ALDinHE funds 8 research projects

For 2023-2024, ALDinHE has funded eight research funded projects. Watch out for the next call for research funding in Spring 2024.

Discovering how students use Generative Artificial Intelligence Tools for academic writing purposes.

Dr Bryony Parsons – University of Liverpool

Abstract

With the increased use of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI) technologies such as Chat GPT, Learning Development and Academic Liaison teams need to develop an understanding of how students are using these technologies in relation to their academic work, in order to support them in how to maximise their potential, whilst avoiding any academic integrity issues.

Building on a previous study, in which students were surveyed more broadly around their usage of different technologies, this research will focus specifically on usage in relation to an assignment essay question. Through recording of both the participant’s screen and through asking the participant to explain their motivations for their choices of technology, wording of prompts and various interactions, a clear picture will be provided of student confidence and competency with using these tools.

This will then be used to enable library teams to create appropriate guidance of best practice on how to use these tools more productively within sessions and tutorials around academic writing and finding and using resources.

A toolkit to develop positive approaches to supporting dyslexia in your inclusive practice.

Dr Katharine Jewitt – The Open University

Abstract

Between 4 – 10% of the population are dyslexic (Knight, 2018). One way to reach a dyslexia-friendly HE sector is by upskilling those who work with students. This project aims to create an online toolkit to provide a single point of support and increase knowledge and confidence in being more dyslexia inclusive in your setting. This scholarship project aims to understand how students with dyslexia would like to be supported and to understand from learning developers their approaches to supporting students with dyslexia, in order, to collate best practice and share in an accessible format a resource toolkit for anyone supporting students with dyslexia to access. We hope by speaking directly to students with dyslexia, they can suggest solutions to problems to lead to simple but effective results. A set of personas and vignettes will be developed to identify ways to build an inclusive approach to enhance the learning experience of students with dyslexia. A mixed-methods approach of focus groups, interviews and a survey will be used. The project aims to better understand how to develop positive approaches to supporting dyslexia in inclusive practice. Students with dyslexia benefit from appropriate intervention, targeted effective support and teaching, so that they can become more confident, more successful in their learning and effective contributors. This project supports all of ALDinHE’s five values. We will learn directly from staff and students on what the potential barriers may be to studying with dyslexia and gain further insight into supporting students and developing inclusive practice.

Exploring and articulating the experience of peer writing in higher education.

Dr Sarah Robin – Lancaster University

Abstract

The scope and value of peer mentoring support in Higher Education is now well acknowledged (Hilsdon, 2014; Colvin & Ashman, 2010). However, less research has explored the potential benefits of writing mentoring upon the mentors themselves. This project will draw upon an extensive bank of evidence and experience, as well as undertaking interviews with present and past mentors, to explore the influence and impact of writing mentoring upon the mentors. The planned outputs for this project include; mentor training materials for the wider Learning Development and academic community, a presentation, and ultimately, an article published in JALDinHE. The impact of this project will be to help articulate the value of peer mentoring within Learning Development and in wider circles, and shed new light upon a relatively unexplored area.

Re-envisioning hackathons: engaging students as partners and change makers in learning development for educational enhancement.

Dr Catherine McConnell – University of Brighton

Abstract

Our aim is to create opportunities for learning development and educational enhancement activities, which are undertaken in partnership between students and staff, through the methodology of ‘hackathon’ participation. The specific activities are not pre-determined in this proposal, as a fundamental part of the project’s methodology is based upon participatory action research, whereby community members (students and staff) will work together to understand issues or problematic situations and collaborate on possible solutions for change.

We intend to bring broad overarching themes into the hackathon space, which align to the ALDinHE values of working alongside students, emancipatory practice, as well as our priority areas of student engagement in learning development provision, course continuation, progression and success. We are also keen to pursue inclusion and wellbeing through engagement with UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), in order to provide some starter ideas and parameters of the types of issues we wish the project to address.

We anticipate that some of the themes students and staff may wish to tackle include: student engagement with AI to support learning; celebrating neurodiversity and realising potential; embedding wellbeing in the learning development curriculum; exploring the relationship between learning development and global challenges through active citizenship. The main project outcome will be an online exhibition demonstrating the hackathon methodology, and artefacts and resources generated through student-staff co-creation. This will include podcasts, vlogs, imagery and texts. This resource will be made available to colleagues and students within the ALDinHE community and other appropriate networks.

What’s the point of writing essays? Learning development conversations with students in the age of generative AI.

Rosie MacLachlan – St George’s University of London

Abstract

This project aims to explore the role of learning development in working alongside students, not just to help them make sense of and get the most out of HE learning, but to collaborate in shared processes of sense-making at times of institutional change.

