Abstracts Parallel Sessions 6 (7 options)

Session 6 – 14:00 – 15:00 Wednesday 17th April

Delegates are requested not to swap rooms during the hour.

  Option 1 – Two 30-minute papers


Putting Theory Into Practice: Learning Developers and Dissertation Supervision

Andrew Struan; Jennifer Boyle, University of Glasgow

The work of Learning Developers (LDs) is now an integral part of the UK student experience. LDs must embrace the role of knowledgeable authority on the process of research/writing itself when working with dissertation students at undergraduate, postgraduate or PhD level. This approach means that LDs must in part adopt a ‘technical rationality’ model in their delivery of work with dissertation students (Acker, Hill and Black, 1994). That is, an approach that gives ‘priority to considerations of procedure or technique’: the process of research (Combleth, 1990).

This paper looks at the ways in which this theory can be enacted into practice. It, however, also augments the ‘technical rationality’ model by focusing on the unique role of LDs in dissertation supervision across all disciplines and from undergraduate to PhD. In so doing, we argue that LDs have created a ‘technical rationality plus’ model of delivery. Acting as impartial ‘secondary supervisors’, LDs provide students with scope to make research mistakes, ask questions, seek feedback before submission, and discuss with a professional able to navigate the complexities of supervision with understanding and insight (Winchester-Seeto, et al., 2014).

Audience members will be challenged to consider their own LD role within students’ dissertation research and writing, and how it relates to the ‘technical rationality plus’ model. Through practical discussion of the work of LDs at a large Russell Group University with a diverse student body, audience members will leave with a blueprint for a new mode of engagement with student researchers and supervisory staff.


Referencing: style over substance?

Catherine Turton, Solent University

Like us, you may have witnessed how a heavy focus on the technicalities of referencing style can lead student to value style over substance. Sanders (2010) documents the increasing complexity of referencing guidelines and observes how a preoccupation with style in marking criteria promotes meaningless citations. Viewed through an academic literacies lens, the act of referencing throws up questions of knowledge, authority, power and identity. As such, many commentators question referencing support framed by fear of plagiarism and translated into such a superficial treatment of style and mechanics (Briggs, 2003; Chandrasoma, Thompson and Pennycook, 2004; Vardi, 2012). In this sessions we will explore how updating our online material became an opportunity to re-frame referencing support. In conversation with students, tutors and subject librarians, we remodelled our site to put the most visited section – referencing – back in context and re-connect it with research, reading and writing practices. The rationale of the new site structure will be explained, with a brief walk-through of core content and an evaluation of the impact of the change in approach. The discussion will then be opened up to the strategies you use to help students develop a deeper awareness of referencing practices. We will discuss what referencing means to students, as well as the challenges of helping students move from thinking about the style of their references, to thinking about what they are referencing, why and how. We will also explore the ways learning developers can influence the  conversation on an institutional level.


BRIGGS, R., 2003. Shameless! Reconceiving the problem of plagiarism. The Australian Universities’ Review, 46(1), 19

CHANDRASOMA, R., C. THOMPSON and A. PENNYCOOK, 2004. Beyond plagiarism: Transgressive and nontransgressive intertextuality. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 3(3), 171-193

SANDERS, J., 2010. Horray for Harvard? The fetish of footnotes revisited. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 12(1), 48-59

VARDI, I., 2012. Developing students’ referencing skills: a matter of plagiarism, punishment and morality or of learning to write critically? Higher Education Research & Development, 31(6), 921-930

  Option 2 – Two 30-minute papers


Developing postgraduate academic identities and digital skills through SPOCs

Lee Fallin, University of Hull

This paper will introduce the University of Hull’s Digital Researcher online course. The Digital Researcher was created to support postgraduate students and research-active staff navigating the territory of online publishing, social media, collection of research data, data storage, copyright and licensing. By combining support for postgraduates and research staff, this created an environment of peers through which the concepts of the course were explored. The first run of The Digital Researcher had an uptake of over 150 sign-ups with 51 completions, with the second run receiving 176 sign-ups with 75 completions.

