ALDinHE Annual Awards 2021

This page celebrates and publicises exceptional work taking place within the learning development community, highlighted through the ALDinHE Annual Awards nominations. Here you can read about the nominees’ work from the 2021 awards.

Congratulations to our 2021 winner: Kate Connery, University of Sheffield

Kate Connery, University of Sheffield. Nominated by Vicky Mann, University of Sheffield:

Kate Connery, who is retiring in June 2021, has dedicated her life to promoting learning development, both as a career and as through her volunteer work. Every summer, she takes her skills and expertise in learning development to a school in Tanzania, where she works for six weeks, implementing the latest developments in learning to support students to access higher education. She also provides teacher training to the teachers, making the programme more sustainable.

Throughout her working life at the University of Sheffield, she has taken the lead in innovating in learning development. For example she has developed sensitive approach tutorial strategies to support students with mental health difficulties, and has created and delivered training packages in anxiety in higher education, discussing both the impact of anxiety on learning, and strategies to reduce anxiety. These strategies include using scaffolding and low stakes tests to support students to learn effectively. Similarly, Kate has co-run and organised teaching and learning conferences at the University of Sheffield, including the 2019 conference, Inclusion in Higher Education. This conference brought together practitioners, students and academics in the field of inclusion to critically consider inclusion in higher education. Feedback from the conference included, ‘this conference has given me lots of strategies to try at my institution.’ Other conferences include: STEM and learning development, and anxiety, and have provided the opportunity to bring together new innovations in these fields.

In 2019, Kate joined the executive body of ADSHE, the association of dyslexia specialists in higher education. Here she promoted and co-created a charter for students to outline both their rights and responsibilities in learning development sessions, and co-developed training resources for tutors.

In short, Kate’s enduring commitment to both her students and to tutor training development has made a huge difference to both the experience and outcomes of students across the sector and her contribution will be sadly missed.

2021 Nominations

Dr Gaynor Williams, Canterbury Christ Church University. Nominated by Michelle Crowther, Canterbury Christ Church University:

I am nominating Dr Gaynor Williams, Learning Developer for Arts and Humanities at Canterbury Christ Church University who has been brilliantly supportive to me in delivering a new module. I wanted my students to write about images and archival objects in a really creative way and Gaynor introduced us to the Description > Analysis > Evaluation model. I was really impressed at how she devised a visual literacy workshop incorporating the archival material we were working with and I will be recommending that more academic staff in the university adopt this collaborative way of working with their learning developer. When my students began to struggle with reflective writing, I immediately contacted Gaynor again and we devised a workshop where I shared some of my own writing with the students and asked Gaynor to help me write more critically. It was a powerful message to students that writing does not come fully formed and critical reflection requires thought but also method. Together we worked through my writing with the students, eliciting suggestions from them of how I could improve what I had written. The students now feel Gaynor is vey much part of the teaching staff on the module and she will be coming to our student showcase at the end of the semester as one of the expert ‘dragons’. Next time, I devise a module, Gaynor will be embedded at the planning stage as she had so many useful insights into delivery. I feel a better more confident teacher for working with my learning developer. Not only has Gaynor done all this amazing work for my students, she has also been working towards the University Certificate in Academic Practice, having also acquired her CeP in 2018.

Alex Cuthbert, University of Strathclyde Glasgow. Nominated by Ursula Canton (Glasgow Caledonian University) and Andrew Struan (Glasgow University):

Alex is a much-valued colleague, whose work has exemplified the ALDinHE values for many years. The experience of being a mature student has given him great awareness of the hurdles students can face in unfamiliar systems. His dedication to helping students get the most out of HE and make HE inclusive is equally visible in his work with individuals as it is in specific projects, such as the Caring for Carers project or his training and mentoring of new Disability Tutors at the University of Strathclyde. His interest in sharing practice and commitment to learning and professional development through private mentorship or public forums can be witnessed by individual colleagues and those familiar with his conference presentations or publications.

