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Learning gain blog post

Read Ravensbourne's post


This project will measure the learning gain from work placements and work-based learning, as part of a course of study.

Partners: Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance; Southampton Solent University; Rose Bruford College; Falmouth University; Norwich University of the Arts; Arts University Bournemouth

Project methodologies: Grades; Surveys; Mixed methods; Other qualitative methods

Pilot case study

Measuring learning gain from practice and work-based learning programmes

This project, which was funded for one year and has now concluded, aimed to understand the potential to measure the learning gain from work-based learning and work preparation activities as part of a course of study, and the effects of these on employability. It did this primarily using existing data held by partner institutions (Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE), employability and work-based learning data).

Aims and objectives

  • Develop and test three methodologies for assessing learning gain from work preparation activities conducted as part of a course of study
  • Evaluate these methodologies
  • Generate a range of suggestions for future projects, or for implementation in participating institutions
  • Report on findings of relevance to the future assessment of learning gain
  • Feedback lessons learned for future partnership working, particularly beneficial to small institutions.

Experiences and outcomes

From the student perspective:

Responses from students indicate that work placements have positive implications for a wide variety of employment-enhancing experiences, and encourage further research into the relationship between learning gain, as experienced through placements, and employment outcomes.

The positive benefits were highlighted by the students. It was generally felt that students gained great insight into aspects of their own employability, helping them with their personal development whilst also supporting this study.

From the institutional perspective:

All partners commented that the data analysis element of this project provided them with valuable information to feed back to courses, as well as general themes to be further investigated at the institution level. Some participating institutions are now trialling the methodology as part of their cyclical course monitoring.

New learning

  • Career satisfaction and sustainability, longevity and professional resilience are more meaningful measures than level of job or financial reward, particularly for those subject disciplines where a career trajectory is not always clearly defined. However, complex measures are required for an assessment of this.
  • Surveying graduates at multiple points in their career is valuable and beneficial in many ways; it informs understanding of career trajectory for disciplines, keeps institutions in touch with alumni, informs learning and teaching, as well as work preparation, diversity, lifelong learning and social mobility policies, and gives insight into the most appropriate timing in a student’s course of study for participation in work preparation activities.
  • Clear and consistent definitions of work-based learning and work preparation activities need to be defined and held at sector level.
  • The importance of work preparation, particularly the value of placements, to employability outcomes was further validated.

Impact of the project

Students: Many interviewers reported that the alumni who took part in the interview appeared to welcome being asked about their work and their career, and were grateful for the contact initiated by their alma mater.

Senior managers: The impact of the project is such that Ravensbourne’s annual course monitoring, conducted through the Academic Board, will reflect measures of learning gain going forward. 


  • While the project falls within HEFCE’s definition of ‘mixed methods’ for the measurement of learning gain, establishing consistent definitions relating to work preparation activities e.g. determining which courses have a focus on delivering skills for a particular vocation, is difficult within an institution, let alone across the sector.
  • In consolidating the work, the team identified the distinction between testing the validity of the method and testing the validity of the data, recognising that the latter informs the former.
  • A complex set of mixed methods, not purely outcome-based data, are required for the ongoing evaluation of career trajectory and the impact of work-based learning on this.
  • As the data aligned with current cyclical data sources, e.g. DLHE, it can be readily deployed to enhance students’ learning experience and the nature of work-based learning programmes by inclusion in existing monitoring such as the annual response to DLHE outcomes. This would fall, for example, to the Academic Board as part of annual enhancement activities.


1. Triangulation: a quantitative macro approach based on existing DLHE data collected six months after graduation.

2. DLHE Plus: a quantitative and qualitative macro approach based on a revised DLHE questionnaire delivered three years later.

3. ESE: a quantitative and qualitative micro approach to placement learning gain based on data collected before and after placement.

Publications and forums

Where has the work been publicised?

Further information

Contact: Nick Johnstone, email

Case study authors: Allison Cully, Data Analyst, Strategic Planning and Data Analysis; Nick Johnstone, Head of Policy, Strategic Planning and Data Analysis

Find out more about Ravensbourne's project

See all learning gain pilot projects


Page last updated 13 December 2017

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