Conceptualizing impact in academic development: finding a way through

Jones, Anna; Lygo-Baker, Simon; Markless, Sharon; Rienties, Bart and Di Napoli, Roberto (2017). Conceptualizing impact in academic development: finding a way through. Higher Education Research & Development, 36(1) pp. 116–128.



This paper explores the notion of impact in the context of academic development programs and considers how it can be described and understood. We argue that impact has a range of meanings and academic development programs such as graduate certificates have a broad group of stakeholders and hence the impact is different for each group depending on how the program aims and objectives are defined and understood. In finding a way through the difficulties of evaluating impact in academic development we point to the importance of clearly conceptualizing the notion of impact, a careful identification of the assumptions underpinning any program and an understanding of who academic development will benefit and how. We suggest that impact in academic development cannot be understood without taking account of the range of possible impacts and the difficulty of attributing simple cause and effect to a complex environment.

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