Whilst consistently modelling excellent practice and dedication to LD values is already an impressive achievement, we would like to nominate Alex for a specific contribution to sharing LD practice from which Learning Developers in Scotland have greatly benefited in the past year. As an active member of ALDinHE and ScotHELD (Scottish Higher Education Learning Developers), Alex instigated the development of a memorandum of understanding and led this process for ScotHELD. He was instrumental in convincing our local membership of the value this collaboration would bring and in progressing this process. Moreover, Alex led on the development of the association of ScotHELD with ICALLD. The benefit of these collaborations has given many ScotHELD members excellent opportunities, especially during this strange year of online working. Many of us joined the virtual meetings and presentations offered by our partner organisations, and we greatly enjoyed opening our now virtual meetings to international colleagues. Without Alex’s initiative, many of us in Scotland would have missed out on these opportunities for exchange and collaboration at a time when informal exchange over the kettle has not been possible.

Claudia Espana, Canterbury Christ Church University. Nominated by Jodie Calleja:

Claudia is one of the most creative individuals I have met, and she has applied this to Learning Development with great success. Claudia has been a key player in developing our new Learning Skills Hub, using her background in User Experience and Accessibility to create a platform that is easy to navigate, as well as setting standards for engaging methods of online learning.
Claudia was awarded the Certified Practitioner award in 2020, which spurred greater reflection and projects for further progression of Learning Development at CCCU. As a team player and creative leader, she has led on projects to ease the transition of online learning during Covid, such as responding to students needs to lead on the creation of a Learning Skills Hub module for online learning and a complimenting embedded workshop to apply the LD skills covered.

Claudia keeps the student needs and experience at the heart of her work. She consistently reviews her practice and uses research to inform her progression and shares her creative methods of LD practice with her team. Her work has demonstrated the ALDinHE values to make HE inclusive through emancipatory practice, partnership working and collaboration and her critical self-reflection and commitment to professional development.

Sue Robbins, University of Sussex. Nominated by Simon Williams, University of Sussex:

I am nominating Sue Robbins for the ALDinHE Award. Sue exemplifies learning development in her work with students, colleagues, and the wider academic community.

Through her teaching and academic support, Sue guides the transition of students into HE. Sue manages the core Academic Development module of the Central Foundation Years programme at the University of Sussex. Her repositioning of the module, which enrols between 550 and 850 students a year, as an academic socialisation model has resulted in year-on-year increases in student and staff satisfaction levels, and the programme team received a CATE award in 2019.

Central to the module and embedded into the VLE is an interactive, web-based resource – The Academic Writing Guide (AWG) that Sue has created as part of a process of constructive alignment. Students work autonomously with the AWG to complete a series of tasks to research and write their own discursive essay. All module assessment is linked to the AWG and student feedback is highly positive. Sue has also collaborated with progressed and current students to produce videos about their experience of the module, and the videos appear throughout the AWG.

Sue is generous in the individualised support she offers students. She set up and delivers a daily drop-in service that runs in tandem with the module, and works alongside students to help them in the research process. The sessions are informed by Lizzio’s Five Senses of Success framework and the partnership working approach receives high praise. Students have twice nominated the drop-in service for a teaching award in recognition of the way Sue supports and encourages them. Last year, Sue and one of her students were winners of a Learning Together teaching award in recognition of a research project that the student carried out while mentored by Sue. He presented his work on evaluative judgement at a national conference and had a paper published while still a first year student.

Sue has been supportive of teaching staff and delivered a series of CPD sessions and resources for a team new to Foundation Year teaching. She was a member of the executive committee that organised the Foundation Year Network Conference at Sussex in 2019, and has gone out of her way to support the whole student body. Sue combines knowledge of transition pedagogy with a genuine concern for students and staff and has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of the student and staff experience.

Jodie Calleja, Canterbury Christ Church University. Nominated by Dr Emma Scanlan, Silvina Bishopp-Martin, Claudia Espana, Canterbury Christ Church University:

I am nominating Jodie Calleja for the ALDinHE award. Jodie is a learning developer with inspirational levels of energy and commitment. In the past year Jodie has demonstrated clear leadership and exceptional flexibility, supporting the team as we switched to remote working.

At the start of lockdown Jodie sought and won backing for a new asynchronous digital learning environment, the Learning Skills Hub (LSH). The LSH is open access and has gained over 14000 users since its launch in September 2020. It’s widely acknowledged as a key learning resource for CCCU students. Jodie is incredibly anticipatory; she has a knack of seeing a need and designing a solution before it has been acknowledged by anyone else.

