Abstracts Parallel Sessions 1 (7 options)

Session 1 – 11:15-12:15 Tuesday 16th April

Delegates are requested not to swap rooms during the hour.

Option 1 – Two 30-minute papers


Role of the learning environment in influencing the academic confidence of post-registration healthcare professionals

Barbara Nicolls, Buckinghamshire New University

Self-confidence and self-efficacy are common issues faced by many students in Higher Education (HE). Building confidence in students can help improve retention especially those from widening participation groups; there is a clear positive relationship between student confidence and educational success. The Bucks Building Confidence for Academic Study (BCAS) is a one-day academic skills familiarisation programme which targets an atypical audience: post-qualifying healthcare professionals in full-time employment pursuing part-time Continuing Professional Education (CPE) in a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI) in specialist areas. The courses are assessed by written assignments which is a new territory for the majority of the participants. BCAS acknowledges the unique learning needs and traits of this mature, international cohort especially those who believe they are not good enough to be in HE and struggle with their own academic identity while in HE. BCAS aims to develop their awareness of the diverse academic skills required for success in the CPE through a ‘less is more’ approach to the teaching and learning design focussing on threshold concepts (Cousin 2006) of HE study; the integrative characteristic of the threshold concept exposes the hidden interrelatedness of the phenomenon of academic study.

This scholarly paper seeks to examine the relationship between the BCAS classroom learning environment and the “students’ confidence in their ability to accomplish specific academic tasks or attain specific academic goals” (Bandura 1997) focussing on Student Cohesiveness, Tutor Support, Involvement, Task Orientation and Collaboration factors that help to measure classroom learning environment. This study is distinctive in that it is one of the first to investigate this association specifically in the context of post-qualifying nursing students in higher education. This provides a contribution to the field of learning environment.

While it is acknowledged that findings from a one-day programme may not be conclusive, preliminary evaluation results tentatively suggest that the study day may have contributed to to a limited extent higher pass rates.


Online Dissertation and Projects Supervision Materials: A Review

Simon Lambe & David Dixon, London South Bank University

During the 2017-18 academic year, the Learning Development Team at the Skills for Learning Centre at London South Bank University created a database of materials designed to support tutors responsible for supervising dissertations and projects for the first time. In collaboration with academics and learning developers, the project team compiled a range of activities, information sheets and guidance for supervisors, all of which can be found on our virtual learning environment, Moodle. After discussing the rationale for the project (an identified need), this session offers an introduction to the project, starting with planning and the creation of a timeframe, through to negotiations with stakeholders (academic staff with experience of supervision) and, finally, an introduction to some of the materials themselves. The tutors we targeted were primarily those responsible for final year undergraduate dissertations, although those supervising postgraduate dissertations were also eligible. The project covered all disciplines across the university, although we had particular buy-in from law and business.

Part of the session will involve a walk-through of some of the materials available to staff on Moodle as examples. Finally, we will review the successes and the challenges of the project based on feedback from users, data available from Moodle and our own observations. We will conclude by exploring the future of this project, in terms of maintenance and development. The purpose of this session is to showcase the work of our department and to inspire other departments who might have aspirations of their own to create similar materials.

  Option 2 – Two 30-minute papers


Bridging the gap: indirect benefits of a formative assignment and programme of academic skills webinars for block-release Degree Apprenticeship students

Neil Crimes (Degree Apprenticeship Programmes Manager), Manchester Metropolitan University

This presentation explores the introduction of a formative assignment and accompanying programme of academic skills webinars to the MBA Degree Apprenticeship programme at Manchester Metropolitan University. This optional assessment was introduced in order to provide students who were returning to study after a number of years in industry with the chance to practice their academic skills and receive feedback before having to submit their first summative academic assignment.

The assignment (a 500-word essay with annotated bibliography) was introduced during the induction process and supported by a series of webinars that ran over a period of four weeks after induction. These webinars introduced students to core academic and study skills at Level 7 and bridged the gap between induction and the first face-to-face teaching block. As demonstrated by student feedback, this approach had a number of broad benefits beyond the webinar-specific learning outcomes:

  1. students felt supported during their induction to the discourse community, relieving some of the anxiety typically experienced during this stage;
  2. the webinars helped to foster an (online) community, building on the momentum created during induction;
  3. the process introduced distance-learning students to a core member of the wider support team.

