PAPERS (25 minutes each)
11.00 – 11.25
Going beyond remedial learning support: Reframing Learning Development as a Catalyst for Practice Learning. A case study exploring father involvement in Social Work Education.
London Metropolitan University
This conference paper presents Learning Development as transcending remedial and deficit notions of academic support. A Learning Developer based at London Metropolitan University, presents a case study that illustrates the values and impact of Learning Development and Praxis.
This research project piloted a Problem Based Learning (PBL) methodology in the curriculum area of Social Work. The project worked in collaboration with social work students, lecturers and university partners between 2019 to 2021. This session may be of particular interest to those working with students in the social professions and work based learning courses.
Key challenges and implications for practice:
• Subject specialists seeing the Learning Developer role as one of ‘fixing students’.
• Potential of Problem Based Learning as part of accredited Social Work courses.
• Integrating Learning Development; embedded vs bolt on quick fixes.
• Learning Development as scaffolding reflective writing practice.
The project overcame these issues with a reach that rippled across six north east London Local Authorities as part of a Teaching Partnership. It has also been included as a topical issue for reflection, titled: ‘Promoting Positive Father Involvement’ as part of modules in practice learning. Both students and staff engaged in a workshop programme that scaffolded a dialogue between them, addressing issues of father engagement as part of practice.
Students were able to synthesise themes of theory, policy, legislation and its application to practice. As a result, some students developed substantial case studies at both level 5 and 6, and these even informed their later dissertations and research projects. This demonstrates the social value and wider impact that Learning Development has had on improving outcomes for not only students, but fathers, children and their families.
11.35 – 12.00
Learning Development in a time of disruption
University of Hull
The Covid-19 Pandemic had (and continues to have) a significant worldwide impact on Higher Education (Watermeyer et al., 2021; Sharaievska et al., 2022). How Learning Development responded to this challenge varied considerably across the sector.
Many of the challenges and solutions for Learning Development are represented in the Compendium of Innovative Practice: Learning Development in a Time of Disruption, a special issue of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education (JLDHE, 2021). The Compendium issue of JLDHE contained 102 peer-reviewed reflections, identifying numerous challenges and responses to teaching in Covid-19.
This conference paper will share the findings of a research project that has systematically analysed all 102 contributions to the compendium. Each reflection was analysed using structural, topic and thematic coding to identify common responses and challenges to pandemic teaching.
The findings of this study have identified a range of individual and shared challenges for both students and third space professionals. One of the core findings relates to the diversity of responses that have been designed to meet these challenges, with over 100 distinct pedagogic and technical solutions to pandemic teaching. From these, five core themes have emerged: emergency remote teaching; reflective practice and evaluation; pedagogy and technology support; collaboration and shared practice; and, course design for the long-term.
This paper will reflect on implications for future practice in times of disruption and provide delegates with the opportunity to consider how it relates to their institutions.
JLDHE (2021) Special Edition, Compendium of Innovative Practice: Learning Development in a Time of Disruption. Available online: https://journal.aldinhe.ac.uk/index.php/jldhe/issue/view/36 [Accessed.
Sharaievska, I., McAnirlin, O., Browning, M. H. E. M., Larson, L. R., Mullenbach, L., Rigolon, A., D’Antonio, A., Cloutier, S., Thomsen, J., Metcalf, E. C. & Reigner, N. (2022) “Messy transitions”: Students’ perspectives on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education. Higher education, 1-18.
Watermeyer, R., Crick, T., Knight, C. & Goodall, J. (2021) COVID-19 and digital disruption in UK universities: afflictions and affordances of emergency online migration. Higher Education, 81(3), 623-641.
Understanding student preferences for one to one writing appointments post-pandemic
Heather Johnston and Bryony Parsons
University of Liverpool
In this presentation we will discuss some research which was undertaken by the Learning Developers at the University of Liverpool with the aim to understand how students prefer to receive one to one academic writing support post-pandemic. At the university, we offer a near-peer scheme, where students can book a one to one appointment with a writing tutor, who is currently studying for their PhD. This service is valuable to help students transition through university, adapting to the different styles and expectations of academic writing that may be unfamiliar to them. Prior to Covid-19, these appointments were popular, and all took place in the library on campus. During the pandemic, all appointments were moved online via Microsoft Teams, but we noticed a considerable drop in appointment bookings. The research, which took the form of an online survey, aimed to discover whether students would prefer to have writing appointments online or in person once both options were available again, and the reasons for their choices. It could be concluded from the 701 responses that there was a slight preference for in-person appointments (55.8%), with students preferring the more natural conversation this offers, but there was still an appetite for appointments to be offered online, with postgraduate students in particular expressing an interest in this format, largely due to flexibility. The discussion of the qualitative data included within the presentation will provide delegates with a useful insight into student perspectives in terms of how they want to learn. Since conducting this research, a hybrid mix of in-person and online writing appointments has been offered this academic year, and this presentation will also discuss the lessons learned since this trial commenced and our plans moving forward, which will be useful to anyone offering or looking to implement a similar service in their institution. Ethical approval was granted by The University of Liverpool Ethics Committee, ref 5326 for this study.
