A longitudinal mixed method study of learning gain: applying Affective-Behaviour Cognition framework at 3 institutions

1st September 2015 - 31st August 2018

The introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework has increased interest in ways of assessing students’ learning gains, which has been defined as growth or change in knowledge, skills, and abilities over time that can be linked to the desired learning outcomes or learning goals of the course. At the Open University, Oxford Brookes University, and University of Surrey we are running a 3-year longitudinal mixed-method study of learning gains aiming to develop scalable approaches for measuring students’ learning.

In this project we are using the lens of Affective, Behaviour, and Cognitive (ABC) learning to understand, unpack and explain the complex, multidimensional notions of learning and cognitive development.In applying ABC framework we distinguish three types of learning gains: 1) affective learning gains which encompass change in attitudes and satisfaction, 2) behavioural learning gains which encompass changes in behaviour, such as engagement and use of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), and 3 cognitive learning gains which encompass gains in in knowledge and understanding.

The most common way of assessing learning gains is through use of pre- post testing. However, rolling out this type of testing across an entire university with a wide variety of disciplines is complex, and in some cases, not possible due to a substantial variation in learning objectives between disciplines. One possible solution is to use principles of learning analytics and utilize already existing data to estimate students’ learning gains. This approach capitalises on the large quantity of student data routinely gathered by every university and, at the same time, offers opportunity to measure learning gains across various disciplines and even across different universities.

Knowledge obtained as a result of this project will inform teachers, learners, researchers, and policy makers about what learning gains students are making in Higher Education. More importantly it will suggest ways in which learning gains metrics may be applied for assessing Higher Education excellence for teaching and learning. Such is potentially significant in the UK because of the interest in measuring learning and learning gains metrics as part of the Teaching Excellence Framework.