Abstracts Parallel Sessions 5 (7 options)

Session 5 – 12:00 – 13:00 Wednesday 17th April

Although delegates are normally requested not to swap rooms during the hour, anyone wishing to attend Karen’s session in Option 1 can swap to another 30 min paper afterwards.

  Option 1 – A 30-minute paper


Exploring students’ unlearning development, during transitions into and through higher education

Karen Gravett, University of Surrey

How students learn in higher education is the focus of a wealth of research. But how might we begin to conceptualise how students unlearn, and why might we want to? This aspect of transition has not been fully explored, yet conceptualising a process of unlearning, as a key aspect of learner identity development, may be generative if we are to effectively begin to explore the nuances of students’ transitions to higher education. As students move across and between communities they will renegotiate their identities and leave behind former practices. Moreover, unlearning may feel uncomfortable; as students’ transition into and through the higher and education environment they may well experience discomfort as they let go of previous ideas. This study will explore what knowledge and practices students might perceive they need to unlearn in order to succeed within higher education, how their expectations have differed from their experiences at University, and how students might articulate this process. It will examine how a process of unlearning impacts on students’ learner identities and how unlearning is entangled with students’ experiences of transition. However, this research study does not seek to locate students within a deficit narrative of transition where individuals are required to unlearn prior knowledge in order to move towards academic practices that are more acceptable to institutions. Rather, it seeks to explore how can we better understand the complexity and individuality of students’ experiences?

Data was collected through interviews with three groups of participants: first year undergraduate students, academic staff and learning developer / librarians who work with students. Interviews include both concept map-mediated interviews for staff participants and narrative role playing methods for student participants, and participants were recruited at two institutions. Data was then analysed using rhizomatic data analysis, which seeks to enable the understanding of the complexity of students’ transitioning experiences, as opposed to traditional coding strategies that aim to subsume data into regular and hierarchical categories. Ultimately in this study we will argue that a process of unlearning impacts on students’ development of their learner identities, and we will begin to consider how unlearning is entangled with students’ messy and diverse experiences of transition into and through higher education.

  Option 2 – Two 30-minute papers


Inclusive Webinar Design and Delivery

Jennie Dettmer, University of Bedfordshire

Dyslexia is a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) and is identified as a disability under the 2010 Equality Act; the act protects dyslexics from discrimination (British Dyslexia Association, 2018). It is the largest category of disability at HE institutions and in 2013/4 nearly half of all disabled HE entrants declared having an SpLD (Department for Business Innovation and Skills, 2015). At the University of Bedfordshire SpLDs affected around 4% of our total student population in 17/18 (Management information, 2018). Changes in funding to the Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) have been made since 2015 (Department for Business Innovation and Skills, 2014), due to the overlap between DSA and the reasonable adjustments that HEIs need to make as part of the 2010 Equality Act (Equality Challenge Unit, 2010). HEIs are encouraged to make inclusive materials and teaching and learning part of their anticipatory adjustments (Department for Business Innovation and Skills, 2015).

Increasingly, webinars are being used to deliver teaching in the HE sector (Cornelius, 2014) and one of the reasons for this is institutions operating across multiple sites (Fisher, Exley and Ciobanu, 2014). The University of Bedfordshire now operates over 7 sites, including London and Birmingham. Consequently, webinar delivery is beginning to form part of our learning development offering. As part of anticipatory adjustments, online learning material should be inclusive and content should adhere to inclusive pedagogy.

This session will discuss the impact of HE on students with SpLDs and consider the practice and theories of inclusive webinar design and delivery, along with examples of good practice.


British Dyslexia Association (2018) Legislation. Available at: https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/employer/legislation (Accessed: 11 October 2018)

Cornelius, S (2014) ‘Facilitating in a demanding environment: Experiences of teaching in virtual classrooms using web conferencing’. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(2), pp. 260-271.

Department for Business Innovation and Skills (2014) Higher education: student support: changes to Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA). Available at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/higher-education-student-support-changes-to-disabled-students-allowances-dsa (Accessed: 11 October 2018).

Department for Business Innovation and Skills (2015) Disabled Students’ Allowances Consultation: Equality Analysis. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/481527/bis-15-658-disabled-students-allowances-equality-analysis.pdf (Accessed: 11 October 2018).


