Those were the questions under discussion at the recent Modern Government event where I contributed on behalf of HEFCE, alongside a range of learning and teaching leaders and practitioners.
We have a number of routes through which HEFCE currently supports student engagement and learning and teaching development, including:
- funding to institutions, which includes funding to support widening opportunities, research degree supervision, high cost subjects, capital development (such as the recent STEM capital investment)
- funding for innovation, through our Catalyst Fund, one highlighted theme of which is student engagement
- funding for organisations which support learning and teaching development and student engagement, such as the Higher Education Academy , Jisc and The Student Engagement Partnership
- projects delivered through partnership, such as the recent Changing the Learning Landscapes initiative to promote strategic change in technology-enhanced learning
- research, analysis and information, such as the National Student Survey and the recent analysis of differential student attainment.
A particular focus of the event was on the use of information, such as the National Student Survey (NSS). Recent independent research commissioned by HEFCE and the other funding bodies, highlighted the importance attached to the NSS as a source of information for learning and teaching development. Another message of that research was the strong interest from the sector in the inclusion in the NSS of questions on student engagement.
As well as testing and piloting engagement questions for the NSS, HEFCE is also starting to explore how we might improve the range of indicators through which we can support, develop and measure learning and teaching excellence and innovation. The first element of our research in this area explores measures of learning gain and the subject of a national conference on 9th February.
Other participants in the Modern Government event were kind enough to share their thoughts on some of the challenges of this work. What is the scope of what we are trying to measure, curricular or broader student experience? What is the interplay between innovation, where there is potential for some degree of failure, and excellence? What might be learned from the use of measures of value-added in secondary education? All good questions that we’ll be examining in more detail over the coming months.