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Science Student Learning Gain in English Higher Education Institutions: The Development of a Skills Assessment Tool

Randles, R (2019) Science Student Learning Gain in English Higher Education Institutions: The Development of a Skills Assessment Tool. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Learning gain is a potentially valuable measure of student development. Its importance was highlighted by discussions framing the teaching excellence framework (TEF), which considered the ‘distance travelled’ by a learner as a potential metric. There has been some difficulty surrounding utilising this metric within an English Higher Education context because the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Wales (HEFCE) pilot projects found that using the metrics that are currently being used within the United States is not appropriate. This is due to the need to identify learning gain at a subject level within English Higher Education degrees. With a mixed method approach, this research aimed to create a subject specific learning gain measure which could be used to measure learning gain of students within subject targeted cohorts. A case study methodology was adopted across Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) with students from the Faculty of Science to focus specifically on one branch of the STEM subjects. STEM subjects were chosen as the targeted cohort due to their importance to functioning society and the recent decline in employable skills, therefore highlighting a need to measure their progress. Preliminary inquiry using interviews was undertaken to understand whether STEM students could be used as the cohort of students and to identify the skill developments to be identified within the assessment tool. This preliminary inquiry led to a focus on science subjects. The assessment tool was then created using published material of literature and learning assessments, in order to identify potential items and to split into subscales the identified areas of engagement, critical thinking and personal development. A pilot was undertaken to check initial wording and understanding of the metric to a cohort of students. Experiences of members of staff were also used to check the validity of the assessment tool. Modifications were made before proceeding to the main part of the research, which was the completion of the assessment tool by a representative cohort of students. Reliability and stability were tested using independent group samples from the targeted cohort using averages, reliability statistics and factor analysis. Validity testing of the measure was undertaken by triangulating interviews with members of staff and qualitative survey data from students with that of the quantitative outcomes of individual data whereby the students were followed over a period of one year to view their learning gain. It was concluded that the assessment tool appeared to be both reliable and valid on its intended targeted cohort of students. It was therefore concluded that it is possible to have a specified self-survey questionnaire which heeds results that are an accurate representation of reality.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: learning gain; learning outcomes; science students; STEM; higher education
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions: Civil Engineering & Built Environment
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2019 09:36
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2022 14:05
Supervisors: Cotgrave, A and McIlroy, D
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/11671
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