Collective Diary 15 June 2023

On the 15th of each month, we are inviting those working in the field of learning development to share their day. Write up what you have done on the 15th of the month (or your nearest working day to this date) (plus reflections) and share it with us via this short submission form. The entries will be shared here on the ALDinHE blog.

In 2010-11 and 2014-15, the ALDinHE website was previously used for a collective online journal by members of the LD community. The collective journal re-launched on the 15 May 2023. You can read the journal entries for each month. The shared experiences and ideas have helped shape CPD resources developed for new and experienced staff, and to identify other areas for future work.

A reminder will go out on the LDHEN list on the 15th of each month. Share your day by completing the short submission form for it to be added to the ALDinHE blog.


Julian Edwards – University of Portsmouth

Still bathing in the brightness of meeting illuminating folk from near and far at the annual conference. Lots of sustainable food for thought. Thanks to you, for offering opportunities of reflection and action towards one generally agreed point: our roles can still allow personalised development of constructive critical faculties in students and staff in every faculty.

Steph Allen – Bournemouth University

Today is the day after an amazing two days at ALDCON23 held in Portsmouth 

And today feels a bit of a disappointment. Having experienced the space and generous hospitality of the organisers to listen and learn from and re/network with dedicated ALDinHE’ers, I find myself reflecting on such a positive experience – opportunities to natter about things that matter, interests relating to work, ideas, existing and potential projects, absent friends, and yes, the weather, most of which does not feature today.

However, after the frenetics of preparing for ALDCON sessions, I am also reflecting on how many new friends I have made in the past two days – names I knew but not met the face, meeting the faces behind resources that feature in my LD activities, and creating ideas for activities that deserve real consideration for use in the classroom, and maybe pilot them out.

So today, 24 hours after the cheery ‘Good mornings’, ‘Sleep well?’, ‘Where’s the coffee?’ ‘Lost my pen!’, ‘Which room, which room?’- you know, the usual mumblings first thing on a conference day – I am now going to embark on contacting all the new and existing friends, and make a plan to keep in touch more regularly. After all, seeing like-minded colleagues once a year is delightful, but when meeting up again, enthusiasm to connect is reignited.

So today, I am going to make a list of all the folk I promised to contact and complete any ALDinHE documents post-event that arrive.
But before that, I’m just going to make a coffee. I’d make one for you too, but, you know, the screen gets in the way.

And if I promised colleagues a thing, but have not quite caught up with myself – you know where I am – online or in person:

Jennie Dettmer – University of Hertfordshire

I was up at 6.30 for an early morning run where I was still reflecting on the conference. I mulled over some reflections to add to the collaborative writing sections of a couple of the sessions that I attended.
At 9 am I attended my first university ‘talking teaching’ session where we discussed developing effective learning environments. The main themes were around shifting the power dynamics to refocus on learning and how to increase the value of on-campus sessions to encourage students back into the classroom.
Afterwards, I had a quick look at the emails that I hadn’t deemed to be an emergency during the conference and started to compose my replies.
Tomorrow I am facilitating a session called ‘reinvention of the regions’ at the national ADSHE (Association of Dyslexia Specialists in Higher Education) conference and I checked through the questions that we are putting to the members and emailed the organiser to make sure that the rooms will be recorded.
At 10 am I attended the BALEAP event ‘using exemplars to elicit feedback’. The presenter made a strong case for using exemplars when students have their draft ready as making comparisons triggers their internal feedback. She also described her journey of getting AI to write her exemplars.
At 11 am I had a 1:1 with a student, which she cancelled at the last minute.
In the afternoon I started to write the scripts for several videos that I volunteered to make for our new ‘Success at Hertfordshire Business School’ module. I am creating videos on the subjects of listening and lecture skills, self-awareness and reflections and organisation, time management and life balance. These are all subjects that I verbally discuss with students on what seems to be a daily basis so I am looking forward to collating my ideas and evidence around these topics.