Knowing our worth: measuring the impact of skills support on student attainment

Jennie Blake, University of Manchester

The My Learning Essentials (MLE) skills-support programme is part of the University of Manchester Library’s core offer for students and staff. It is recognised internationally as an example of best practice in skills support and forms part of the University of Manchester’s TEF submission. This paper will detail a preliminary impact study that looks at the “open” strand of MLE: the self-selecting face to face workshops open to all students, and most staff, at Manchester. Participants select workshops to work on the skills they require and meet peers from different subject areas to share ideas, develop strategies and connect as part of a learning community.

This impact study looks at data from the first three years of the MLE programme. It examines the population supported by the open strand of MLE, that cohort in the context of the wider University of Manchester population, whether or not any robust claims can be made linking MLE to learning, retention or results and the methodology used to understand these topics. Alongside a look at the initial results, we will give delegates a potential model for data collection, thorough discussion of methodologies for analysis and a chance to consider how robust data collection and analysis can drive innovation and evidence impact. We hope that it will spark further work in the sector exploring the potential of interventions and support to act as one component addressing differential attainment, retention and other key topics in higher education. We also promise to clearly explain all the maths.

  Option 3 – Two 30-minute papers


Fostering engagement in research beyond assessments and the curriculum via an undergraduate research conference

Dr Christopher Little, Keele University

This paper will detail an investigation into the short and long-term reported benefits of participation in an extra-curricular undergraduate research conference delivered annually at Keele University since 2016. This conference is entirely organised by a central learning development unit. It will particularly focus on expectations and experiences of undergraduate students with regards to undergraduate research (UR) beyond assessment and the potential it has for significant student engagement in the institution, not just the programme of study. It will also reflect upon the challenges and advantages of delivering such an initiative from a centrally-based learning development unit.

The conference sought to empower undergraduate students as independent producers of knowledge. This paper will detail the students who chose to attend and challenge preconceptions around who engages in such initiatives. Students with disclosed disabilities, mature students, BAME students and those from POLAR 1 and 2 backgrounds all engaged at levels significantly higher than institutional benchmarks. The project utilised an action research approach across three academic years to investigate any reported longer-term benefits, up to one year after participation. As a result of engaging in the conference, students report a development of presentation and research skills and an increased interest in the disciplines of others. Significantly, students also report an increased engagement with extracurricular activities, such as discipline-specific conferences and additional courses, beyond their formal curriculum as a result of participating in this conference.

By outlining the conference project, contextualising it within relevant pedagogical literature and discussing the broader benefits of undergraduate research, a shared understanding of the benefits of such practices will be developed, with regards to developing an undergraduate research community.


The Five Ps of LD: Using Formulation in One to One Work

Helen Webster, Newcastle University

Learning Development is strongly rooted in common values of working in partnership with students through inclusive, emancipatory practice, values that are student-centred and aspirational rather than remedial or deficit. However, in the wider dominant culture of our HE institutions, we are often placed in an implicitly hierarchical relationship with students, “giving advice and guidance”, at odds with these values. Without a clear model for practice to help us enact our values, we risk falling into a quasi-medical model of: Identify the student’s problem (examine), Explain what’s gone wrong (diagnose), Recommend ways to fix it (prescribe). This pathologises the student, depriving them of agency and expertise.

This presentation explores how the profession of Clinical Psychology, a branch of mental health practice, has also sought to move away from this ‘doctor knows best’ approach using the core skill of Formulation, and whether it could be adapted for Learning Development practice. Formulation is a method of integrating theory and practice, clinical expertise with the client’s own experience and insight, through its meaning to the client. With a focus on equality, person-centred practice and co-created meaning, it is well aligned to Learning Development values.

This paper examines how Formulation would need to be adapted for Learning Development rather than Mental Health practice, and proposes a model, the Five Ps of LD (Presenting Problem, Pertinent Factors, Perception of Task, Process and Product). This model integrates multiple perspectives with longitudinal and cross-sectional socio-cultural factors into a holistic shared understanding of the learning development need. It describes how this model can be implemented in practice in one to one work and other contexts.

  Option 4 – Two 30-minute papers


What is the value and impact for students following the completion of the pre-entry module Stepping Up to Edge Hill University?

