Practitioner Mini-keynotes: 9.45 – 1.00

Hey you! They’re calling you Tinkerbell! What are you going to do about it?

Steve White and Helen Webster

University of Southampton and University of Oxford


Critiques and polemics calling for ‘Doing away with study skills’ as an ineffectual ‘Tinkerbell’ mirage which play into neoliberal, deficit, anti-academic agendas have appeared both in academic scholarship and the HE press (Richards & Pilcher, 2020, 2021; Wingate, 2006). Often originating from outside the LD community, misinformed and misdirected, these criticisms gain traction with senior leadership and academic colleagues, and cannot be ignored, avoided or dismissed if we are to promote our ethos (and preserve our jobs). So nearly right in many ways, but for the wrong reasons, they come too close to the mark to shrug off. Yet there has been very little response let alone rebuttal from the LD community, individually or collectively. Robust critique is fair, and demands a reply; ‘rising above it’ is not a scholarly response. Any reluctance to engage in outward-facing debate is surely a problem given that there is so much at stake for students and for ourselves.

Are we going to let them talk about us like this?  


Are they right? 

Can you prove it?

How will anyone know?


Richards, K., & Pilcher, N. (2020). Study Skills: neoliberalism’s perfect Tinkerbell. Teaching in Higher Education.

Richards, K., & Pilcher, N. (2021). Study skills are not the answer to students’ academic woes. WONKHE. 17 June.

Wingate, U. (2006). Doing away with ‘study skills.’ Teaching in Higher Education, 11(4), 457–469.

Mentoring in Learning Development

Silvina Bishopp-Martin, Ursula Canton, Jane McKay, Chenée Psaros, Alicja Syska and Sam Thomas

ALDinHE Peer Mentoring Working Group


Learning Development is still a relatively young field (Samuels. 2013), and despite a growing body of research, it remains strongly practice-oriented. This means that the experience of individual Learning Developers takes an even more central place than it does in more established fields, and sharing this experience through mentoring takes on a central role. This is why the mentoring working group has developed a Learning Development focused ALDinHE Mentoring Scheme, together with a Certified Mentor recognition that helps experienced mentors be recognised for their contribution to growing and sharing LD knowledge. This mini keynote will briefly introduce the Mentoring Scheme and the CeM recognition before exploring the role mentoring can play in the professional development of Learning Developers with the audience.


What benefits would you expect for mentees?

What benefits would you expect for mentors?

What kind of experience can be best shared through mentoring?


Samuels, P. (2013) “Promoting Learning Development as an Academic Discipline”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (5). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.v0i5.146.

Learning Development and English for Academic Purposes: Opportunities and Challenges in Collaboration

Emily Webb

University of Leeds


The aim of this mini-keynote is to share the experiences of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and Learning Development (LD) practitioners across UK HE institutions and to discuss how we can collaborate to benefit student education experiences and outcomes. Despite different pedagogical and professional contexts and identities, both EAP and LD practitioners aspire to develop students understanding of and engagement with key academic and disciplinary literacies (McCulloch, S. and Horak, T., 2019). Within many institutions, however, EAP and LD colleagues deliver provision separately, either to different cohorts or through different teaching models (pre- and in-sessional delivery for example). While this separation speaks to specific disciplinary identities and points of theoretical and pedagogical difference as noted by Wingate (2012) it can cause duplication of content, confusion for students, and competing demands for institutional funding and support. With increasing student numbers, widening diversity of student needs and experience, and funding concerns it is more important than ever to understand how EAP and LD practitioners can collaborate in the best interests of our students.

Prompt Questions:

  • What opportunities for collaboration between EAP and LD colleagues are available at your institution, and what challenges or barriers have you experienced?
  • How can EAP and LD practitioners effectively collaborate while maintaining their professional identities?
  • How can effective collaboration between EAP and LD practitioners benefit student education experiences and outcomes?


McCulloch, S. and Horak, T. (2019) “What we talk about when we talk about writing: exploring how English for Academic Purposes teachers and learning developers conceptualise academic writing”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (15). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.v0i15.526.

Wingate, U. (2012) ‘Using academic literacies and genre-based models for academic writing instruction: a ‘literacy journey’, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 11 (1), pp. 26-37.

How diagnostic tools based around academic skills could be used to support students’ independent learning

Ivelina Cramphorn

University of Northampton


The project which has inspired this discussion, intended to support the evaluation of students’ personal perception of their academic skills through the application of diagnostic tools at the very beginning of their academic journey (Dole, 2017; Ryan & Ryan, 2012; Bryan & Clegg, 2006). Diagnostic tools within the context of supporting academic development and transition to higher education, have been recognised as a method of providing a ‘reality check’ to new students and an opportunity for further development (Palmer et al., 2018; Read, 2016). Furthermore, diagnostic assessments aim to provide meaningful feedback which could be applied in improving future academic performance (Tang and Zhan, 2021). However, further investigation of those suggestions has raised questions about the application of diagnostic assessments at a higher education level and how they could be used to tackle issues of students’ academic self-perception. Those matters are to be explored within this mini-keynote session.


