Abstracts Parallel Sessions 2 (6 options)

Session 2 – 14:00 – 15:00 Tuesday 16th April

Delegates are requested not to swap rooms during the hour.

  Option 1 – Two 30-minute papers


Supporting staff to build a pedagogic foundation for successful relational e-learning

Dr Hazel Partington; Dr Jean Duckworth; Dr Dawne Gurbutt, University of Central Lancashire

Campus-based students are offered an exciting array of events and activities designed to integrate them into student life and the university culture. The needs of e-learners may be overlooked during induction with little at an institutional level to support their participation as a member of the learning community. It is self-evident that students embarking upon traditional campus-based courses need opportunities for orientation, making connections and building confidence in themselves as learners; e-learners are in the same position but inhabit an unfamiliar virtual landscape which also encompasses university systems, learning technologies and a VLE.

This presentation proposes that a relational approach to the induction of e-learners builds foundations for student success. It will draw on the authors’ extensive experience of delivering postgraduate e-learning courses. The model for an e-learning induction process is the culmination of many years of evolving practice. Consideration of the e-learning student’s perspective is at the root of the model. An effective induction process should orientate e-learners and familiarise them with the territory; it should facilitate connections with their fellow students, tutors and the university/institution; and enable them to build foundations to
support their emerging confidence as successful e-learners.

This presentation will be useful to colleagues teaching in online settings and those working in a traditional or blended delivery of teaching and learning.


Protectionism or preservation? Getting to know more about English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and Academic Literacies, and the overlap with Learning Development

Anika Easy; Madeleine Mossman, University of Leeds; Steve Briggs, University of Bedfordshire

This session directly addresses the conference theme of collaboration, though between disciplines as well as organisations.

Following on from the first joint BALEAP (British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes) /ALDinHE day conference, this session explores some of the crossover between practitioners of learning development and EAP, and ways in which we can successfully work together while recognising the distinctiveness of each.

As an example we will present a so far successful example – commended by Leeds University Library’s Customer Service Excellence accreditors – of how our university-wide Skills@Library Learning Development (LD) team and EAP Language Centre practitioners have collaborated over the past three years to provide institution-wide provision for all students across the university, regardless of their English language profile. From September 2018 we are jointly delivering a programme of 152 workshops to approximately 4000 students across 8 faculties. We will also discuss briefly the wider positive results of our collaboration within both the Skills and Language teams and across the institution in terms of developing more flexible perceptions of the literacy resources students bring with them.

The practical strategies discussed in the session will be particularly relevant for LD practitioners who are keen to foster or further develop closer working relationships with institutional EAP teams.

  Option 2 – Two 30-minute papers


Understanding, Awareness and Impact of Learning Development (working title)

Kate Coulson; Paul Rice, University of Northampton

Learning Development (LD) teams are common place in UK HEIs despite the lack of evidence to support their existence. To that end there is very little literature pointing to our successful impact because it’s difficult to measure. However, there is anecdotal evidence from this team and other peers across the UK and beyond which indicates that student’s benefit from and appreciate the support of LD tutors. The aim of the research is to understand whether the work undertaken by LD with staff and students at the University of Northampton has any impact in terms of: awareness, understanding and attitudes of staff and students and impact in terms of: self-reported confidence, academic skills, achievement, and progression and retention for those students who attend LD.

The objectives are:

  • Discover whether staff and students are aware of LD and if so, how did they find out. If not, what resources do they use and why
  • Understand why students use LD and why students don’t use LD
  • Measure the effectiveness and impact of LD upon the students who use the team compared to those who don’t
  • Understand the impact of LD upon the retention of students

This presentation will highlight the findings of the above and outline how this project is being used to inform practice and the future development of the LD team at Northampton. However, it is expected that this will also be applicable to many LD teams in other higher education institutions. From discussing the project with other LD professionals within the UK and beyond it is clear that they too would like to measure the impact of their work. During the presentation recommendations will be provided and delegates will be given an opportunity to discuss these and how they could impact on their own institution.


Using Talis Elevate to understand and grow student interaction with online resources

Jasper Shotts, University of Lincoln; Matt East, Talis

Lecture notes, supplementary reading, & media objects still form the backbone of learning and teaching activity, yet we lack understanding of how students’ interact with them or with each other. This area is often forgotten about, as the technology has not been available to give insight into resource usage. Likewise, we often find that student engagement with discussion-based activity lacklustre, & growing engagement with such activities can be challenging.