Helen Jamieson; Julie Nolan, Edge Hill University

As a team of learning developers and academic skills officers, we support students to develop their academic skills throughout their time at University and are often asked for ideas to support students even before they arrive ‘on campus’. We are particularly interested in research around the transition into University and such we (Library and Learning Services at Edge Hill University) developed a pre-entry module in Blackboard Open Learn to support Level 4 students with their transition into their academic programme at the University.

The literature shows that a key factor that influences students learning experiences is the quality of the transition into university whether this is from Further Education (FE) or after a break in study. There have been several studies around students’ sense of belonging which show that students who feel at home, who take part in community activities, and engage with other students and teachers, are more likely to continue with their studies. The What Works: Student Success and Retention study found that: ‘it is the human side of higher education than comes first – finding friends, feeling confident, feeling a part of your course of study…that is the necessary starting point for academic success’ (Thomas, 2012). Since its inception, in 2016, the pre-entry module has expanded from supporting one department of study to five individual programmes (Nursing, Criminology, English, History and Creative Writing) and interest from other programmes increases each year. Objectives of the module include:

  • Meeting the academic teams
  • Expectation of students of the Department
  • Introduction to terminology and language of the university
  • What to expect during the first few weeks at university
  • Overview of assessment on the course
  • Study support available from Library Learning Services
  • Discussion opportunities with other students on the same course

As part of a pedagogical research project for the PG Cert in Higher Education we are looking at the value and impact of the pre-entry module. The research is important because there is a significant amount of time and resources invested into the pre-entry module and demand is increasing. We need to ascertain what value and impact the module has, before offering the module to other departments across the University. Our project will use a mixed methods approach utilising qualitative and quantitative data including data from surveys, focus groups, semi structured interviews as well as conversion and retention data. We will be able to share the impact data at the conference in April 2019, what has/has not worked well and the future of Stepping Up to Edge Hill University.


Anderson, D., Wason, H. & Southall, J. 2016, “Supporting business students’ transition into higher education: the case of marketing downloads”, Teaching in Higher Education, vol. 21, no. 8, pp. 978-989.

Bowles, A., Fisher, R., McPhail, R., Rosenstreich, D. & Dobson, A. 2014, “Staying the distance: students’ perceptions of enablers of transition to higher education”, Higher Education Research and Development, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 212-225.

Breeze, M., Johnson, K. & Uytman, C. 2018, “What (and who) works in widening participation? Supporting direct entrant student transitions to higher education”, Teaching in Higher Education, , pp. 1-18.

Carragher, J. & McGaughey, J. 2016, “The effectiveness of peer mentoring in promoting a positive transition to higher education for first-year undergraduate students: a mixed methods systematic review protocol”, Systematic Reviews, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 68.

Coertjens, L. & u.a 2017, “Students’ transition into higher education from an international perspective”, Higher Education, vol. 73, no. 3, pp. 357;369;-369.

Coertjens, L. & u.a 2017, “The growth trend in learning strategies during the transition from secondary to higher education in Flanders”, Higher Education, vol. 73, no. 3, pp. 499;518;-518.

Cole, J.S. 2017, “Concluding comments about student transition to higher education”, Higher Education, vol. 73, no. 3, pp. 551;539;-551.

Gale, T. & Parker, S. 2014, “Navigating change: a typology of student transition in higher
education”, STUDIES IN HIGHER EDUCATION, vol. 39, no. 5, pp. 734-753.

Goodchild, A. 2017, “Part-time students in transition: supporting a successful start to higher education”, Journal of Further and Higher Education, , pp. 1-14.

Holmegaard, H.T., Madsen, L.M. & Ulriksen, L. 2014, “A journey of negotiation and belonging: understanding students’ transitions to science and engineering in higher education”, Cultural Studies of Science Education, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 755-786.

Jones, S. 2018, “Expectation vs experience: might transition gaps predict undergraduate students’ outcome gaps?”, Journal of Further and Higher Education, vol. 42, no. 7, pp. 908-921.

Kubincova, E., Dale, V.H.M. & Kerr, J. 2018, “How a MOOC can effectively facilitate student transitions to an online distance postgraduate programme”, Research in Learning Technology, vol. 26, pp. 1-18.

