Benchmarking Practice

One of the activities at the last programme meeting followed up work started a year earlier in terms of developing some sort of tool that could help our projects and others benchmark their progress towards the programme vision. Projects worked in 3 clusters/thematic groups based on the vision ‘areas’ of:

  • Assessment and Feedback
  • Learner Engagement
  • Skills and Employability

Using the concept of a benchmarking landscape to focus thinking, projects discussed statements made at the last October programme meeting and as part of the original programme vision to see if they were still valid and where projects felt they actually were in relation to their own targets (accepting that not everybody will want to end up in the same place).

Participants also identified key tips and resources that helped them overcome the major hurdles in moving from one state to the next.

It was extremely interesting to revisit the statements made a year ago and to see how project thinking had moved on. Some statements now seemed too broad (especially those relating to learner engagement). Some were not challenging enough and some (especially with regard to employer engagement) were felt to have been unrealistic and are no longer part of the vision.

In terms of institutions grading themselves the point was made that there is a difference between passively addressing the issue e.g. by collecting evidence or making something available as an option and actively doing something about it.

There was a lot of debate about the fact that most of the draft statements do not deal explicitly with technology. Many participants felt this was a good thing but there were some who felt that more emphasis on technology may be useful.

Regardless of how they felt about the statements most groups could not resist the temptation to start using the tool and discussing their own gradings. Hopefully this is an indicator that others outside the programme will want to do likewise when the tool is finally released.

Questions were raised about who the tool is aimed at phrased as ‘teaching & learning practitioners or the infrastructure that supports this’. The response is that to get the best out of a discussion on these topics a wide variety of stakeholder views will need to be taken into consideration. The tool is intended as a way of getting an organisation to take an holistic view of how it approaches key issues.

The next step is to create a version of the tool in the Design Studio and appoint a group to work on each area to get a draft ready for public release.

Below are some of the observations made on the draft statement we considered:

Assessment and Feedback

Statement Grading
Assessment and feedback form a ‘dialogue’ in which all relevant stakeholders are actively engaged 1 2 3 4


Do we need the word ‘active’ included above?

Should the core statement be totally challenged and questions asked about the whole purpose of assessment? Why do we have assessment?

Change statement to say ‘…aids in promoting the achievement of …’

For example:

  • There is alignment with recognised (published) principles of feedback and assessment e.g. REAP, Gibbs and Simpson, Black and William and Boud
    – Are these references needed as key points are spelt out below?
  • Learners have access to diagnostic and formative as well as summative assessments.
  • The monitoring of progress and provision of appropriately timed feedback meets the needs of learners and staff and promotes the achievement and refinement of learning outcomes during the course.
  • Assessment criteria have meaning and are understood by all stakeholders
  • Opportunities exist for learners to receive feedback in a range of media
  • Opportunities exist for learners to give feedback on their feedback and to act on feedback
  • Opportunities exist for multiple sources of feedback including peer review
  • tracking of progress is used to identify students in need of extra challenge or support
  • Learner feedback is used to inform assessment within the same academic year
  • Learning outcomes and learner performance are used to adapt future delivery of the same course or module.
  • Learners receive adequate preparation to enable them to participate in this dialogue
  • Outputs of the learning process are captured in systems that support learners’ progression and reflection

Should these statements be prioritised?


  • Clear links between assessment, feedback & employment strategies
  • Feedback permits adjustment of assessment instruments
  • The needs of the learner, tutor, institution and employer are balanced between efficiency and effectiveness
  • Assessment appropriate to size of group or audience e.g. professional bodies

Learner Engagement

Statement Grading
Learners are fully engaged in the curriculum at every stage of the lifecycle. 1 2 3 4


This statement is too broad and needs breaking down further.

For example:

  • Course approval and validation documentation & processes enables panels to assess if learner views needs have informed course design

Course approval and validation documentation supports learner input to course design & iterative, ongoing, continuous participation & responsiveness not set piece reviews with ‘consultation’.

  • Approval Panels include learners
    only sometimes
    The approval process engages learners
  • Student feedback/focus groups are actively supported and their views inform course design and delivery

Delete this and replace with:
Student participation in course design and delivery is actively supported. (All varieties are possible – the more creative the better).

  • Staff have access to information about learners’ individual requirements and a range of pedagogies, technologies and services to suit their and their learners’ preferences.
  • Students are co-creators of learning content and learning activities and assessment

Not always possible/appropriate

  • Peer review, critiquing and/or mentoring are continuous and effective elements of all courses

Not always possible/appropriate

  • Learners have clear channels for providing feedback on all aspects of the learning experience


  • Learners have clear levers for influencing all aspects of the learning experience.
  • Learners understand their role and contribution
  • Staff value learners role and contributions
  • Learning experiences become more explicit
  • Validation is student-centred rather than teacher-centred
  • Learner data is used to inform curriculum design & delivery
  • Students & staff are collaborators in knowledge & professional practices (better than co-creators of content)
  • Students practice critical engagement in their own learning
  • Students define their own learning path, projects & goals where appropriate
  • Students have a sense of ownership of the technologies being used and that their own private technology is being supported for study.
  • Opportunities exist for students to learn from & mentor one another (formally or informally).

Skills and Employability

Statement Grading
Curricula support learners in developing the skills and attributes necessary to become effective lifelong learners and skilled and adaptive workers 1 2 3 4


Should this be Skills/Employability not a pair?

Liked this statement

Mention professional competences and transferable skills e.g. teambuilding/problem-solving

Add ‘and are designed such that programmes can be updated without revalidation.’

For example:

  • Employers are active participants in course design

This is unrealistic and should be changed to professional bodies etc

We should involve them in delivery and assessment as well

  • Learners are able to provide evidence of their skills and achievements against the requirements of employers and professional bodies

HEAR needs to be properly embedded within institutions

  • Assessment of learner progress and appropriately timed feedback meets the needs of learners and staff during the course and can provide employers with suitable measures of achievement
  • Learners have access to curriculum & employer resources, including other people involved in their learning, in ways that allow them to fit learning into their lives
  • Learners have access to appropriate tools in flexible locations to support them in researching information, discussing, constructing and testing knowledge and building skills
  • Learners are supported in developing the skills and attributes necessary to become effective, reflective and self-aware lifelong learners who take responsibility for their own development, make informed judgements about when to collaborate with others, and become skilled and adaptive workers.
  • Agile processes help education institutions to exploit new markets and rapidly develop work-based learning and higher level skills offerings in response to employer needs

Some of these don’t fit well with the header statement.

Focus on generic skills that all need to have – this list seems too course-based.

Mention use of alumni and other networks.

Are statements linked to government agenda rather than self-development?

State employability skills and graduate outcomes and how these will be developed and evidenced.

Need to align with widening participation


  • Increasing professionalism developed over time and embedded in the curriculum
  • Student engagement with inspirational and meaningful employer role models
  • Better evidence for assessment demonstrating knowledge & skills e.g. portfolio-based.
  • The institution supports staff in supporting students to become independent lifelong learners
  • Artefacts produced by learners for assessment can be used for knowledge sharing or impacting on learners own workplace practices.
  • Students should be able to evaluate the impact of their WBL project on their employer’s company *
  • Curricula align with employer strategies/plans/CPD
  • QA/QE is applied to all aspects of programme e.g. mentoring and assessment
  • A cost-effective programme portfolio is designed on the basis of a clear business case
  • Programmes are flexible because they are personalised
  • Assessment is contextualised for work-based learners to make it more applicable

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