  • What diagnostic tools have you come across being used in your institution?
  • Could academic diagnostic tasks be used beyond ‘fixing holes’ in knowledge and develop sustainable academic abilities?
  • Could diagnostic tasks help us overcome the issue of unrealistic academic self-perceptions?


Bryan C and Clegg K (eds) (2006) Innovative Assessment in Higher Education, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group Ltd, London, 256pp

Dole, S. F. (2017) Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 11(2).

Palmer, L. et al. (2018) First year students’ perceptions of academic literacies preparedness and embedded diagnostic assessment. Student success. [Online] 9 (2), 49–61.

Read, J. (2016) Some key issues in post-admission language assessment. In J. Read (ed.). Post admission language assessment for university students (ed.). New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-39192-2_1

Ryan, Mary & Ryan, Michael (2013) Theorising a model for teaching and assessing reflective learning in higher education. Higher education research and development. [Online] 32 (2), 244–257.

Tang, F. & Zhan, P. (2021) Does Diagnostic Feedback Promote Learning? Evidence From a Longitudinal Cognitive Diagnostic Assessment. AERA open. [Online] [14/03/2023]

Green and Academic literacies: Embedding Sustainability into Learning Development Practice

Rhiannon Parry Thompson

University of Portsmouth

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), an internationally understood educational concept, “equips learners across all disciplines with the knowledge, skills, attributes and values required to pursue sustainable visions of the future” (Advanced HE, n.d.). The potential for Learning Development (LD) to contribute to this endeavour by embedding green literacy into LD practice while supporting students to develop their academic literacies is a longstanding professional interest of mine.  There is broad agreement that effective ESD necessitates supporting students to develop self-reflection, systematic thinking, problem solving and collaborative learning skills, some of the key competencies that LD seeks to foster.  

This mini keynote will briefly present the nature, scope, and purpose of my work in embedding ESD within my LD practice.  Its aim will be to provoke discussion about the potential of LD to contribute to the ESD agenda within Higher Education by, for example, participating in departmental, faculty or institution-wide Climate Themed Learning events or by integrating ESD into regular LD practice. It will also aim to encourage information and ideas exchange and to consider the formation of an ALDinHE Education for Sustainable Development Community of Practice.


Advanced HE (n.d.). Education for Sustainable Development in Higher Education. 


  1. Education for Sustainability is trans-disciplinary. Every subject and professional service area has something to contribute. What role can learning development play?
  2. How might some of the key academic skills areas link with sustainability themes?
  3. Within your institution, what scope is there for co-production, cooperation, and engagement in embedding sustainability in learning development practice?

Expanding your provision across the whole institution

Andrew Struan, Jennifer Boyle and Scott Ramsay

University of Glasgow

This joint case study will present and reflect on the ways in which we adopted a whole-institution response to transition to new stages of learning and research. The case study highlights the ways in which Learning and Researcher Development teams can offer a transformational transition experience for our students and researchers (Cage et al., 2021; Thompson, Pawson and Evans, 2021), and will provide evidence of impact through evaluation and analysis. 

We discuss here two institution-wide projects, designed and implemented by the Learning and the Researcher Development teams at the University of Glasgow, to transform our approaches to transition for key groups of students. We discuss the ways in which we adopted a large-scale approach that provided for excellence in student and researcher transition into our institution.


  1. What are the key needs of students transitioning into, through and out of your institution?
  2. What are the key challenges and opportunities for working at scale across (large areas of) your institution?
  3. In an ideal world, what large-scale initiative would you pick to do first to most benefit your students? Why?

What’s in a name? Study Skills? Academic Skills? Academic Literacies? Does it really matter and to whom does it matter?

Maddy Mossman

University of Leeds

As a growing and maturing profession, Learning Developers are still crafting their space within their institutions and face constant conversations with academic and professional colleagues, as well as students, as to who we are and what we offer.  Whilst we are protective of the terms we use, and resist using “study skills” to describe our work in favour of the concept of Academic Literacies, it seems that the rest of the academy is slow to follow suit.

Working on a joint project with our Careers service to develop an institutional capabilities framework really highlighted the difference in terminology used, and the sense that, no matter how much I tried, academic and professional colleagues were unwilling or unable to engage with our service offer as delivering anything other than “study skills”, despite our insistence on using Academic Literacies to refer to our embedded teaching. It made me wonder whether the terminology matters or might even be counterproductive. Does the term “academic literacies” serve as a barrier to staff and students, even when intended to explain the pedagogical approach that informs our practice?  Our students won’t necessarily understand what academic literacies or learning development means, which results in using two names to describe our service – one a student-friendly Skills@Library name, and the other ‘Learning Development – Academic Literacies’,intended to demonstrate that we are an academic unit that staff can consider peers in curriculum development and design. Does this approach just serve to dilute our offer to both parties, and cause confusion as to what we actually do?