Delivered online over the course of a working week (5 days), the Digital Researcher represented the first significant collaboration between three areas of professional services within the university. This brought together the expertise of Learning Developers, Academic Developers/Learning Technologists and Research Librarians. This has led to important reflections on the nature of collaboration work within professional services, and the advantages of such approaches. The collaboration allowed a wide-range of expertise to be drawn on, both for the course content and the technical delivery of it. This was expanded in the second run to include an academic to support with facilitation.

The instructional design approach that was taken to developing the course applied the concepts of MOOCs. This included the use of collaborative learning, asynchronous communication, flexible participation, informal assessment and digital reward (Bates & Bates, 2015; Deng et al., 2019). This enabled the course to be inclusive, flexible and based around applied practice. As this was delivered within the institutional VLE Canvas and was opened to all students and staff at the University of Hull, it may however be better described as a Small Private Online Course (SPOC). This approach provides a sustainable model through which development activities can be delivered at scale, while still maintaining quality and active engagement.

Participants will gain an overview of:

  • Using an institutional VLE (Canvas) to deliver a SPOC,
  • Building learning communities across staff and student audiences,
  • Collaboration in delivery between three professional services areas,
  • Learning points and changes for the next run.


Bates, A. W. & Bates, A. W. (2015) Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Available online: https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/[Accessed: 02/12/2018]

Deng, R., Benckendorff, P. & Gannaway, D. (2019) Progress and new directions for teaching and learning in MOOCs. Computers & Education, 129, 48-60.


The LDHEN hive mind: Learning development in UK higher education as a professional culture.

Katharine Stapleford, Leeds University

The Learning Developer in Higher Education works with students to help them make sense of the language and practices of Higher Education (HE). It is a relatively new role and has grown in response to the Widening Participation agenda which has seen an increase in entry of ‘non-traditional’ students into HE. Learning developers’ job descriptions, employment contracts and institutional location vary between institutions and the role is often misunderstood across academia. There has long been discussion and debate within the learning development community regarding the professionalisation of the role and what this might look like. The literature in this area is sparse and to date consists of small scale surveys of learning development practitioners with inconclusive findings. This mini project aims to contribute to our understanding of learning developer professional identity by analysing six months of discourse from the Learning Development in Higher Education (LDHEN) Listserv. This is explored through the lens of social identity theory and findings suggest that the learning development community functions as a professional culture based on collegiality, trust, shared values and a protected collective knowledge base. This attitudinal perspective of professional identity as professional culture is proposed as a more productive approach to the debate than more traditional interpretations of professionalism based on qualifications and formal training.

  Option 3 – Two 30-minute papers


Better together? Reflections on a collaboration with a student as researcher

Sue Myer, Teesside University

This presentation will discuss the experience of working in partnership with a student researcher in a project to create a single point of virtual information to support learning development. The expectation was that the student researcher’s input would facilitate the development of a tool that was fit for purpose, accessible and inclusive.

Teesside University’s Student as Researcher scheme is intended to give students real experience working as research assistants with members of staff across the University. The aims of the scheme include developing learners as co-creators, rather than consumers of knowledge, thereby enhancing their research skills and employability.

For this project, the student researcher was given the objective of eliciting a diverse range of student views on how they would interpret proposed categories as well as which resources they would expect to see within specific categories. The researcher was asked to develop interview questions, to gain ethical approval, recruit participants, conduct focus groups and analyse qualitative data. They were supported by regular supervision as well as training opportunities.

This paper will evaluate the advantages, challenges and lessons learned from our collaborative research. We will discuss the lived experiences of the student researcher, focusing on the aspects of support needed to ensure that their experience was successful. It will be co-authored by the student researcher and will include their reflections alongside those of the supervising member of staff. We anticipate that the paper may be of interest to other institutions who wish to employ students as researchers.