Helen Briscoe – Edge Hill University

Today is the 2nd day of Edge Hill University’s annual SOLSTICE & CLT conference. This year we’re not presenting so I can relax and enjoy the day. With tomorrow being my last day of work before 3 weeks of much needed annual leave, I arrive on campus early so that I can get some things ticked off my list before registering for the conference.

After the VC’s welcome, the first session ‘The AI Mystery Box’ led by Advance HE’s Charles Knight and Edge Hill University’s Andrea Wright, offered a fun interactive scenario-based discussion around the challenges AI is creating in the sector. Next up, an insight into the ‘Whole School Improvement Project’ being undertaken by the Faculty of Health – a huge undertaking for them! Then back to the office to power through a few more tasks … after making our first submission to JLDHE earlier this year, Claire, Maisie, and I have been working hard on revisions as the resubmission deadline is tomorrow. We have read and re-read our latest version, checking against the reviewers’ suggestions, and finally agree it’s time to let it go. Following our own advice to students about not leaving things until deadline day, I upload the resubmission after weeks of hard work … and follow that with a little dance of joy/relief!

Back to the conference … well lunch first. What glorious weather to sit out in the sunshine enjoying a barbecue lunch (decent vegan options for me too!). Then back to the office to check on emails and have a quick catch up with a colleague who is due to present an internal staff development session similar to one I delivered last year. Coffee imbibed, then onto the afternoon sessions … a presentation from the Y1 Nursing programme leads on a screening intervention they had collaborated on with the SpLD team – and suddenly it all becomes clear why our UniSkills team have been inundated with Nursing students booking up all our available 1-1 slots! My colleague and I manage a sneaky ice cream in the sunshine as we head back across campus to the office again … I’m getting lots of additional steps in today!

One final trek back across campus to the last session of the day, which is the panel discussion ‘AI: Friend of Foe?’ – a great opportunity to hear what colleagues in the sector are thinking, and how different institutions are approaching the positives and negatives of AI in the HE sector. I eventually return to the office for a final inbox check … as it’s also my last day in the office until mid-July, I water my desk plants, and I put out a request to my lovely colleagues to look after them while I’m away. Now I’m done for the day 🙂

On reflection, attending a conference (at a campus I work on), just days before I go on leave for 3 weeks has made it a very hectic day. Shuttling between the conference and the office to ensure that I am on top of all tasks, and meeting all deadlines, before I go away has made for an engaging, but extremely tiring day!

Karen Hudson – University of Essex

It’s going to be a busy day; I’ve been at ALDCon23 this week and go on annual leave after tomorrow, so my to-do list is looking quite scary right now, hence the 8am start!

My first task is to release exam results and organise resit arrangements for our Year 3 Nursing students’ Point of Registration maths exam. The Nursing and Midwifery Council requires all students to achieve a score of 100% in a healthcare numeracy assessment covering nursing proficiencies and medication dosage calculations, so this is an anxiety-inducing time of year (for the students and for me!). While doing this, I receive a Zoom call from our Nursing Associate Programme Lead, to finalise his requirements for our very first cohort’s attempt at a similar assessment next year.

Having just presented at ALDCon23, along with Annemarie Langford from the University of Northampton, I then produce a brief article for the Dean’s Newsletter about our session, the event and ALDinHE in general – with grateful thanks to the University of Essex for funding my attendance.

I then need to turn my attention to academic integrity work. I’m the Academic Offences Lead for our School of Health and Social Care, where I am currently supporting some new academic staff with our Suspected Academic Offences identification and referral process. In that role, I attended the University’s Academic Integrity Working Group’s monthly meeting, discussing the institution’s new Turnitin workshops, and how we might develop more agile assessment policies and processes to respond to the progress of generative AI in Higher Education.

A quick lunch break and then more numeracy – ensuring that all students know when and where their resits are, and that all the relevant practice assessments are set up on our online healthcare numeracy platform. I then follow up a request from an another ALDCon23 attendee as caring and sharing is what we’re all about!