The design of the webinar series is explained, along with an evaluation of feedback and discussion about future developments. As outlined, this initiative has now been rolled out onto other programmes within the apprenticeship unit and additional University departments.


Growing pains: challenges of scaling up student support – a case study at LSE

Helen Amelia Green & Gemma Stansfield, London School of Economics and Political Science

LSE LIFE is the university’s central provider for student support in areas ranging from academic skills to personal development to facets of professional direction-setting. Since it first opened in September 2016, LSE LIFE has thrived thanks to fruitful collaboration among our team, specialists across the university (e.g. librarians, digital skills experts, counsellors, career advisers, English-language teachers), lecturers and administrators in academic departments, and of course, students.

The number and variety of activities we offer have expanded—including large lectures, special events, small-group workshops, and one-to-one support. More importantly, the uptake by students has grown considerably. For example, in autumn 2016 we had an average of 417 bookings on our workshops every week; there were 713 per week the following autumn; and 1,643 per week in the autumn of 2018*. As such, we foresee continued growth in the years to come, implying more students, more events, more staff, and more resources of all kinds.

In this paper, we’ll consider our management and leadership challenges in this context, particularly around how to scale up what we do without sacrificing the creativity, collaborative spirit, and the generosity we believe have contributed to LSE LIFE’s success so far. Specifically, we reflect on factors most closely linked to LSE LIFE’s positive and supportive environment and mind set, and investigate ways to maintain and nurture them while we grow.

*These figures indicate booking numbers. In some cases, individual students book more than one event per week, thus the figures do not reflect the number of individual students.

  Option 3 – Two 30-minute papers


The Dissertation Journey: Thinking Out Loud

Dr Gina Fox, University of Leicester

The ‘Dissertation Journey: Thinking Out Loud’ project is an ongoing, students-as-partners activity which aims to obtain student perspectives as they undertake each stage of the dissertation process. The dissertation was designed to provide students with the opportunity to function autonomously and develop responsibility for their own research, pace and direction (Todds, Bannister and Clegg, 2004; Armstrong and Shanker, 1983). Some students appreciate this considerable free rein and rise to the challenge, but for many the daunting task of needing to write up to 10,000 words (or more) in a relatively short time frame results in emotional stress, anxiety and panic (Carey, 2013) and/or students isolating themselves from supervisors and their peers (Donnelly, Dallat and Fitzmaurice, 2013). Others begin to feel the pressure increase and suffer from anxiety which impacts on the quality of their work. It is hoped that this project will increase students’ sense of belonging and decrease feelings of anxiety and stress.

The project allows for a number of students to get involved and create a series of digital diary-like entries lasting 2-5 minutes each. These vlogs discuss their thoughts, feelings and progress at various stages throughout the project (from the beginning right up to the final point of submission). This project helps the participating students to communicate their research plans, develop coherent aims and objectives and express their findings in a clear and concise manner. The vlogs act as a motivational guide for other students watching them and encourages them to develop questions and research plans that are also clear and
concise. Where participating students are experiencing any issues or difficulties with their research projects then reflecting on these problems can lead to reflective problem solving and also work towards the development of an organic learning community where the rest of the cohort can also self-reflect. This promotes the use of regular self-reflection, self-awareness and critical evaluation skills which is championed by the HEA in the ‘Feedback toolkit’.

Overall, the project aims to increase students’ sense of belonging (at a time when many feel isolated); promote an effective learning environment through communication, self-reflection and peer learning and act as a motivational guide for other students.


Reaching the hard to reach: a paper presentation exploring issues around student engagement

Beverley Hancock-Smith, De Montfort University

‘Dare to Be’ is a staff-to-student mentoring scheme lead by DMU’s Centre for Learning and Study Support. The broad aim of the scheme is to support students’ attainment of a ‘good degree’, with a particular focus on BAME student attainment. With 79 matched mentees and a 96% satisfaction rate, Dare to Be mentoring 2017-18 was deservedly marked as a success. The scheme was similarly successful in terms of reaching out to our BAME students: 75% of our students were from a BAME background.

