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No pain, no gain

Moves to measure how much learning takes place in higher education raise challenges at every step, writes Camille Kandiko Howson.

Learning gain is the latest hot topic in British higher education. Following the 2011 publication of “Academically Adrift” in the US, which found that many American students in spent a lot of time and money at university without much learning to show for it, the UK has begun efforts to ensure that students investing in higher education are getting value for money. There are also relatively few details for “student outcomes and learning gain” in the current proposals for the teaching excellence framework.

British higher education has a number of projects underway investigating ways of measuring learning gain: Pearson is evaluating the impact of its products on learner outcomes; the Higher Education Academy has co-opted leaders to examine institutional-level responsibilities for learning and teaching; and the Higher Education Funding Council for England is funding 13 pilot projects and an additional national study. Yet despite plenty of enthusiasm and political drive, this remains difficult terrain.

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