Reflections on a peer-led Writing Café
Emily Webb, Felicity Edwards, Zoe Harrington, Eve Middleton, Amy Somekh, and Tharushi Wijesiriwardena
University of Leeds
Academic writing can often be a solitary, even isolating experience for students. For those new to UK HE institutions as well as those seeking to develop their academic skills, academic writing can be a daunting task. Supporting students with academic writing is a significant element of Learning Development within the University of Leeds. Established methods of support including co-curricular and embedded workshops, online resources and one-to-one appointments are effective but do little to promote a sense of community or belonging. Instead the power dynamic between student and learning advisor remains very similar to the one students experience with the academic staff. Peer support has proved to be a powerful tool in learning development, especially in academic writing (Longfellow et al., 2008; Pritchard, 2015; Tamachi et al., 2018). Building on the successes of PASS / PAL schemes and peer-led support at other institutions, the LD team at Leeds opened a Writing Café in October 2022 to support UG student’s in the development of their academic writing. Led by five student ‘academic writing mentors’, the Writing Café offers an opportunity for undergraduates to have a less isolating experience of writing while building their communities and networks within the institution.
This presentation, delivered in collaboration with our academic writing mentors, will reflect on the challenges, successes and experience of the Writing Café during its first year. We have found that students valued the Writing Café for different reasons: quick access to academic writing support; an opportunity to connect with peers; and a safe space to express concerns and anxieties ‘without judgement’ (student feedback). It is also clear from our learnings that some elements of the Writing Café need to respond and adapt to the dynamic needs of students, as well as institutional priorities. These include the demand for online Writing Café provision, continued training and development of the academic writing mentors, and clearer communication around the purpose and benefits of the Writing Café for students. The Writing Café has been an excellent addition to the provision offered by the Learning Development Team, and offers an insight into ways student-led writing support can aid a sense of belonging and confidence to UG students.
Longfellow, E., May S., Burke L. and Marks-Maran, D. 2008. ‘They had a way of helping that actually helped’: a case study of a peer-assisted learning scheme. Teaching in Higher Education. 13(1), pp.93-105.
Pritchard, C. 2015. Mentoring in the writing café: identity, belonging and ownership. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Special Edition: Academic Peer Learning, November 2015, pp.1-20. doi: 10.47408/jldhe.v0i0.305. Tamachi, S., Giles, J. A., Dornan, T. and Hill, E. J. R. 2018. “You understand that whole big situation they’re in”: interpretative phenomenological analysis of peer-assisted learning. BMC Medical Education. 18(1), https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-018-1291-2
Nurturing learning development through student feedback
Colette Mair, Kieran Brown; Emma Beekman; Esther Olowe; Calum Macaulay
University of Glasgow
Student evaluations are embedded into higher education. There is debate surrounding the reliability, effectiveness, and bias of such evaluations (Hefferman, 2022) and NSS results (Office for Students,
2022) show that students typically respond poorly to questions relating to their learning community and their voice.
After receiving ethical approval, four students and a member of staff worked together to address how staff and students within the School of Mathematics and Statistics engage with student evaluations. Two surveys were conducted, the first aimed at staff (63 responses, 90% response rate) and the second at students (53 responses, 17% response rate). The results suggested that both staff and students agreed that evaluations are necessary and useful in building relationships. While staff implement the feedback they receive, students currently do not see it, and their learning may not benefit from being part of this process.
When asked to describe the purpose of student evaluations, staff expressed that they provide students opportunities to have direct input to courses, influence their learning environment, and feel part of the school. Students expressed that their feedback could improve a course’s content, quality and delivery and provide a learning opportunity for lecturers. Students indicated a preference for informal mid-term feedback since they could see their feedback acted upon in real time. In response, we propose the use of student evaluations as a feedback dialogue tool to encourage and enhance relationships between staff and students and help develop self-regulated learning. We will exemplify a feedback system that uses short, direct, and frequent surveys that students complete at the time of learning (Rowland, 2021), providing time to reflect on learning and creating a line of dialogic communication with the lecturer who can respond to the feedback to inform future learning. The system is applicable to any continuous student-staff learning-focused interaction.