But whilst data demonstrated we were recruiting mentees from diverse ethnic backgrounds, it revealed a stark difference in our male to female ratio: only 25% of our BAME mentees were male. Further investigation revealed that this gender divide is replicated across a number of our institution’s self-selecting support services, including learning development. Drawing on research around wider male help-seeking behaviours (Addis and Mahilik, 2003) and qualitative research on barriers specifically related to student help-seeking in a learning and development context (Bloy, Buckingham and Pillai, 2006), this paper presentation will
explore issues around non-engagement, as well as providing a forum to share good practice around innovative and creative approaches to reaching the hard to reach.

  Option 4 – Two 30-minute papers


Do too many cooks spoil the broth? Developing a University-wide Online Academic Integrity Module

Bryony Parsons, University of Liverpool

Developing online resources suitable for students from any discipline is challenging for any centralised learning development centre, particularly where consultation is necessary with multiple departments. Academic integrity can be especially challenging, as it incorporates topics like referencing, which can vary widely.

An academic integrity module was developed by KnowHow (Library, University of Liverpool, [UoL]). Consultation began with members of the Academic Quality and Standards Division (AQSD). Student Experience managers and other senior staff were then approached from each faculty and asked to suggest at least two staff members to review the module. Departments such as Disability Support and Guild of Students were approached directly. In total, 37 people were approached from 15 departments, resulting in 16 people giving constructive feedback, which included having: subject specific referencing, a voice-over, appropriate sources, and information on Turnitin. Most of the feedback was incorporated into the online toolkit, but compromises were made for information which was too subject specific. Feedback from academic staff was essential for referencing and sources, whereas Learning Technologists, Learning Teaching Support Officers, and Disability services were vital in other areas. Aligning with UoL policy and the AQSD was essential for a consistent message and buy-in from staff. Students who complete the Academic Integrity learning object consider what integrity is in an academic context, and develop understanding of giving credit, appropriate sources, common knowledge, how to reference, and UoL policy. Attendees of this presentation will get the opportunity to learn from this experience at Liverpool, to learn from each other, and to apply this knowledge to their own practice.


Redefining induction through project-based learning and the student voice

Sandra Craig, University of Roehampton

Students advancing to higher education are from many diverse backgrounds and ages and require different skills to meet their personal goals. HEIs need to diversify their resources to meet the challenges of today’s students. A planned university-wide induction was designed for all students starting university in 2018. The aim being that before the students started their voyage of discovery in higher education that they felt welcomed, had a sense of belonging and the confidence to be proactive in their pursuit of knowledge (Mann 2001). It would be the first year that the Academic Achievement Advisers (AATeam) would run in-depth sessions about the various resources available to support their academic skills. During their Welcome Week of activities, they would be informed about the benefits of extra curriculum activities and techniques that could enhance their development. Induction done well, also provides the students with the knowledge and key skills to have inquisitive minds and ‘permission’ to engage within their discipline (Schofield and Sackville 2010). The sessions needed to be interactive and allow the new starters opportunities to share their feelings about fears and optimisms. To achieve this strategy, I utilised ‘the student voice’ and worked in partnership with students whom, in the past, had engaged with the services of the Academic Achievement Team. The use of project-based learning, demonstrated strategies for successful collaborations, the impact of their ‘voice’ upon the design of resources and having an active role in determining the outcome of final induction presentations (Myeong-Hee 2018).


Mann, S. J. (2001), Alternative perspectives on student learning: alienation and engagement, Studies in Higher Education, 26(1), pp. 7-19.

Myeong-Hee S. (2018) Effects of Project-based Learning on Students’ Motivation and Self-efficacy, English Teaching, 73(1), pp. 95–114. doi: 10.15858/engtea.73.1.201803.95.

Schofield, M. and Sackville, A. (2010) ‘Student Induction/Orientation: From Event to Entitlement’, International Journal of Learning, 17(7), pp. 113–124.