A less enjoyable task follows – due to an academic colleague’s sudden and unexpected absence, I need to carry out the Turnitin/academic integrity checks for her module on her behalf, liaising with the parallel module lead on another campus to ensure that both our referrals to our academic integrity procedures and our referrals to markers for specific developmental feedback are consistent. This is the least favourite part of my year; however, it does give me some good insight into commonly occurring instances of poor academic practice and breaches of academic integrity so that we can continue to develop our support, resources and additional signposting for subsequent cohorts.

This task always makes me a bit gloomy, so I’m delighted to get an email from a student who has had many tutorials with me over the last three years and who just found out that she passed her final maths resit:

“Hi Karen,
Thank you so much for you support and you have been amazing teacher. You have always supported me in this in 3 years. Thank you. We will be touch. ”

The school run follows, and I come home to an email from my Head of Division, starting our module peer review process. As I haven’t designed any academic modules, I’m able to have a specific resource or session peer-reviewed. I approach an academic colleague to ask if she’ll review an assessment literacy workshop that I ran for a Level 4 module this summer, as we’re planning to incorporate a similar workshop into her module in the Autumn term. This is quickly agreed and we’re good to go!

As it’s now 4:50pm and I’ve been on the go since 8, I decide to call it a day here and head off to the gym to try to decompress a little. I do hope the aircon is working!

Katharine Jewitt – The Open University

It is the 15th June 2023, the day after ALDcon23 ended and as always after any excellent conference, feeling absolutely cream crackered! haha! But that’s always a sign, isn’t it! 🙂

The University of Portsmouth’s Student Keynotes were inspiring and a reminder to keep collating student experiences and suggestions for the development of modules. Student consultative panels and surveys have led me to refine content and instructions, adapt collaborative activities and develop specific advice and how-to guides for students, to name but just a few… Cerys, speaking at ALDcon23, motivated me to look at doing more to develop mentoring relationships with my students. Hearing how Luke’s perceptions changed about support gave me plenty of food for thought about how I can support my students to help them overcome fears and preconceived ideas on support. Luke’s comments on academic support – outreach gave me lots of ideas for actions to follow up on.

Early this morning, I was following up on post-conference actions:
– liaising with presenters to arrange articles for the next LoveLD magazine, due to be published at the end of next month
– contacting prize winners and arranging for their prizes and trophies to be posted and updated the website with the award winners
– updating slides and additional resources from presenters after tweaks following the conference and uploading to the programme and emailing session attendees

Today, I ran a session for post grad students studying for the MA in Education, the focus was on quality pedagogy. The point of the session was to facilitate a number of explorations to help students establish what they may call quality teaching and what we would want to observe in practice to see high-quality teaching taking place. I was reflecting a lot on the presentations and discussions that took place during the online day at ALDcon23 and how part of being efficient is to work collaboratively and to learn from one another and how the power of the collective can manifest itself in a ‘community of practice’. There are a quite a few CoPs about to emerge following ALDcon23.

This afternoon, I carried out a 2 hour interview with a secondary school, as part of my research on developing a holistic approach to wellness. I spoke to the Head Teacher, Senior Leadership Team, a range of staff, support staff and pupils. The interviews are fascinating and I’m learning so much.

The day ended with a discussion with the CPD academic unit here at The Open University, for the professional recognition scheme to be included in the induction information for all staff. It’s now on the intranet page and included in development opportunities on our intranet for all staff. I wonder how others promote the services of ALDinHE within their institution, please add a comment to share your initiatives.

Claire Olson – Edge Hill University

Another hot day in June…but luckily spent in fairly cool classrooms, due to attending the Edge Hill University SOLSTICE and CLT Conference.

I spent the morning in a workshop discussing AI (one of a few AI offerings at the conference), which really got me thinking about how and when we draw the line of what AI is – and how this is communicated to students. Lots of interesting discussion and more questions raised than answered (as might be expected). This was followed by a session discussing Experience Based Co-Design, which got my little brain all fired up with ideas for further research I would like to do. I always come away from conferences wanting to do a PhD…one day, one day!