Jodie is committed to embedding our team into academic faculties and has worked tirelessly to overcome both practical and perceived challenges to this integrated approach. By championing the principle of tailored learning development Jodie has reiterated its relevance in a rapidly digitising learning environment.

Realising that remote working could lead to siloing of professional services, which would disadvantage students, Jodie sought collaborations with Wellbeing, Careers Service, Disability and the FE outreach teams. The resulting co-creation of LSH modules educates students holistically, at the intersection of overlapping learning needs. Jodie created shared Teams channels for CCCU services, enabling easy inter-team communication. This has often acted as a “triage” for vulnerable students and ensured they are directed to the right service.

Jodie advocates scholarly CPD for the whole team. She has encouraged research projects that include work which aims to improve BAME and disabled student’s access and attainment. She has encouraged each team member to apply for CeP/CeLP accreditation and facilitated skill-exchanges within the team.

Jodie is a committed LD professional and in addition to her work she is a regular contributor to the ALDinHE community. She supports the LearnHigher and mentoring groups and has deployed her digital acumen to redesign the expertise directory. She gained CeLP accreditation whilst also studying for her PhD in veganism.

Jodie deserves this award for the transformational effect she has had on the perception and implementation of learning development at CCCU. Her anticipatory, open and generous attitude has forged new relationships and developed new ways of working. In a very short time she has created consequential change in the delivery of our service, ensuring that our students have better access than ever to meaningful academic skills education.

Emma Scanlan, Canterbury Christ Church University. Nominated by Jodie Calleja, Canterbury Christ Church University

Emma recently returned to LD after maternity leave and within 6 months has made great strides to influencing change and progression for LD within the university. She has worked collaboratively with influential stakeholders, sharing her specialist LD knowledge to improve academic integrity policies for staff, and created complimentary open-access resources for students on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism, as well as Using Turnitin as a Tool.

Emma continues to be an influential member, initiating projects to work with partnership colleges to refresh and improve our Learning Skills Hub modules for pre-arrival students. Emma’s recognition of students as partners in learning has meant that our pre-arrival modules will soon be tailored to the needs according to our partnered college lecturers and students.

Emma is also innovative, using her scholarly approach and dedication to research to begin working with colleagues within the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Wellbeing to integrate poetry as a Learning Development tool to nursing students. I hope that we will soon be reading more of Emma’s innovative work in a published case study.

Emma’s achievements continue to exceed expectations. As presented above, she has clearly demonstrated ALDinHE values, including adopting and sharing effective practice, developing meaningful partnerships, and a commitment to a scholarly approach to LD.

Silvina Bishopp-Martin, Canterbury Christ Church University. Nominated by Jodie Calleja, Canterbury Christ Church University

Silvina returned to her role in LD early in the COVID-19 pandemic following maternity leave and hit the ground running. She has been a fantastic exemplar of collaborative working with academic staff and students to embed LD and get the most out of HE learning. She has strongly advocated for LD and information literacy, using her skills and experience to engage her faculty and make impactful change to student’s learning experiences. Silvina has also gone above and beyond by committing herself to two ALDinHE working groups, using her commitment to a scholarly approach by engaging in a collaborative article with ALDinHE colleagues, as well as pursue a LD focussed PhD.

Please see the below statement for further evidence of Silvina’s dedication to the ALDinHE principles.

‘Silvina has pioneered new ways of embedding learning skills into programme modules which are targeted at specific assignments. In one instance a tutor was initially reluctant to engage with us, or to understand how a learning developer could add value to his module, but when Silvina persisted and provided her learning resource about critical analysis he replied: “This is excellent Silvina! Really, really good!! You have taken a lot of care with this and it shows”. Academic staff have already commented that they are seeing improvement in their students’ work and we are working on ways to capture the impact of our interventions and resources. Silvina has inspired my confidence and we have formed a strong partnership where we constantly learn from each other in our respective professional roles and advocate each other’s work to academic staff. Her calm and professional approach, combined with extensive professional knowledge and experience, has benefitted the whole Library department and how we are regarded across the university as a supportive Learning Skills team.’ Catherine Sherwood, Learning & Research Librarian for the Faculty Arts, Humanities and Education at Canterbury Christ Church University