The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is clearly a hot topic in the Higher Education sector at the moment and occupies the thoughts of many of us across the University for a variety of reasons.
One set of questions being asked by the TEF and through HEFCE-funded projects is “how do students learn, how well are they supported in their learning by higher education institutions, and how can this be measured?”
We are one of ten institutions working with our undergraduate students to take part in a pilot to evaluate a combination of methodological approaches to measuring this ‘learning gain’.
At first glance, this might seem relatively clear-cut. Student performance is assessed and completion marked by the achievement of an award. During that time students will have gained a range of skills which are defined by the learning outcomes of the award.
However, on exploring it in more detail the concept becomes highly complex both in definition and measurement. For example, a simplistic metric would measure entry qualifications against final degree classification. But that cannot be used to compare students’ different learning journeys.
The introduction of a Grade Point Average (GPA), to remove the ‘cliff-edge’ of the 2.1 : 2.2 boundary has been suggested to give results more granularity. But the way results are calculated varies between institutions, as do the intended learning outcomes of the programmes and the ways in which they are assessed.
Each student’s journey is about much more than gaining knowledge. This includes the development of critical skills to research, evaluate, interpret and utilise that knowledge to address complex problems. We also need to support students in developing the skills that will enable their success in the competitive graduate employment market.
On this basis, HEFCE gives its definition of measuring learning gain as ‘an attempt to measure the improvement in knowledge, skills, work-readiness and personal development made by students during their time spent in higher education.’
Currently the main way such outcomes are measured for the TEF is through data
from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey. However, this measure provides very little indication of learning gain.
Through the work we are undertaking and helping to shape with HEFCE, we can expect to see a more evaluative assessment which I hope will better reflect learning gain.
This is a reduced version of Professor Jon Scott’s article in the Times Higher Education magazine. You can read Jon’s full article on our website.
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