Lunch was a BBQ in the sun. Lovely to have the time to catch up and discuss the morning’s themes. Although I wish I’d remembered the sun block!

In the afternoon, I attended a presentation discussing a screening intervention used with first year Nursing students – devised by programme leads and the SpLD team. Some interesting takeaways to take back to discuss with our wider team.

Outside of the conference sessions I attended, I caught up with the day job; assignments to read over, comments to be made, emails to be answered etc. Overall, a fun and thought-provoking day.

Robert Ping-Nan Chang – University of the Arts London

It’s an unusually but not unexpectedly quiet day. None of my tutorial slots has been taken up. At UAL, BA students are about to head for their summer holiday, and (most) MA students just finished everything of their Unit 2 before moving into their third unit later this month. At 10:00, I joined my institution’s 15-minute ‘Thinking Learning’ micro webinar, where two colleagues introduced The Community of Inquiry Framework. While lots of things I have been doing fit in the framework, it is good to learn about the pedagogical discourse which will be useful for my fellowship application in the future.
With a day solely for myself, I can continue to prepare for my workshops to be delivered within the next month. After hearing lots of wonderful thoughts and practices in the University of Kent Digitally Enhanced Learning webinar yesterday, I feel even more assured to gradually embed AI into my academic support provision. For example, in my session tomorrow with MA Interior & Spatial Design students about planning their Unit 3 Critical Research Paper, I will demonstrate how to use a text-to-text generative AI tool – I prefer Google Bard – possibly more effectively, in order to get information/resources for their research and draw potential section outlines of an essay, and to understand some of the tool’s limitations by reflecting on process of using it and the outputs. In the future I’d like to consider what role AI could play in different stages of academic writing, in line with the principles of academic integrity and the university’s academic misconduct policy, and how it can be applied to facilitate different academic skills.
On a separate but related note, this morning I emailed an MA student I have seen several times in tutorials, to encourage her to share her current project with the broader audience beyond her course or UAL. Over the last few months, she tried various AI tools, evaluated them and aligned them with a common design framework, and applied the workflow for her design iterations and outputs. I am neither her course tutor nor an artist/designer, but I can see the niche of her project in terms of design framework and methodology, which is a perspective slightly different from her advisor who has focused more on design output. Despite being an academic ‘support’ tutor, I feel that I can be more proactive to engage with students outside teaching events and materials like workshops, tutorials and self-study resources. With the sun shining outside, I’m feeling upbeat.

Karen Welton – Arts University Plymouth

Although tired from a long train ride back from ALDcon23 I am feeling energised from two days of discussion, listening to enthusiastic and knowledgeable presenters, and meeting so many people (new and existing friends). This was my first time at the in-person conference and I cannot thank everyone enough for the valuable and joyous time I had. My plan for today is to spend some time writing up ideas that could be useful to implement within my institution ready for discussion with my line manager next week and replying to the mountain of emails I have received over the last few days. I also have a long to-do list which needs frequent dipping in and out of to ensure I keep service development and projects ticking along. My annual appraisal is at 11am which I have already completed all of the preparatory work for (feeling slightly smug due to my good planning!) Luckily, there are no imminent student submissions due, so 1:1 bookings have now levelled out. I hope for a productive, but quite slow paced day given my slightly frazzled brain – I’m trying to remember to be kind to myself!
So, what actually happened…my day was great! I managed to write up half of my notes from the conference which I split into relevant sections: things to do, to listen to (10 LD Podcasts!), suggestions of how to develop our LD service, professional development ideas, and inspirational quotes that I will draw from when I feel the need. My appraisal went well, and my line manager was keen to discuss the research ideas I have for the new academic year. I feel lucky that I have her support and she understands the importance of research for my personal enjoyment and professional identity. I had half an hour lunch sat in the sun and then stumbled across a member of staff in the Library discussing their folklore research which included a really cool folklore map of Dartmoor they had created (the map is available to buy if anyone is interested!). The summer is a key time for development as student demand is at its lowest so my line manager and I took the opportunity to make an action plan – we walked to the park and sat in the beautiful sunshine whilst discussing and planning – such a great way of working which reminded me of when I was at primary school and we were allowed to carry our desks onto the field to work. Now I’m off to see the exhibition of creative work from our Level 0 students (those who have just finished the 1st year of their 4 year degree). I am heavily embedded within this programme and it is so wonderful to see how much these students have developed since starting in September. I feel happy 🙂