Throughout 2023 the higher education sector has struggled to get to grips with generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, with many arguing that the widespread availability of large language models will necessitate vast changes to teaching, learning and assessment. Learning developers have begun to explore the role their practice can play with helping the sector navigate these changes, and the current project aims to further this through conversations with LD-experienced students on their perceptions of the purposes and value of written assessment.

In summer 2023 the research team undertook a study with academic staff exploring their views on the purposes and practices of assessing writing – and the extent to which generative AI poses a threat to this. We now seek funding to conduct a follow up study asking similar questions of students through focus groups and individual interviews. The results of this will contribute to an assessment reform project at the researchers’ university, and will be shared with the learning development community. We hypothesise that the unique position of learning developers – having epistemological conversations with students which can inform curriculum and academic development with teaching staff – can be crucial to universities in navigating times of change while bringing both students and academic staff with them.

An exploration of doctoral supervisor/supervisee collaborative inquiries for EDI.

Dr Julia Everitt – Birmingham City University

Abstract

This proposal demonstrates the aims, objectives, outcomes, and outputs of the project entitled: An exploration of doctoral supervisor/supervisee collaborative inquiries for EDI’ and links to the ALDinHE funding criteria (a-g) including the five values.

Policies have transformed doctoral education in terms of formalisation and diversification leading to an increase in ‘non-traditional’ candidates. Universities need to respond to these candidates’ diverse needs beyond policy commitment statements; whilst supervisors can support candidates through pedagogical actions including clarifying expectations around learning development support (e.g., literature searching). However, discussing EDI issues can cause anxiety and not all supervisors will see this as their role. Supervisors may be influenced by prior supervision experience which can lead to a narrow approach. Furthermore, supervisor development takes different formats (e.g., regulations vs pedagogical support) and is not offered by all universities. Pedagogical support delivered through Communities of Practice (CoP) programmes could be encouraging positive scholarly activity which is responding to EDI issues. Undertaken through ‘practitioner inquiries’ in collaboration with supervisees, there may be positive pedagogical actions which are not being disseminated. This project aims to survey supervisors who completed ‘practitioner inquiries’ collaboratively with supervisees with an EDI focus to explore these pedagogical actions. A ‘non-traditional’ doctoral candidate will be employed as a research assistant to explore the literature, design the survey, collect the data and dissemination. A focus group of ‘non-traditional’ doctoral candidates will review the case studies and strategies, which will then be collated into a portfolio to be shared with the wider learning development community.

Promoting equity in education for sustainable development through community-based learning and teaching: A case study of two collaborating universities in East London

Dr. Rehan Shah and Dr. Anne Preston – Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) University College London (UCL)

Abstract

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) plays a crucial role in equipping learners with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to create a sustainable future. Community-based learning and teaching provides a platform for learners to engage directly with local communities, enabling them to develop a holistic understanding of ESD through firsthand knowledge of local challenges, cultural practices, and sustainable solutions. However, achieving equitable learning outcomes in ESD remains a persistent challenge.

This research project aims to investigate the integration of ESD and community-based education within the curricula of two collaborating universities in East London. Through co-creation with student partners, we will assess the extent of integration and identify gaps and challenges in achieving equitable learning outcomes in ESD. Working with Learning Development (LD) communities across both universities, we aim to develop recommendations for integrating effective community-based learning approaches into ESD practices.

Both the universities leading this research have a vested interest in supporting student learning that benefits from partnerships with local communities. QMUL has a long-standing presence in the east London community and an established commitment to enhancing the lives of its people. The new UCL East campus, based in Olympic Park in Newham, has a growing relationship with east London communities.  Both institutions aim to learn from each other by co-creating with students on ESD and community-based learning approaches.

This project aligns with the research team’s interests and experiences in pedagogic research and LD, with a focus on enhancing students’ experiences of ESD.

Supporting student learning and development through online portfolios for employability.

Dr Steph Fuller – Queen Mary University of London

Abstract

This proposal is for an exploratory study into ways in which an institution can enhance student learning and development through online portfolio tools for employability. In particular, the project will explore student views of online tools for mapping and reflecting on the Queen Mary Graduate Attributes. The project aims to produce guidance for staff and students on making the best use of these portfolio tools and how they can be deployed most effectively to for the development of graduate attributes and employability.

We propose employing a student intern to lead research into student views and experiences of online portfolios, exploring areas including student preferences in terms of user interfaces, tools and functionality, types of activities as well as the way in which use of the tools are integrated into curricula and how their use is promoted to students.

Although the research will be undertaken in the context of this specific area, the results will have wider applicability for any institutions using online portfolios to support the development of graduate attributes, as well as for supporting student learning and development through online portfolios in general. The study will also develop recommendations for supporting the development of specific attributes those relating to lifelong learning and sustainability, as existing research indicates students perceive a lack of opportunities to develop these areas.

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