  Option 5 – A 60-minute workshop


Through the MLE looking glass

Sam Aston, University of Manchester Library

MLE is the University of Manchester Library’s skills support programme. The programme provides face to face and online support across a variety of topics including wellbeing and counselling alongside academic skills. A blended approach of online and face to face materials and resources means students have direct access to skills development at their point of need regardless of their discipline or level. Collaborative learning is a driving force in how we approach the design of the workshops (Tinto, 2000). In the workshops the students are encouraged to engage with their peers and their voices dominate as they practice applying strategies to tasks together as students work towards a gradual release of responsibility (Fisher and Frey, 2013).

In this workshop you will experience skills development as a student at The University of Manchester would. You will take part in a series of collaborative activities that feature as part of our popular critical reading workshop. Through a series of incremental activities you will practice developing an approach to reading through the application of a strategy that you can replicate and develop. Simultaneously you will be led through the looking glass by way of an accompanying narration to the activities, this will explain the research sitting behind each of the activities and how that fits in with the overall pedagogical design of the workshops. This element of the workshop that will provide delegates with an insight into how we transfer research into practice to facilitate student’s approaches to developing their academic skills and specifically how to approach reading through collaborative activities.


Fisher, D. and Frey, N. (2013) Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility. 2nd ed. Alexandria VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Tinto, V. (2000) ‘Learning Better Together: The Impact of Learning Communities on Student Success.’ Journal of Institutional Research, Vol. 9, [Online]. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237333638_Learning_Better_Together_The_Impact_of_Learning_Communities_on_Student_Success (Access 20 March 2018).

  Option 6 – A 60-minute workshop


Towards a ‘Learner Development Literacies’ Framework

Heather Barker; Rachel Stead; Robert Walsha; Nadya Yakovchuk, University of Surrey

Despite understandings of Learning Development (LD) in Higher Education (HE) being rooted in the development of academic skills, there is growing recognition that developing confident lifelong learners requires a holistic approach, not only to academic and professional skills-building, but also to nurturing positive, resilient and resourceful attitudes to learning. There is also a growing need in the current HE climate to provide clarity about the role, boundaries and intrinsic value of LD as both a service and a discipline.

In this session, we explore the value of working towards developing a ‘Learner Development Literacies’ framework that places emphasis foremost on the ‘Learner’ (the individual) as opposed to ‘Learning’ (the concept), thus helping to frame learning as a truly student-centred, inclusive and holistic practice, and recognising both the wider context in which HE operates and the unique personal and social contexts in which individuals learn. It is also hoped that such an overarching framework can help ‘establish the territory’ by articulating more effectively the ethos of LD as discipline and help to better situate LD at the core of institutions’ strategic thinking around learning and teaching.

After a brief explanation of the rationale behind our project, workshop participants will be invited to review and critique some existing models that have been influential in framing the development of information and digital literacies, graduate attributes, and academic and employability skills. This will be followed by a discussion of the proposed framework. It is our aim that connections made during the workshop will lead to future collaborations in this area.

  Option 7 – A 60-minute workshop


Living the Argument

Mark Laville, Falmouth University; Gareth Price, FX Plus

Students struggling with demonstrating critical thinking in their writing can benefit from “living” the argument in a “live” space. This approach builds confidence and enhances deep learning and critical writing through the interrogation of ideas. This workshop uses playful interactive drama structures to explore critical thinking and structure argument.

This is a collaboration between Mark Laville, Senior Lecturer & Course Coordinator for BA (Hons) Theatre and Performance at Falmouth University and Gareth Price, Academic Skills Adviser. In a 60-minute interactive workshop, we intend to share our idea for a session in which students engage with a “live” argument. This practical initiative draws on joint expertise in academic writing and dynamic live learning structures.

We invite all participants of the workshop to take part in an enjoyable immersive exploration of an idea. Each participant will be actively involved in interrogating an idea and asked to give their own opinions within a supportive set of group-based drama frames. Their opinions may be challenged, but in a safe peer-to-peer context. This all happens “on our feet”, in the live space, in a participatory “game-like” structure.

The objective is to show and explore how asserting one’s point of view and having it challenged, verbally and physically, can develop confidence in demonstrating critical thinking. Participants encounter a series of points contributing towards an overall argument. Each point is rigorously tested, with reference to evidence, and sequenced to create a logical line of enquiry. Students can then refer to this concrete experience when approaching written assignments.


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