Kate Coulson – University of Northampton

I got home from #ALDcon23 last night and was hoping for a quiet-ish day to reflect on the conference and catch-up with the day job. Sadly, that didn’t happen! But I did have a varied and interesting day. I was on campus and managed to:
1) Attend a half day departmental meeting (for about 40 mins!)
2) Dialed in to a Faculty Academic Committee to outline the L&T policies I was re-approving (Assessment and Feedback, Personal Academic Tutoring and Integrated Learner Support)
3) Met with a colleague who organises the important part of the L&T Conference (namely the room bookings, the schedule and the CAKE!)
4) Then attended a task and finish group which is reviewing (and re-writing) the student engagement policy. This required using my brain.
5) Caught up with my boss in the office (some things need to be discussed face-to-face). Had a quick chat with one of our Deans about student peer support and personal academic tutoring.
6) Popped downstairs to our STEAM event for local schools to see if I could find my 10 year old niece who was attending with her school. There were hundreds and hundreds of students but I managed to find her, thank goodness for yellow school uniform. She was having a lovely day.
7) Had a walking lunch with a colleague and talked about data sets.
8) Attended a new Apprenticeships Committee.
And also replied to about 50 emails, ticked off many flagged tasks, welcomed our new ALDinHE steering group members and organised their onboarding meeting, had a quick look at the official ~ALDcon23 photos that Melanie Crisfield sent over to me, reviewed my associate professors application (I’m nervous!). Drove home and spoke to my best friend on the phone (hands free)
It’s now 6pm and I am writing this journal entry.
I still have 22 flagged tasks to go! But they will wait, as its time to cook dinner and do some “mum-ing” 🙂

Sandra Sinfield – London Metropolitan University

It was a day of online meetings:
With a participant on our PGCert LTHE about one assignment – that developed into a plan for assignments for three modules: Managing the Assessment and Feedback Process, Curriculum Evaluation and Development and the Negotiated Study Module (NSM). That felt very productive.
With a colleague new to our relatively new Directorate of Transformational Teaching and Learning – discussing how we could better work together – and which led to an interesting discussion about Personal Tutoring or Personal Academic Tutoring and which made more space for the student and their concerns…
With another colleague reflecting on the module we had just taught together – and all the PGCert/MALTHE marking we were diving into – and finally to discuss some collaborative writing – with the realisation that we have to get a draft ready in a week.
All enlivened by suddenly being expelled from all my University’s tech systems (I really had not just changed my password!) – and it took a hairy 1.5 hours to sort that out and get back in…
Till next month!

Nicola Tomlinson – The University of Manchester

Today I attended my institution’s on-campus Library conference (#UMLTogether23) for the first time! As a new Learning Developer (in post for nearly 6 months to the day), my role sits within the Library team, but we are 300-strong here and, as such, the opportunity to find out what everyone is working on is both exciting and fascinating! It was a wonderful day, full of laughs and jokes from the organising committee who set the tone for a supportive, playful and engaging event. I co-presented a breakout session with my fellow Learning Developer, the brilliant Bonnie McGill, in which I introduced concepts from embodied learning theory inspired by my reading of Susan Hrach’s Minding Bodies. Bonnie then got everyone thinking about how we conceptualise e-learning, and the implications that these concepts have for individuals’ ability to learn and engage. And of course, we got all the participants up, moving, discussing their responses and ‘graffiti-ing’ on flipchart paper on the walls! As such, while in some ways it was a very atypical day for me, in other ways it wasn’t really! Events like this serve as a great reminder of why I’m so excited to be in this field, and I’ve left with lots of connections and ideas for collaboration in the future.

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