Evaluating the academic impact of peer-supported learning

Amanda Pocklington, University of Exeter

Peer-supported learning is reported to have a significant impact on enhancing the student learning experience (Keenan, 2014; Liou-Mark, et.al. 2015; Loviscek & Cloutier, 1997), but no study has evaluated the quantitative impact of peer programmes on student learning gain and academic attainment (Dawson, et al. 2014). To address this gap, we designed a robust study that used weekly pre- and post- MCQ assessments to collect quantitative data. This evaluated independently the impact of selected peer programmes on learning gain and allowed us to investigate correlations with academic attainment in first-year student cohorts across different disciplines.

Identified challenges included designing a suitably robust study with an internal control so that the impact of peer programmes could be evaluated independently of other influences on learning gain. To avoid participating students being in any way disadvantaged by being placed within comparative study groups and to accommodate ethics requirements, all groups experienced the same protocols over the period of the study. Additionally, all students were offered catch up sessions after the completion of the study as well as the teaching session slides being made available each week. These measures further ensured student’s performance was not hindered by their allocated protocol.

As the recruitment and training of peer leaders to deliver sessions was central to the success of this project, all peer leaders received study-specific training to prepare them for the task.

Insights from the study will help direct and underpin developments in peer learning and provide empirical evidence on the effectiveness of peer learning across the sector. Peer support is often a responsibility of learning developers within an institution but receives relatively meagre management support and funding. Our study therefore directly addresses the need for clear quantitative evidence regarding the effectiveness of support strategies and learning programmes.

This presentation will report on the design, delivery and initial results of the study with the final portion of the session assigned for discussion.


Liou-Mark, J., Dreyfuss, A.E., Han, S., Yuen-Lau, L., Yu, K., (2015) Aim for Success; Peer led team learning supports first year transition to college-level mathematics, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, Special Edition: November

Dawson, P., van der Mee,r J., Skalicky J.,Cowley, K., (2014) On the Effectiveness of Supplemental Instruction: A Systematic Review of Supplemental Instruction and Peer-Assisted Study Sessions Literature Between 2001 and 2010; Review of Educational Research, Vol. 84, No. 4, pp. 609–639

Loviscek, A.L.; Cloutier, N. R. (1997) Supplemental Instruction and the Enhancement of
Student Performance in Economics Principles, Volume: 41 issue: 2, page(s): 70-76

Keenan, C. (2014) Mapping student-led peer learning in the UK, HEA https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/mapping-student-led-peer-learning-uk [Accessed 7/11/2018]

  Option 4 – A 60-minute workshop


Dismantling ivory towers – overcoming barriers in using archives for students’ research

Janet Morton, University of Leeds

This proposal aligns with ‘Innovative and critical approaches to learning development practice’.

This interactive workshop will demonstrate how a successful collaboration between the Learning Services and Special Collections teams at the University of Leeds devised new and innovative practices to make archives realistic research possibilities for taught students. Library special collection repositories are sometimes perceived as ‘ivory towers within ivory towers’ – separate departments within already privileged higher education institutions. They can be major sources of inspiration, but must overcome challenges of physically restricted special storage access, and student reluctance/perception of archival materials. So we designed new practices to remove these obstacles for students’ benefit.

Both teams worked together, drawing on the Learning Services Team’s experience of designing engaging online materials and workshops. Our starting point was to incorporate information about archives into ‘Final Chapter’, our online resource that supports students undertaking research projects. This initial collaboration then benefitted further by involving a student intern in the design and delivery of learning materials which led to new interactive workshops helping students see the value of, and think critically about, the use of archives for their projects.

In this workshop, you’ll have opportunity to participate in practical classroom-based activities that encourage engagement, and dismantle barriers: ‘What’s in an archive?’ helps to demystify archive content; and ‘Students as archivists’, uses newspapers to encourage critical evaluation.

Participants will: leave with a better understanding of the potential of archives to support student research; engage with creative learning materials; be inspired to develop new practices in their own institutions.

