure to this.
  • Helps to understand the complexity of HE
Challenges
  • There are lots of things we can't measure easily outside the classroom
  • University services are fragmented and there is limited sharing of data/information between them
  • Students come into university with limited preparation for the HE environment because of pressures on school/college teachers.

Further work will take in 2018 further engaging with the universities involved from the LEGACY consortium and the HEI’s involved in the Cross Institutional Network.