A tertiary practitioner's guide to collecting evidence of learner benefit
This report provides an introduction to the process of collecting evidence of learner benefit, this report is designed to support professional, reflective practice.
Report prepared by Anne Alkema for Ako Aotearoa
You can download this publication as a pdf or purchase the print version from the Ako Aotearoa shop.
A complementary publication, Creating sustainable change to improve outcomes for tertiary learners, published in 2012 supports project teams to plan and implement tertiary teaching and learning projects.
Ako Aotearoa’s vision is the best possible educational outcomes for all learners. Achieving this vision has many dimensions, but a critical part is to develop more effective teaching and learning. This is an increasing challenge when, on the one hand, we are operating in times of inevitable resource constraints and on the other we are continually being urged to engage with new social and learning technologies to extend our practice.
Immediately this raises a question: “how do we know what is effective practice?” How do we test our assumptions about what is working for our learners and what is not? On the surface this is an obvious and fundamental question, but across the sector we have been surprised at the relatively small number of practitioners who systematically gather and use evidence of how learners do or do not benefit from different approaches to teaching.
We have therefore commissioned this guide as an introduction to the process of collecting evidence of learner benefit. This publication is not about researching tertiary teaching and learning: it is about supporting professional, reflective practice. Of course, the line between these two is somewhat blurred, and practitioners often need to think like researchers to ensure their practices are based on meaningful information. The body of this publication is firmly focussed on data gathering (and deriving information from that data) as part of the educative process. In the Appendix to this publication some strengths and weaknesses of
possible data sources are then explored in a way that is more ‘research-focussed’ than the rest of the material.
Director, Ako Aotearoa
This publication is not about researching tertiary teaching and learning: it is about supporting professional, reflective practice.
Why does it matter whether or not teachers use evidence to inform their practice?1 Simply because research shows that teaching has a substantial impact on students’ retention and engagement in tertiary organisations (Zepke, Leach & Butler, 2010). Therefore, one of the most fundamental questions practitioners can ask themselves is:
How do I know that what I am doing is working and making a difference to my students’ learning?
To provide evidence that will help to answer this question, you need to collect a range of data2 from different sources and/or in different ways. This is a high-level ‘how to’ guide intended to help you start to gather and use data to help determine how well what you are doing is supporting and improving your students’ learning. It is designed to provide some initial advice
on how you can gather and use data to reflect on and examine the practices that happen every day in tertiary settings.
The guide shows examples of the types of data you may have available or can collect, and provides suggestions about types of data to collect, how to collect them, and how to think about the evidence you’ve collected. It discusses how you can use the conclusions drawn from the data to find out more about the impact of what you are doing, and then use this information to refine and improve your practice.
The guide does not provide information on how to analyse data. Nor does it discuss in detail specific research methodologies, data analysis, or principles of research design.
The purpose of this guide is to introduce readers to the idea of collecting data that can be used to inform teaching practices. It is not a ‘how to’ research guide – there are already many excellent examples of these available, and we expect that many readers will be experienced researchers themselves.
- 1 ‘Tertiary practitioners’ include all those people involved with teaching, learning and support processes in public and private tertiary organisations. The term includes practitioners involved with higher education, vocational education, workplace learning, and community-based learning.
- 2 For the purposes of this guide, the term ‘data’ refers to any systematically collected information.
This work is published under the Creative Commons 3.0 New Zealand Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Licence (BY-NC-SA). Under this licence you are free to copy, distribute, display and perform the work as well as to remix, tweak, and build upon this work noncommercially, as long as you credit the author/s and license your new creations under the identical terms.