Heffernan, T. (2022). Sexism, racism, prejudice, and bias: a literature review and synthesis of research
surrounding student evaluations of courses and teaching. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher
Education, 47(1), 144-154.
Office for Students (2022), National Student Survey – NSS.
student-survey-nss/. Accessed May 2022.
Rowland, O. (2021). Listening to students in real time: how feedback leads to success. Retrieved from
OU Learning Design team blog: https://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/learning-design/?p=1310, November 15.
‘Learning so much…’: Exploring the student perspective on the impact of attending optional LD workshops
De Montfort University
Lack of confidence, in particular with regards to writing, study and information literacy skills (Bailey et al., 2007) has been identified as a key barrier to students’ transition, and subsequent attainment, in Higher Education. This is particularly relevant for students with ‘marginal learner identities’ (McIntosh and Barden, 2019, p.4), such as those with disabilities, or from minority ethnic and/or socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Learning Development (LD) professionals are often engaged in supporting learners to negotiate such barriers, with one of the most common interventions representing self-selecting, small to medium-size group workshops.
In this presentation, I will explore the student perspective on the impact of attending a programme of co-curricular workshops at a UK university with a significant intake of students whose learner identities may be categorised as ‘marginal’. Whilst the core topics of the programme fall within the more established domains of Learning Development (Gibbs, 2009), a number of workshops also cover related disciplinary areas (Samuels, 2013), such as information literacy and Maths and Statistics. The presentation will rely on quantitative and qualitative feedback data collected via an online survey, emailed to all participants who have registered for a workshop. Key impacts identified include enhanced understanding of skill or topic, improved confidence and benefiting from a supportive environment. Main barriers to learning refer to challenges in accessing the sessions, timing in relation to student journey and approaches to delivery.
Throughout the presentation, I will invite participants to compare and contrast these findings to potential insights gathered in their own contexts, as well as reflect on how these data can be used to more clearly articulate the role of LD within institutional teaching and learning strategies.
Bailey, P. et al., (2007) ‘Assessing the impact of a study skills programme on the academic development of nursing diploma students at Northumbria University, UK’. Health Information and Libraries Journal 24 (1), 77-85. Available at https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-1842.2007.00741.x (Accessed: 21 December 2022)
Gibbs, G. (2009) ‘Developing students as learners-varied phenomena, varied contexts and a developmental trajectory for the whole endeavour’. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education 1. Available at https://doi.org/10.47408/jldhe.v0i1.30 (Accessed: 10 June 2021)
McIntosh, E. and Barden, M.E. (2019) ‘The LEAP (Learning Excellence Achievement Pathway) framework: A model for student learning development in higher education’, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education 14. Available at: https://doi.org/10.47408/jldhe.v0i14.466 (Accessed: 18 May 2021). Samuels, P. (2013) ‘Promoting Learning Development as an academic discipline’ Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education 5. Available at: https://doi.org/10.47408/jldhe.v0i5.146 (Accessed 21 December 2022)
How can collaborative reading techniques impact confidence and belonging?
Jane Saville, Tasha Cooper, Tom Edge and Steve Hunt
Recent barriers to engagement in HE – including economic, geographic and post-COVID anxiety (Dickinson, 2022; Morgan, 2022; Bennett et al., 2022) – may result in students being less inclined to develop relationships with their peers, share ideas, and invest time in their learning. This challenges our efforts to develop students’ academic skills as they are transitioning into and through HE.
Academic reading is often neglected in favour of academic writing, largely due to the assumption that competence in reading is an existing skill (Kimberley and Thursby, 2020). However, students report that they lack confidence, resulting in avoidance of reading complex texts (St. Clair-Thompson, Graham and Marsham, 2018). In addition, subject lecturers may not refer to the importance of reading in their teaching. This ‘invisibility’ (Baker et.al, 2019) can lead to a devaluation of the skill, which has serious consequences: reading remains a critical foundation for much thinking and writing in HE (Maguire, Reynolds and Delahunt, 2020).
Collaborative reading techniques can address these challenges by promoting reading as social practice; improving confidence to tackle texts; and boosting belonging within a cohort and discipline (McCollum et al., 2017). At UWE Bristol, we have a two-year project within Learning Services to promote and improve reading skills, including reading within the disciplines. During 2022, we piloted academic reading circles, textmapping and jigsaw reading. Since then, we have embedded some of these activities across all three colleges at module level.