This year, Jamie & Jasper piloted Talis Elevate on their courses in two different disciplines, gaining greater insight into student behaviour in relation to core teaching materials, to improve class dialogue online directly within resources and to raise expectations for active learner participation in the classroom. Elevate gives academics greater insight into how students’ use resources outside of class and engage with reading, as well as the affordances of particular learning designs, enabling academics to make changes during teaching, based on student interactions with resources and each other. Alongside this, Elevate allows students to take private notes, engage in class-level discussion, and interact  directly within resources of varying types (media/documents).

The pilot projects showed great variance in engagement with content dependent on the subject matter and approach to teaching. Because they had immediate access to analytical insight, teachers were able to adjust the approaches that they adopted in relation to future resources, and F2F delivery. This session will detail the pedagogic interventions and balance staff and student perspectives and feedback to provide a critical evaluation of the overall impact of this approach.

  Option 3 – Two 30-minute papers


The Digital Innovation Partnership: A model for learning developers to engage with academic staff in support of student learning

Mark van der Enden, University of Leicester

Learning Developers often support student learning via one to one consultations, academic skills workshops or curriculum specific initiatives. Increasingly, however, we find ourselves supporting student-staff partnership approaches to enhancing learning and teaching in Higher Education. Student-staff partnerships have the potential to address some current challenges in HE, by supporting student retention and progression, improving assessment literacy and developing academic communities of practice (Healey et al 2014 & Cook-Sather et al 2014). Such collaborative approaches in the context of learning development might include Peer Assisted Learning (Duah et al 2014); students conducting research and producing knowledge (Watling and Hagyard 2010); or students and teaching staff co-creating learning materials and guidance (Lorber et al in press).

At the University of Leicester, we have created and implemented an institutional-level scheme that helps establish small scale student-staff partnerships projects (Patel et al 2018). It aims to enhance student learning through developing meaningful digital learning and teaching practices. Our learning development perspective means we combine an academic literacies’ understanding of study practices with a student-staff partnership approach, within a large-scale scheme. Here, we will discuss our approach and suggest the factors behind its success in developing new ways of working, and increasing engagement with academic staff. Participants will have the opportunity to engage with our toolkit and resources for their own use.


Deeley, S. J. and Bovill, C. (2017) Staff student partnership in assessment: enhancing assessment literacy through democratic practices. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 42(3), pp. 463-477.

Duah, F., et al (2014). Can peer assisted learning be effective in undergraduate mathematics?, International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 45:4, 552-565.

Cook-Sather, A, Bovill, C, and Felten, P (2014) Engaging students as partners in teaching & learning: A guide for faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Healey, M., Flint, A., and Harrington, K. (2014) “Engagement through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education.” York, HE Academy.

Lorber, P., et al (in press). “Making assessment accessible: a Staff – Student Partnership Perspective”, Higher Education Pedagogies.

Patel, A. J., et al (2018). The DIP-approach: student-staff partnerships as a vital tool for learning developers and educators to develop academic [and digital] literacies. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Special Edition: 2018 ALDinHE Conference.

Watling, S., and Hagyard, A. (2010) The student as producer: learning by doing research. In: Doing Research in Learning Development in Higher Education. Universities into the 21st Century. Palgrave Macmillan.


Assessing the impact of writing development through consensus –whose consensus?

Ursula Canton, Glasgow Caledonian University

An evidence-based approach to Learning Development is essential to establish the impact of writing development interventions, but researchers and practitioners currently lack tools to evaluate the quality of writing where it is defined in line with an academic literacies approach, i.e. as social interaction. This presentation argues a tool can be developed by adapting Amabile’s Consensual Assessment Technique (CAT) to writing (Canton. 2018). It explains its potential to evaluate writing in terms of successful communication while delivering reliable, quantitative results. It presents results from two previous studies (Canton and Zahn. Unpublished) to demonstrate this approach is feasible. The second part of the presentation introduces a new study, supported by an ALDinHE’s research grant, which further examines the conditions under which the new tool can be used. The new study explores the potential benefits this tool brings to the Learning Development community by testing the role of familiarity with specific communicative contexts in achieving consensus on the evaluation of the texts (among Learning Developers and subject lecturers). By testing the role of familiarity with specific communicative contexts in achieving consensus, the new study contributes to explore the potential benefits the tool can bring to the Learning Development community and delivers further insight into the consensus among Learning Developers and subject lecturers on their evaluation of texts. While this project is work in progress, this presentation affords insight into the approach the presenters’ adopted for obtaining evidence of the impact of writing development.