In this session we will explore how LDers refer to their service, why they have chosen those terms, and how they think they are received by their colleagues. We will identify barriers that this terminology causes for engagement from both staff and students.


Hilsdon, J., Malone, C. and Syska, A. (2019) “Academic literacies twenty years on: a community-sourced literature review”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (15).

Stapleford, K. (2019) “The LDHEN hive mind: Learning Development in UK higher education as a professional culture”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (16).

Wingate, U. (2006) “Doing away with ‘study skills’”, Teaching in Higher Education, 11:4, 457-469.


  1. Is using the term ‘study skills’ really that problematic? Does it truly challenge our professional identity, and if so, is that challenge significant?
  2. How do you refer to the service that you run?
  3. How do your cross-institution colleagues describe your service?
  4. What have you done to challenge their assumptions?

The Black Award Gap

Kate Coulson

University of Northampton

The Learning Development team at the University of Northampton has been developing research projects to understand the extent and potential causes of award gaps (Coulson and Loddick, 2020), (Loddick and Coulson, 2020), (Coulson, Loddick and Rice, 2021). However, the team was not prepared for other findings that emerged from this research related to the Black award gap. Firstly, Black students who engage with a tutorial can see an improvement of up to 4 sub grades. Secondly, after analysing award gap data, it revealed that the Black award gap could be reduced by 50% by eliminating non-submission of assignments.

This mini keynote will outline the projects that have been developed: a project with Black students within the Foundation degree framework to ascertain why they might not submit their assignments and a second project to engage ‘Black Student Advocates’ will also be outlined. The challenges of this work will be shared.

Reference List

Coulson, K., Loddick, A., Rice, P. (2021). Exploring the Impact of Learning Development on Student Engagement, Experience, and Learning. In: Huijser, H., Kek, M., Padró, F.F. (eds) Student Support Services. University Development and Administration. Springer, Singapore.

Coulson, K. V. and Loddick, A. (2021) Non-submission of assessment – the impact on the BAME award gap. Conference presentation to: Association of Learning Development in Higher Education Annual Conference. Online. 9 April 2021.

Loddick, A. and Coulson, K. V. (2020) The Impact of Learning Development Tutorials on Student Attainment. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Volume 17. Available from:


1. How has your institution approached the Black award gap?

2. How might you contribute to the reduction (or elimination) the Black award gap?

3. Can we eliminate the Black award gap?

Professional identity and the LD Project podcast

Carina Buckley and Alicja Syska

Solent University Southampton and University of Plymouth

The Learning Development Project podcast was established in summer 2022 to open up the conversation around writing in Learning Development, as we believe that publication should not be the end of the story. We always ask our guests about their relationship with writing since part of the reason we invite them onto the podcast is because they have written something that has resonated with colleagues or had impact on practice. They are writers, and we invite them in that capacity. But how do we see ourselves? And how do others see us? We are writers, authors, podcasters, academics, leaders, colleagues, editors, amongst other labels. However, while there are certain stable aspects to our self-identity, there are less stable ones – such as being a writer – that need to be constantly negotiated. If writing is an important aspect of your identity, how do you get others to see that importance, and support it?


  1. How far is writing a part of your professional identity?
  2. What role does writing play in how you see yourself?
  3. How important is it in terms of how others see you?

The problem of inclusion and invisibility: working with disabled students in HE

Julian Ingle

University of Portsmouth

For many, the word ‘inclusion’ has not only become emptied of meaning but also sets up a problematic contradiction. To be included depends on the willingness of those who hold this power to allow entry. Being allowed entry doesn’t change the power relationships but merely allows access to already “existing cultures, structures and practices” (Biesta, et al, 2022, p.1). For disabled people and minoritised groups, the problem of equity and participation in education is one that runs deep and, for many, extends right the way through their educational trajectories.

What’s overlooked and not recognised is the invisible work of being disabled. Similarly, and to paraphrase Donna Williams (1996), from the start, disabled people have been judged from the outside, by their appearances, rather than from the inside and according to how their disability is experienced. This mini keynote opens up a space to discuss the problems inherent in inclusion and what this means for disabled people and other minoritised groups.


  1. Inclusion has been co-opted into HE’s performativity agenda; does this create more problems than it pretends to solve?
  2. How do we acknowledge and understand the invisible work of being disabled?
  3. As practitioners, how can we create a more authentically democratic environment for disabled people and other minoritised groups in HE?

Location: Portland Building 2.33a-c

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