Initial student and lecturer feedback has been positive, with participants reporting increased levels of confidence. However, is this a sufficient indication of potential long-term impact? How do learning developers influence an improvement of competence and confidence in reading, and move towards a more mature model of embeddedness (Wingate, 2016)? Our presentation will explore possible answers to this question by presenting case studies and sharing the lessons learnt. (297 words)
Baker, S., Bangeni, B., Burke, R. and Hunma, A. (2019) ‘The invisibility of academic reading as social practice and its implications for equity in higher education: a scoping study’. Higher Education Research and Development [online], 38(1). [Accessed 13 January 2023].
Bennett, J., Heron, J., Gunnell, D., Purdy, S. and Linton, M.J. (2022) ‘The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student mental health and wellbeing in UK university students: a multiyear cross-sectional analysis’. Journal of Mental Health [online], 31(4), 597-604.
Dickinson, J. (2022) What if they’re all part-time students now? WONKHE [blog]. 9 December. Available from: https://wonkhe.com/blogs/what-if-theyre-all-part-time-students-now/ [Accessed 11 December 2022].
Kimberley, E., and Thursby, M. (2020) ‘Framing the text: understanding emotional barriers to academic reading’. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice [online], 17(2). [Accessed 6 December 2022].
Maguire, M., Reynolds, A.E.; and Delahunt, B (2020) ‘Reading to Be: The role of academic reading in emergent academic and professional student identities’. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice [online], 17(2). [Accessed 5 January 2023].
McCollum, B. M., Fleming, C. L., Plotnikoff, K. M., & Skagen, D. N. (2017) ‘Relationships in the Flipped Classroom’. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning [online], 8(3). [Accessed 22 May 2022].
Morgan, M. (2022). How can universities support students through the cost of living crisis? WONKHE [blog]. 7 July. Available from: https://wonkhe.com/blogs/how-can-universities-support-students-through-the-cost-of-living-crisis/ . [Accessed 12 January 2023].
St Clair-Thompson, H., Graham, A. and Marsham, S. (2018) ‘Exploring the Reading Practices of Undergraduate Students’. Education Inquiry [online], 9(3), 284-298. [Accessed 12 January 2023]. Wingate, U. (2016) Embedding academic literacy instruction in the curriculum: the role of EAP specialists. BALEAP PIM 19th March 2016. Available at: https://www.baleap.org/event/insessional-eap.
Impact assessment of academic support provided by tertiary learning advisors: Sharing an endeavour
Manukau Institute of Technology – Te Pūkenga
In New Zealand higher education (HE), there is a lack of consistent ways of collecting evidence of the impact made by academic literacy support from tertiary learning advisors (TLAs) on students’ academic performance, retention, and success. TLAs in New Zealand and Australia are primarily
involved in providing learning support to students in post-secondary education to encourage development of their academic literacy and essential study skills. They are professional educators who advise students on issues related to academic writing and other academic skills, such as time management, exam preparation, to facilitate achievement of students’ goals of tertiary study (Griffith University, 2021). While it may be recognized that provision of learning support is desirable for a meaningful and successful HE experience for many students, hard evidence that learning support
makes a difference to student retention and academic performance is difficult to find (Acheson, 2006, as cited in Breen & Prothero, 2015)
My presentation seeks to share an attempt to address this issue by investigating the impact of embedded academic literacy support provided by TLAs to two cohorts of students enrolled in undergraduate social work programs at my ITP (Institute of Technology and Polytechnic) in Auckland,
New Zealand. Existing research in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom suggests that support that embeds academic literacy development in disciplines, rather than academic support that is generic and/or provided through foundation courses, represents a best practice model (Glew et al.
This study is conducted from an empirical perspective of social science research, and uses a pre-post test research design, as previously used by Sebolai and Dzansi (2015) in South African context, to measure the impact of embedded support on students’ academic literacy. This support comprised up
to five workshops of 2 hours each, run by TLAs as part of the regular class timetable and delivered over the first eight weeks of the semester on discipline-specific study skills and relevant aspects of academic literacy for the two cohorts. The students and the subject lecturer who organized the embedded academic literacy support were informed of the intent of study and their consent to participate based on their own volition, was sought. A test of 25 objective items – presented in multichoice, gap-filling, and matching questions that aimed to assess various aspects of academic literacy
covered in the workshops – was administered before and after the targeted intervention. The difference between pre-test and post-test mean/average was calculated and investigated for statistical significance. The results showed that there was a difference in the academic literacy levels of these students as a result of the targeted embedded support.
By sharing this attempt of impact assessment of embedded learning support, I hope to encourage a discussion/reflection among the delegates on the feasibility and/or credibility of pre-test and post-test research design to gather evidence that satisfies the metrics-driven requirements for justification of funding of academic support services in tertiary education.