L&T Session B4: Exploring learning gain

John Robinson Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students

AbstractReferences | Recording

Professor John Robinson Pro Vice Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students facilitated a highly interactive session on exploring the meaning, measurement and implications of learning gain. John used the teaching space creatively to take participants through the history of thinking about learning gain by using the walls to create a giant timeline.



Since 1983, there has been frequent reference to “Learning Gain” in the educational literature and methods for improving student engagement, assessment design, etc. have often been advanced on the basis that they increase Learning Gain. But there is still no widely-agreed definition of Learning Gain. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) held a conference on learning gain in 2015 whereby Learning Gain was broadly defined 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”. Five ways to categorise methodologies for measuring learning gain were proposed: standardised tests, grades, self-reporting surveys, other qualitative methods (such as the York Award) and mixed methods. Following the conference, HEFCE research projects in learning gain were launched whereby the University of York is participating in a programme led by the University of Warwick on using a range of methods, including longitudinal and cross-sectional approaches, to test and develop tools to effectively measure learning gain related to the curriculum and employability.

John then gave participants the opportunity to explore the timeline whilst empowering them to choose which aspects of learning gain (to include engagement, satisfaction and measurement) they would like to explore in groups. Groups then reported back to discuss their findings.


To conclude, universities claim that their own graduates have the necessary skills to be successful. However, it is imperative to test such claims in an appropriate and fair manner in order to enable universities who can demonstrate significant learning gains in their students to prosper. It is hoped that our unique York Pedagogy with distinctive programme learning outcomes will provide us with a good platform to deliver on demonstrating a significant learning gain for all of our students.

This highly topical and engaging session provided participants with a unique insight into learning gain and helped us all to consider as to how we can demonstrate and maximise learning gain for our students at the support, departmental and institutional levels.


Glenn Hurst, Department of Chemistry, University of York


One thought on “L&T Session B4: Exploring learning gain

  1. Pingback: University of York Annual Learning Teaching Conference 2016 | York Learning & Teaching Forum

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