Networked learning & quality-assured peer support as a key implementation support & learning tool 

A key source of implementation support and leadership learning which was consistently identified by Fellowship participants is to become involved in an effectively run, carefully targeted peer support network that is focused specifically on sharing good practice in assuring achievement standards and the quality of assessment.

Key question addressed in this section

What role does networked learning, peer support and benchmarking play in supporting effective change implementation and the identification of proven solutions to the key change challenges in this area?

List out your most positive experiences in using peer networks and compare your views with those identified by participants in the Fellowship workshops and good practice research on the area in Boxes 19 – 21 below. Decide if you or your team should become involved in any of the networks on assuring learning standards and assessment listed in Box 22 below.

Below is a summary from the workshop participants of the key reasons for engaging in targeted networking (Box 19) and the key checkpoints for making sure that any network in the area is efficient, effective and productive (Box 20). It is suggested that these are taken into account and used to initiate and sustain existing networks in the area, including the recently formed Peer Review of Assessment Network (PRAN).

Box Nineteen

 Why bother networking? 

  • It helps link and leverage what currently happens in parallel and, in so-doing, saves us having to ‘reinvent the wheel’;
  • It helps achieve consistency and equivalence and to break down ‘silos’;
  • Change is learning and the best learning is collaborative, improvement-oriented and uses a framework to give network activities and data-bases focus; Alan Tough (1977) in his research on adult learning projects found that it is ‘fellow travellers’ further down the same change path who are the most valued learning resource;
  • ‘Peer group counts’ not just for students but for us;
  • Information is not learning;
  • Learning is a profoundly social experience;
  • New IT-enabled tools can assist with ‘just-in-time and just-for-me’ access to successful assessment strategies and tools if a peer network is supported to identify, load them up and share them;
  • Networking fosters mentoring, site visits, learning by seeing – all effective ways to foster learning in this area;
  • Good practice in networking is the same as good practice in community engagement; 
  • External peer review and feedback is an important tool for validating and improving learning outcomes;
  • Networking with a common focus fosters the development of action-oriented knowledge.



Box Twenty

Key quality checkpoints for effective practice in Higher Education Networking

A effective peer network:

  • Uses a clear framework around which to share proven practice;
  •  Is based on mutual interest;
  • Fosters reciprocal, personal relationships – peer support;
  • Has sound leadership;
  • Has clear roles and complementarities;
  • Focuses on sharing proven, positive, practical solutions;
  • Uses ‘Lonely planet’ guides written by successful fellow travellers to help make networking a success;
  • Gives praise for a job well done in order to build commitment and participation;
  • Focuses on positive, constructive, timely feedback;
  • Provides just-in-time, just-for-me access to quality assured solutions –with a guide;
  • Ensures that the benefits of participation outweigh the costs;
  • Applies the same methods that are used to assure the quality of peer reviewed research to its own practices;
  • Uses the same motivators that are known to engage students in productive learning in its approach to engaging higher educators in networked learning. These motivators include giving focus to relevance, active learning, just-in-time, just-for-me searchable access to solutions, timely feedback, convenience of access and clear leadership and direction.  

Box 21 identifies the key tests and indicators identified during the Fellowship that can be used to judge if a peer learning network focused on improving achievement standards and assessment quality, once it is underway, is operating productively and efficiently.

Box Twenty One

 Networking effectiveness tests

  • Hitherto disengaged staff become engaged;
  • Demonstrably positive impact on practice;
  • Widespread awareness of the network by marginal players, including sessional staff;
  • In the longer term, improved demand, retention, student feedback on learning, assessment and their total university experience;
  • A demonstrable culture change away from ‘why don’t you’ towards ‘why don’t we’;

It is important, said participants, to recognise that well-led networks around shared interests and human interaction are the key to engaging people with web-sites and data-bases. It is, they said, human interaction and the recommendations of colleagues that leads people to click on a particular website. People, they said, rarely just ‘go onto the internet’ to see if they can find a relevant website. A key issue repeatedly raised during the workshops was the need to link and leverage the many existing networks that are giving focus to the issue of assuring the quality of achievement standards and assessment so that, rather than operating in parallel, we ‘network the networks’. Examples of productive networks that might be considered in this regard are given in Box Twenty 22.  

Box Twenty Two 

Examples of productive networks that might be linked around the achievement standards and quality of assessment agenda 

  • Peer Review of Assessment Network (PRAN)
  • Australian Collaborative Education Network
  • SUSTAINed EfS Network (Australasia)
  • Australian National Learning and Teaching Fellows Network
  • Various Australian Council of Deans Networks
  • A/Deans (Learning & Teaching) networks in a range of professional areas including in ICT, STEM, Business, Humanities, Nursing
  • Higher Education Private Providers Quality Network
  • Copernicus network (European)
  • The Education, Practice and Employability Network (Australia)
  • Ako Aotearoa Academy NZ
  • National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) USA
  • Plus?

See Freeman, M & Ewan, C (2014): Good Practice Report: Assuring learning outcomes and standards, OLT, Sydney Table One pgs 29ff – 36: Enabling infrastructure especially the use of various networks to support quality improvement in the area. These include the various Deans and A/Deans, Learning and Teaching and Disciplinary Networks along with the creation of a range of networked databases,

Bell, S, Scott, G, Jackson, J & Holland, B (2008): Towards a quality management & development framework for community engagement in Australian HE at:

Hopkins, D (2003): Understanding networks for innovation in policy and practice, Networks for Innovation, OECD, Paris at:

A video discussing effective approaches to networking produced with the assistance of the SustainEd network is available at: