Collective Diary 15 November 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.


Robert Ping-Nan Chang – University of the Arts London

Reflecting on the embedded workshop I did today with an new MA cohort, I noticed something from my teaching. I singled out a student who I know from his BA study to answer a question in the early part of the session. While my intention was to initiate some interaction or dialogues with students, I later became concerned whether this was appropriate. I didn’t know if the student was happy to be named. (I spoke to the student afterwards, and he had no problem with this. What a relief!) While I work closely with the course team at the end of developing intervention and teaching materials, with all students at my college to support and five specific courses I am embedded into, I have found it extremely difficult or even impossible to forge a close working relationship with every student. This reflection has drawn me to consider what may be learned from online teaching. Anonymity is one benefit of online activities to encourage contribution and collaboration, probably through a digital platform – for example Miro and Padlet which I often use. This level of ‘protection’ is not there in a real-life classroom, potentially resulting in either complete silence or dominance by one or a small number of outspoken students. Furthermore, some international students are not comfortable with their linguistic proficiency and hesitate to speak in class. Although I could sometimes ask students to express their views or emotions through visual means (e.g., drawing or action), language remains crucial to communication. Perhaps, next time I will bring in large sheets of paper for each table and let students contribute their ideas through writing (even in their first language) and drawing, especially when they are not keen on or comfortable with verbally expressing something in class.

Sandra Sinfield – London Metropolitan University

Today started early… a colleague is setting up a programme of short courses for staff responding to requests they have made about embedding ‘skills’, preparing for assessments, revision and exam techniques… I’ve been happy to volunteer and then this morning I thought about the short (free) course that we’ve produced on OneHE (on Developing Student Writing ( – and – duh – it dawned on me that this could be built into that series of sessions. I could not wait to email and ask her.
So, up and at ’em early, I have been spending time promoting LD on social media – sharing the #How2BLD chapter videos – promoting the #LTHEchat – re-posting information on #ALDcon24 and the JLDHE Reading Club. I try to spend a few moments on that every day. It can’t hurt – it might draw in more people to our very friendly club.
I teach on our PGCert LTHE – and this afternoon we have a Facilitating Student Learning (FSL) session. This is absolutely my favourite module of all time. We built it on the same principles as our courses for students: it is creative, playful, active, engaging… and it is online. That was one of the unforeseen joys of the Lockdown. Pivoting to online overnight – and the having to work out how to be creative, engaging and embodied in virtual space. I became such a convert I don’t want to go back to the F2F classroom. I never thought that would happen!
A key component of FSL is peer and tutor observations of practice – conducted not in a judgemental way, but in a friendly, helpful and dialofic one. It is a brilliant way to ‘tutor’ potentially nervous staff through the module and through their first teaching experiences at our University. It allows us to really get to know them – and to give very tailored feedback. So another task ths morning has been to email my potential observees to set up our times for pre-meeting/observing/post-meeting…
Typically my Wednesdays would end with me participating in the #LTHEchats – 8-9 in X/Twitter. However, I have found that working online creates an exponential growth in workload – or may be that’s just HE today ?! – and I am often too tired to join in on the night – but often try to catch up the day after.

Victoria Herod – Manchester Metropolitan University

My day started with supporting a new colleague with the delivery of a 90min SPSS introductory session for students, that they self-selected to do (sitting outside of their programme provision). Attending the team meeting (virtually, at least) simultaneously proved tricky but we got through it! A quick changeover session which them took me to another 90min session, this time supporting postgraduate students with their approach to research methods. This was focused on understanding what various statistical tests aim to show, how to conduct them using SPSS, check the validity of results in terms of testing assumptions met and, ultimately, how to interpret and write up the results. The focus was correlation and t-tests today; let’s hope they join for the following weeks and I haven’t scared them off! A quick lunch followed by a support session for L4 undergraduates from BSc Accounting and Finance. This was the final session in a suite of 5 to support students with the underlying mathematical principles required for their unit. Covering APR calculations, future value forecasts and continuous compounding, I certainly learnt a lot myself in preparation for this session! The last hours of my afternoon are spent catching up on emails and prep for future sessions – working p/t Mon-Weds means today is my last weekly opportunity to ‘box off’ anything before the weekend 🙂

Adam Tate – Nottingham Trent University

Today has been an interesting, if not somewhat untypical day (although I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical day).

The day started off by sending seven different emails to help ensure that the compliance paperwork for learners is completed, and to put in place support for individuals. Much of the day has been taken up with conducting interviews for a vacant post within the team, it was fantastic to see so much exciting potential within the candidates and what they can bring to enrich the team. It is always such a difficult task to reflect upon the potential of individuals and how they might fit in with the team, sometimes the strongest on paper is not the candidate that seems to be the right person for the role. After the panel deliberated it was a delight to contact the preferred candidate to offer them the post, as well as thinking about constructive and compassionate feedback for the other candidates.

Following the interviews, I moved on to more administrative tasks of maintaining learner records, and then responding to a number of queries about learning and teaching opportunities for new staff.

Adam Paxman – Edge Hill University

Today I had a two-hour team meeting, two 1-2-1 appointments, and I attended half an hour of a Critical Literacy webinar.

Demand for embedded sessions and 1-2-1 appointments has not let up at all since the end of September. Perhaps, statistically, it has slightly let up. But in my bones, it has not let up. So, it was with great enthusiasm that I received multiple slices of multiple cakes during the monthly team meeting. These are hardly ever in-person, but cake doesn’t really work online.

Aside from multi-cake, we had some great discussions about trends with our 1-2-1 appointments, provided updates on our respective workstreams, and watched a demonstration of a new booking platform we’ll be migrating to soon. It was a lively meeting full of camaraderie and problem solving.

I was meant to be having lunch with a friend and old colleague from my teaching days, but sadly she was off sick. Instead, I had lunch with my wife, who also works in my office (but for a different team). I insisted we walk around the lake to make the most of the coots and moorhens. I also pointed out the new orientation markers around campus, which feature silhouettes of different wildlife.

I had an hour or so of admin, which was really welcome. I feel like I’m chasing my tail at the moment. A colleague also mentioned a third-year undergraduate student I’ll be seeing for information skills soon had asked in her 1-2-1, ‘Do people actually get books out?’ We literally work in a purpose-built library building, so here’s hoping! I’m sure the literature searching I do with the student will be impactful.

I had an academic writing 1-2-1 with an Early Years Education student, who had completed two of three written presentations (think mini essays) and wanted to discuss the third, which she’d drafted. This was Student Z’s first ever 1-2-1, and I was able to offer guidance on taking control of the scope of the writing, as well as making recommendations on gaps in research. Student Z was receptive to this feedback, and we had a good discussion about how complex socioeconomic factors are. I mentioned my experience of secondary school and Section 28, as well as my recent experience of touring primary schools ahead of my son attending Reception – specifically, how mental health support provision has improved significantly since my primary school experiences in the 1980s. I made the point it really does sound like something from another century!

I added a week’s 1-2-1s to the booking system and my calendar, which immediately started getting snapped up. Supply and demand.

I had a follow-up 1-2-1 with Student E, who apologetically explained he hadn’t made as much progress since last time as he’d have liked. I reassured him we’d work with what we’ve got. The task at hand was to use a prescriptive template to analyse a research article. I suggested we start with the abstract, and we gradually unpicked the main contribution of the paper, some weaknesses, some strengths, and Student E was able to make notes around these as well as the methods used to present and analyse the data.

I attended the last half hour of a webinar on Critical Literacy (with recording to come so I can catch what I missed) and made a note of my appointments for tomorrow.

Jacqui Bartram – University of Hull

The day started with a short monthly librarian’s update meeting – library related news and news from the wider university and how it affects us. Then onto student appointments – the first was the more difficult type for me – about staying focused and engaged with material that the student basically found uninteresting (cellular biol when they were interested in whole animals) and how to revise that stuff. We discussed personal motivations and how some of the steps to get to where they wanted to be may be less interesting than others – but nevertheless important. Also looked at more active and visual notemaking/revision techniques to try to make things more engaging and memorable. The others were a no-show and a healthcare student with dyslexia wanting advice on the process of tackling their first essay assignment. They were naturally struggling with some of the reading and general organisation of ideas so we discussed strategies etc.

After lunch with my lovely 83-years-young mum, I delivered a workshop about designing academic poster presentations. I always enjoy this workshop as we spend quite a bit of time critiquing existing posters and the students get really engaged trying to find things to praise and things to improve. I then had my fortnightly catch-up with my line-manager and finished the day replying to emails that I hadn’t been able to get to yet and then writing this diary entry.

I am off home to attempt to make GF party rings to take to my daughter’s tomorrow when we will catch up with yesterday’s GBBO!

Julia Kotula – Art University Bournemouth

What a day! I often feel like I’m juggling at least a few balls, or a ‘jack of all trades’, but today perhaps even more.
1. First on the calendar: an online training by National Autistic Society on Autism and the SPELL framework in HE which I enrolled on to better understand and support autistic students – very useful – so good to systematise all my practical experience and add to the list of tips and strategies for everyday practice.
2. Immediately after, I swapped my ‘learner’ hat for a ‘tutor’ hat and delivered an open academic skills session for MA students on ‘Moving from descriptive to critical writing. It’s always a nerve-wracking experience for me to talk to a silent screen and hope for interactive elements to work, but this one worked – such a relief and a boost of energy at the same time when a workshop goes well! Being a session participant just before being an instructor was quite helpful in remembering what I enjoy and don’t enjoy in online sessions myself. Workshop record – done, brief reflection – done. Ok, next.
3. I’m eating my lunch while taking notes from a brilliant webinar on AI detection: the challenges for academic integrity by Dr Robin Crockett from Northampton University… and trying to keep up with the chat box exploding with ideas, comments, and shared links. Ok, next.
4. Cup of tea and I’m all set for three 1:1 Study Skills tutorials with: L4 Interior Design student – structuring a PPT on Art Nouveau essay, L6 Make Up for Media and Performance student – structuring a dissertation on power dynamics in Disney’s Encanto and finally, L6 Fashion student – discussing their dissertation on escapism in the context of music festivals.