  Option 5 – A 60-minute workshop


‘The manager who despised quick wins’ and other stories: using parables to cultivate critique

Stephen Rooney, University of Leicester

‘Many complain that the words of the wise are always merely parables and of no use in daily life, which is the only life we have.’
Franz Kafka (1931)

This workshop will explore the use of the parable as a means of stimulating critical reflection and debate on educational practice in general, and learning development (LD) practice in particular. Drawing on diverse parabolic story-telling traditions – scriptural and secular, ancient and modern – the session will introduce the parable as a potentially provocative and disruptive pedagogical device (that is, if the word ‘disruptive’ hasn’t been too thoroughly toxified by our ‘friends’ in Silicon Valley). It will then present some parables on a variety of higher education and LD-related themes, including: student engagement and empowerment, assessment and feedback, the role(s) of the teacher, students’ academic labour, and contested concepts such as ‘autonomy’ and ‘employability’. Rather than straightforwardly didactic, ‘here’s-your-take-away-message’-type stories, the parables used in the session (which, it should be stressed, certainly make no claim to impart Kafka’s ‘words of the wise’!) will instead invite multiple interpretations and responses, with the aim being to open up some common and current professional assumptions and practices to scrutiny, reflection, discussion and debate. The session will also provide resources for participants who would like to have a go at writing their own parables.


Kafka, F. (2017 [1931]) On Parables. In Kafka, F. and Hofmann, M. (Translator) The Burrow. London: Penguin, 181.

  Option 6 – A 60-minute workshop


Creating an academic literacy framework

Rosella D’Alesio; Ben Martin, Swansea University

Can we create an innovative academic literacy framework to engage academics and work collaboratively to develop the academic skills of students and help aspiring students achieve their full potential? When academics think of their most challenging module, do they know where their students are at, where they need to be and how to bridge that gap? Although we can use HE credit level descriptors to map learning outcomes for knowledge content, how can we ensure that students are not only acquiring the knowledge they need but also are able to master and communicate that knowledge in a meaningful way beyond the confines of their academic spaces?

As learning developers, we realised we needed a tool so that we can work with academics to collaborate effectively and easily to address what provision is needed and when. We have created a generic academic literacy framework for all disciplines and without specific levels as our experience has led us to believe that students could have strong ‘writing’ skills but not be able to recognise and create arguments. We wanted to create a framework which could be mapped to embedded and stand-alone provision with a view to academics either asking us to deliver specific sessions embedded in their courses or advising students to attend the appropriate course. Ideally, once a working ALF is agreed, it can be shared and used by other institutes and easily modified to suit individual needs. It is envisaged that a bespoke version is created for use by students.

  Option 7 – A 60-minute workshop


Learning Advising: forces shaping our work, and the opportunities they offer

Rowena Harper, University of South Australia

The practice of Learning Development has recently been subject to significant change, in part a product of the social, political, and technological disruptions affecting higher education worldwide. In Australia, for example, Learning Developers have been increasingly appointed as professional rather than academic staff, and this has coincided with changes to roles, responsibilities, and identities as revealed by surveys of Learning Developers themselves (Malkin & Chanock 2018). In addition, growth of third-party, online tutoring services has been met with discomfort and significant uncertainty (Benzie & Harper, in press), read by some as signalling the perpetually unsteady position of the Learning Developer in tertiary education. Researchers have begun to respond to these changes by investigating the knowledges, skills and training needed to be a successful Learning Developer (Evans, Henderson & Ashton-Hay 2017). ALDinHE in the UK has responded by establishing a recognition scheme to certify practitioners (Briggs 2018). This workshop explores the changing higher education environment and the challenges, threats and opportunities it offers for the field of Learning Development. It engages critically with the idea of ‘professional identity’ as something that can be defined, asserted and secured by Learning Developers themselves. It invites participants to explore additional and alternative ways of thinking about who we are, and how we remain effective and sustainable into the future.

*This workshop draws on material presented as the opening keynote at the 2018 ATLAANZ Conference.


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