Kyndt, E., Coertjens, L., van Daal, T., Donche, V., Gijbels, D. & Van Petegem, P. 2015, “The development of students’ motivation in the transition from secondary to higher education: A longitudinal study”, Learning and Individual Differences, vol. 39, pp. 114-123.

Kyndt, E., Donche, V., Coertjens, L., van Daal, T., Gijbels, D. & Van Petegem, P. 2018, “Does self-efficacy contribute to the development of students’ motivation across the transition from secondary to higher education?”, European Journal of Psychology of Education, , pp. 1-22.

MacFarlane, K. 2018, “Higher education learner identity for successful student transitions”, Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 37, no. 6, pp. 1201-1215.

MacFarlane, K. 2018, “Higher education learner identity for successful student transitions”, Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 37, no. 6, pp. 1201-1215.

Meehan, C. & Howells, K. 2018, “In search of the feeling of ‘belonging’ in higher education: undergraduate students transition into higher education”, Journal of Further and Higher Education, , pp. 1-15.

Pennington, C.R., Bates, E.A., Kaye, L.K. & Bolam, L.T. 2018, “Transitioning in higher education: an exploration of psychological and contextual factors affecting student satisfaction”, Journal of Further and Higher Education, vol. 42, no. 5, pp. 596-607.

Ribchester, C., Ross, K. & Rees, E. 2014, “Examining the impact of pre-induction social networking on the student transition into higher education”, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, vol. 51, no. 4, pp. 355-365.

Soria, K.M. 2015, “Building Strengths Awareness and Hope in Students’ Transition to Higher Education”, College Student Affairs Journal, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 47-65.

Thomas, L., 2012. What Works: Student Retention & Success. Paul Hamlyn Foundation, HEFCE, HEA, Action on Access.


Dreams can come true? Embedded learner support across all Undergraduate courses

Kate Swinton, University of Northampton

When supporting students with academic skills research has clearly shown that embedded support is the most effective (Wyatt, 2011). Getting courses to engage with Learning Development (LD) and other support services, at the University of Northampton (UoN),has been challenging. This has led to a disparity in support students have received. In 2017, UoN introduced the Learner support policy, by 2020 all undergraduate students, at all levels, would have embedded learner support sessions. These would be a minimum of six hours for first years, three for second years and six for third years. The sessions would be delivered by Learning Development, Academic Librarians and Changemaker. The roll out of the support began in September 2018 with sessions for all first year students.
While the LD team fully supported this move, delivering sessions across all courses and maintaining support for post graduate courses, as well as tutorials was an interesting challenge. This paper will discuss the design of the embedded support, how the three teams decided on the support and sessions needed. Looking in particular at the development of the first LD session. It will then explore how the sessions were embedded across all courses. It will then evaluate the sessions delivered in the first term, from the students, course leaders and LD perspective.

  Option 5 – A 60-minute workshop


Learning developers as leaders: movers and shakers who dance across fault-lines

Nel Boswood, Lancaster University & Sandie Donnelly, University of Cumbria

Who this workshop is for:
We welcome participation by those who are currently in or have experience of leadership or management positions, as well as those who seek to influence practice and policy in their institution, through their work.

This workshop aims to facilitate the sharing of effective ways for Learning Developers to influence institutional strategy and effectively manage upwards. Nel will share how she has sought to turn recent challenges into opportunities to influence. Sandie will share how Nel’s approach and support is helping her better navigate management and leadership. We will invite participants to share their own ideas, strategies and approaches, with the aim of dissemination via a working document to inform and support CPD and practice.

As higher education undergoes constant change and challenge, Learning Developers operate in an environment which is complex and fluid. Our respective institutions have their own pressures and challenges and some university leaders are looking for new models and approaches to deal with this. Some institutions have adopted a distributed model of leadership (Jones and Harvey, 2017; Floyd and Fung, 2017) which can be beneficial for those whose voices are not always heard at decision-making levels. Other institutions adopt more top-down approaches, which can have unpredictable consequences for those who work in ‘third-space’ or ‘blended’ roles (Whitchurch, 2008; 2010) which support teaching and learning. Whichever situation Learning Developers find themselves in, there are strategies and approaches that can help us be more influential and share the invaluable insights we gain working with and for students. Recent experiences at Lancaster and Cumbria for Nel and Sandie respectively have led to conversations about how we can play a more active role to the benefit of our students, our profession and our institutions, and support each other in the process. We are keen to share these and explore how Learning Developers might position themselves as a powerful voice in strategy-making.