  Option 4 – A 60-minute workshop


The hidden messages in written feedback – what can Learning Developers do with ‘troublesome’ knowledge?

Ian Johnson, University of Portsmouth

In this session, I offer space to critically consider the links between the expression of written feedback and the messages, conscious or otherwise, implied to students. I will elicit group members’ experience, then explain findings from my primary research into feedback practices on first year undergraduate writing. Finally, I will invite discussion on how Learning Developers may use their key bridging role of ‘feedback interpreters’ (Gravett & Winstone, 2018) to exert a positive influence on the process.

Written feedback, far from representing an isolated textual artefact, is acknowledged as encoding subconscious messages of a philosophical nature about power, higher education, and the ‘self’ as implicated in academic writing (Ivanic, Clark & Rimmershaw, 2000). Hyatt (2005) linked the messages to certain language patterns in feedback, contrasting a dialogic approach which prompts apprentice community inclusion, with the positivist undertones of language such as imperatives (do this!) or strong modality (you must…, need to… etc). Mindful that time pressures and disciplinary writing practices give rise to feedback transmitting messages somewhat tacitly, my research took a critical approach to unmasking them. The approach meant it was also possible to discern clear differences in the tone of feedback on work falling into high- and low-grade brackets. The session questions notions that such variation is either inevitable or expected and asks, through the group, how Learning Developers might bring their insights to bear for the benefit of academics and students alike.

Gravett, K. & Winstone, N. (2018). ‘Feedback interpreters’: the role of learning development professionals in facilitating university students’ engagement with feedback. Teaching in Higher Education, In press (published online), 1-16.http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2018.1498076

Hyatt, D. (2005). ‘Yes, a very good point!’: a critical genre analysis of a corpus of feedback commentaries on Master of Education assignments. Teaching in Higher Education, 10(3), 339-353. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13562510500122222

Ivanič, R., Clark, R. & Rimmershaw, R. (2000). What am I supposed to make of this? The messages conveyed to students by tutors’ written comments. In M. Lea & B. Stierer (Eds.), Student writing in Higher Education: New contexts (pp. 47-66). Buckingham: Open University Press

  Option 5 – A 60-minute workshop


Therapeutic writing in Learning Development sessions

Emma Kimberley, University of Northampton

A number of studies show that non-academic expressive writing interventions, specifically those focused on visualising the future and setting goals, have positive effects on student success, retention, and wellbeing (Schippers et al., 2015; Travers et al., 2015; Morisano et al., 2010). Impactful and cost-effective, therapeutic writing activities allow students to contextualise their studies in terms of their core values and sense of purpose, as well as to challenge and re-narrativise beliefs and fears based on negative academic experiences. In a Learning Development context, targeted writing exercises, used as a blended learning activity and embedded in academic modules, can be a beneficial tool in building the confidence and focus of learners. Such activities aim to identify and address the emotional barriers to engagement with aspects of learning and can support development of metacognition and critical thinking (Howe and Van Wig, 2016).

In this session I will introduce the growing body of research into the effectiveness of therapeutic writing in an educational context, with specific reference to research into its use for setting goals in Learning Development workshops at the University of Northampton. I will provide examples of therapeutic writing techniques that can be used with groups and individuals, illustrated by student and staff views on their efficacy. Workshop participants will be guided through a writing activity and be encouraged to reflect on its use in their own contexts. Takeaways will include therapeutic writing activities to use with students and an
online writing workbook that can be used individually or as pre-session material with groups. I will look at research on the longer-term impact and how this can be established and measured within Learning Development workshops.

  Option 6 – A 60-minute workshop


How can I make a difference?  Exploring ways to make an impact on curriculum design

Amanda Tinker, University of Huddersfield

There is no ‘one size fits all’ in learning development but it is important that we as Learning Developers share good practice and innovation where possible. Such “interprofessional collaboration”, during both curriculum design and delivery, is central in creating a holistic student experience in learning development (Schneider, Kelsall and Webster, 2015). This workshop aims to explore ways of designing a progressive learning development curriculum which enhances the student journey throughout their degree programme. Using two case studies as a starting point, the participants will be guided in evaluating their own provision before mapping out ways in which they can move forward. They will use a template based on the principles required for the successful embedding and scaffolding of academic skills and graduate attributes. Individual and group activities followed by discussion will be used to facilitate exploration of possibilities within different institutional models in which Learning Developers can be fully integrated with subject colleagues, working as consultants or dependent on specific invitation.


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