Yes, it was exceptionally busy today, but with such a variety. It’s all been so interesting and inspiring to do more and learn more.

Louise Taylor – Oxford Brookes University

Wednesday 15th November 2024: A day in the life

I typically begin my day with 10 minutes of ‘Headspace’ (a mindfulness app), but today was a day when my to-do list was too much of a pull, and I gave in to it. My first hour of the day involved starting to critically review a book chapter about what higher education teachers could apply to teaching from non-teachers. The author gave some interesting examples, such as learning from comedians about momentum, which gave me food for thought as I went about the rest of my day.

I then had a 10-minute cycle to campus to attend a department management group meeting, which is held alternately online and on campus. As soon as I arrived, we were chatting and laughing with one another. Reflecting on this, this was a real mood booster. I’m conscious that the same atmosphere is difficult to achieve in online meetings, which are still fairly numerous. It was good to be physically in the same room, especially as one of our team members brought a fresh pot of coffee to share. We focused our discussions on how best to structure our forthcoming bi-annual departmental away-day, given that it will be at a time when many staff will be focused on marking and preparing for the second semester. We decided against our traditional, more formal structured day of talks, and instead decided to focus on the social networking and well-being element, being mindful of the need to give colleagues time to come together socially while not taking up a whole day.

After this, I roamed the corridors briefly to find a free meeting room so that I could attend my second meeting of the day, online. This meeting involved discussing a new policy relating to our three staff networks (BAME, Disability and LGBTQ+). I attended in my capacity as white ally member of the BAME staff network committee. We had some positive news in that people’s roles as leads and committee members will now come with an official workload allocation to recognise the hours that staff spend in running these networks.

Then I popped back home for lunch and spent a little time editing and updating the webpages for a university-wide project that I lead called ‘The Student Research Launch Pad’, which supports students to publish their work. I never thought my academic lecturing job would entail being a website editor as well! I then squeezed in giving some formative feedback on a couple of my first year students’ essays (only 6 more to go before Friday). I’ve been experimenting with recording spoken feedback rather than giving traditional written comments. I find that it’s saving me some time, so I’m interested to see how this format goes down with the students.

Then I was on the move again, cycling to another campus for a meeting with my new PhD student, in which we had an exciting discussion about plans for his literature review and ethics application. It’s so enriching when a student is already more of an expert than you on a topic, as he is an experienced social care manager interested in the use of the outdoors in therapeutic interventions.

At the end of the day, I did a ‘good-enough’ clean of my inbox before going to collect my son from after school club. I achieved a lot today, although I left work with a niggle about needing to get the formative feedback finished. But that would just have to wait until tomorrow …

Dr Louise Taylor, NTF, PFHEA, CPsychol, Principal Lecturer Education and Student Experience, Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work, Oxford Brookes University

Sheryl Mansfield – University of Northampton

My day started with me playing around on MS TEAMS and figuring out how to use the breakout function by inviting my husband to a 7.30am meeting and then swiftly moving him to a breakout room. It’ll be fine – famous last words! With my confidence high, I allocated different rooms in the virtual meeting room ready for the Professional Recognition Writing Retreat at 1pm. Then I started on the emails before doing the school drop off and walking the dog. Back by 9.30am to log on to our daily team meeting. These were started in lockdown and although you might think the 30 minutes every morning is a lot to take out of your busy schedule, it is our time to moan, ponder and deliberate our work as well as our home lives. With us all working where business need takes us; some of the team are working from home and others on campus, it’s a great way to know what each of us are up to that day and where we are. I shared that I had to be in three places at once and then remembered I had already planned for a colleague to cover my drop-in. Phew, now only two places to negotiate!
I then drove to campus and sat for less than an hour at one of our hot desks ticking a few jobs off the never ending to do list. Then a brisk walk in the November sunshine to the SportsZone to talk to Sports Mentors about LD and our Mentor Initiative. I then rushed back to Drop-in as there were plenty of students wanting their questions answered. Then straight into the Writing retreat. My colleague Sam had expertly started as I was always going to be late, and we muddled through assigning rooms and supporting the 6 perspective applicants with questions and queries before offering two separate time periods to write. I did look like a novice though so more practice is required on TEAMS. 

It was great to hear that all had found it useful and completed a lot of their application. Most of perspective applicants dedicated the time to write. The start of the writing retreat allowed questions to be asked as well as time to understand the values and start or continue their application. We have 3 writing retreats a year; I feel that if an applicant attended all three, they would more than likely have a submission by the end. We all know starting is the hardest part and these things don’t write themselves! Sometimes you just have to get your head down by allocating the time and space in your calendar.
Whilst in the writing breaks, I managed to eat lunch so used my lunchtime to drive back home doing the school pick up on the way. I then finished the day with an hour meeting about an ethics application. What a varied day, I was thankful my colleagues had supported me through my scheduling dilemma and that all the places I had been today had been welcoming and productive. Whether it was talking about our service to new mentees, supporting students with questions at drop-in or assisting colleagues in different institutions with time to write their professional recognition application. These all had been positive experiences for me and hopefully had been the same for those who had interacted with me.

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