Floyd, A. & Fung, D. (2017) ‘Focusing the kaleidoscope: exploring distributed leadership in an English university’, Studies in Higher Education, 42(8), pp. 1488-1503 (Accessed 2nd November 2018).

Jones, S. & Harvey, M. (2017) ‘A distributed leadership change process model for higher education’, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 39(2), pp. 126-139 (Accessed 5th November 2018).

Whitchurch, C. (2008) ‘Shifting identities and blurring boundaries: the emergence of third space professionals in UK higher education’. Higher Education Quarterly 62(4), pp. 377-396 (Accessed 31st October 2018).

Whitchurch, C. (2010). ‘Optimising the potential of third space professionals in higher education’. Zeitschrift Für Hochschulentwicklung, 5(4), pp. 9-22,(Accessed 31st October 2018).

  Option 6 – A 60-minute workshop


Can we afford to indulge in theory? Can we afford not to?

Jason Eyre, De Montfort University

This workshop will encourage participants to share their perspectives on theory as it relates to their learning development practices. ‘Theory’ (sociological, psychological, philosophical) shapes our assumptions, and, hence, the way we act and what we do. When opposed to  ‘practice’ and ‘the practical’, consideration of theory can seem an afterthought, an irrelevance, or even an indulgence – particularly when faced with the resource and time pressures of our day to day work. An ALDinHE Regional Event (to be) held in Leicester in early 2019 sought to demystify and reclaim the important role of theory in learning development, and to capture and collate these for consideration by others across the learning development community. This is in recognition of the fact that there are many of us who have an interest in theory, and many of us who would perhaps like to know more. This conference workshop will report on the regional event and continue its work of active exploration and community building. The focus will be on personal encounters with, and experiences of, the theoretical, and the influence this might have had on our everyday work. Theory can often be painted as daunting and difficult (because it often is), and the workshop will therefore emphasise the value of naiveté, ‘stupid questions’, and of ‘not quite getting it’ in a good-natured and supportive way. The aim of the workshop is to foster critical discussion of the way theory and practice intersect in learning development; to encourage experiments in thinking about our own work; and to provide participants with the opportunity to ‘dip their toe’ into the theoretical, to make connections, and to have their own voice heard. (Note: the ALDiNHE regional event and this workshop proposal are a collaboration between learning development staff at the University of Leicester, the University of Leeds, and De Montfort University).

  Option 7 – A 60-minute workshop


A literal escape room: escaping from didactic workshops

Alexandra Patel, University of Leicester

Escape rooms are an increasingly popular leisure activity, and are now appearing in Higher Education settings (Clarke et al. 2017). Escape rooms or games can be defined as  “live-action team-based games where players discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one or more rooms in order to accomplish a specific goal (usually escaping from the room) in a limited time” (Nicholson, 2015 p.1). They are an important tool for consideration in learning development for several reasons (for overview see Clarke et al 2017). First, their interactive informal nature encourages students to work together and learn from each other – this may be particularly useful in supporting transition to University. Second, the experiential activities can be designed so students learn the required cognitive skills by performing relevant tasks. Third, their inherent problem-solving nature can be used to encourage questioning and criticality. At the University of Leicester, we have developed an escape room on expectations around essays, which was popular and engaging (https://staffblogs.le.ac.uk/lli/2018/09/27/a-literal-escape-room-an-experiential-approach-to-study-skills/). For the first part of this workshop we offer you the chance to try one of our escape rooms, so you can understand the perspective of a student, how it encourages group interaction, and how you can explore academic practices through puzzles. For the second part of the workshop, we will share the resources we have developed to help you design your own escape room around academic literacies.


Clarke, S., et al., (2017) ‘escapED: a framework for creating educational escape rooms and Interactive Games For Higher/Further Education’, International Journal of Serious Games, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 73–86

Nicholson, S., “Peeking behind the locked door: A survey of escape room facilities.”. White Paper available at http://scottnicholson. com/pubs/erfacwhite, 2015.


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