Collective Diary 15 September 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

It has been hectic since coming back from the summer holiday, with two members of the team leaving, the welcome week to start on Monday, the arrangement of embedded LD sessions to resume, and lots of teaching in the pipeline to prepare. In this entry, I would however like to share the afternoon session in a staff development event I joined this Wednesday. It’s a very hands-on and interactive workshop about ‘positionality’. There was no PPT to go through or a lecture to listen to. Rather, we actively engaged in the workshops through painting, talking, walking, cutting and writing. Two activities I found especially interesting are ‘painting to music’ and ‘making a positionality wheel’. We spent five minutes doing watercolour painting in response to the music played by the facilitator and another five minutes doing the second painting to another piece of music. While the instructor did not ask us to ‘rationalise’ or ‘analyse’ what we painted, I found the activity allowed me to explore myself through a means (art/painting) that I am familiar with. In one, I painted a wall of red bricks. This reflected not only my interpretation of the rhythm but also my liking of patterns, geometrical shapes and lines, and routines. As for the last task of the workshop, we used paper, scissors, pens, push pins, and disposable paper trays to create our own positionality wheels. The inner circle is about myself, the middle circle about me in the institution (UAL) and the outer layer is about how the society sees me. While this was an really interesting activity to explore myself, I can see the potential to adopt it as a fun tool to kick off reflection.

Dustin Hosseini – University of Glasgow

Over the last month, I have attended the Association for Learning Technology Annual Conference and have co-authored a post to the Times Higher Education. Through these two parts of work, I have learned the following: we have to consult, engage and co-create with students more often in order to make a more inclusive, equitable higher education. In particular, colleagues and I read a shocking article in THE Campus alleging that ‘the digital’ is potentially exacerbating those who experience ADHD while overlooking ADHD’s longer history that stretches thousands of years. To attempt to mitigate potential damage that the article may cause to those unexperienced with ADHD, a community of practice worked together to author this response: This is the first of a few responses as we feel it is important that colleagues in HE and beyond understand the challenges of ADHD while developing their understanding of the many things can and do help neurodiverse students/colleagues. The digital hasn’t exacerbated what we experience; a lack of understanding has.

Claire Olson – Edge Hill University

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag today, basically me trying to catch up on lots of different things before it gets crazy busy during Semester 1! I can feel the clock ticking for the new term and my diary is filling up rapidly. I’ve had an interesting week, with two full days away from my desk. One day spent with my team on a planning day for the year ahead, and another spent at an ALDinHE regional event in Leeds. Both days proved to be a good opportunity to reflect and also plan ahead. But whilst it’s been great to have these days, it’s meant I’ve been playing catch up since – with lots of emails, prep work etc. still to be done. Overall, I’ve managed to complete quite a few tasks today, so it’s been a good day. I’ve finished editing and launching surveys for our workshop offer and created the QR codes needed to prompt students to complete the survey. This was one task I definitely wanted finished before the end of the week. I spent time tweaking slides for future sessions (which always takes longer than I think it will) and completed a couple of training feedback requests that I also needed to do. I’ve finished with a bit of reading around AI, as I’ll be delivering Academic Integrity sessions soon and I could do with feeling a bit more confident about what I want to say. I’ll be logging off for the weekend with a slightly shorter to-do list than I started with, despite adding to it as the day went on.

Ursula Canton – Glasgow Caledonian University

A week before our induction, the day is filled with planning and preparation for embedded classes: arranging when we can come into the students’ timetable, reviewing and updating materials and, surprise, a request for a new class. Since this is a programme with which we’re not yet working at the start of their studies, it’s still quite welcome. It gets us another step closer to being able to say all of our students get some teaching on writing when they start their degree and when they write their dissertations. Plus who could resist reading more about wet gas flow measurement in subsea applications to identify some nice sample review papers??

Helena Beeson – University of Northampton

This was a reflective day which started with a blip. I could not choose what to wear at all. Thankfully I had the freedom to start this working day from home which made it much easier to regain focus. As a part-timer, catching up with emails is an ongoing task, but I began the day officially by chairing our team meeting in my pyjamas (surprisingly formal wear) which perked me right up. A quick outfit change followed by some emails to our tutors who want to book in teaching, and I was on my way to campus just down the road. It’s getting busier as new students arrive.

I checked in with a few people, including a librarian for teaching targeting/prioritsing purposes, and started our face-to-face drop-ins which our team offers every day for an hour. I had the opportunity to finalise a role play activity we will be undertaking with our new student mentors in their training next week. You can’t beat an awkward scenario! There were two student appointments – the first wanted some clarification on creating themes for her Nursing dissertation literature review and the second had questions about different sections of her MBA dissertation. My email reflects a couple more exchanges about teaching and a dash across town to pick up the kids from their reading club.

At the end of the day I took a few minutes to pontificate and appreciate the opportunity for occasional slow-burn mornings and an open culture in the team to talk about things that matter / have a general moan. I also received a few compliments on my outfit through the day so overall winning 😊

Adam Paxman – Edge Hill University

I arranged to work from home today, as I was having broadband installed with a different provider. I’d scheduled 1-2-1 slots in the afternoon, to avoid any issues. One of the two slots for today had been booked earlier this week. There was no preparation required for this – the Level 7 postgraduate taught (PGT) student hadn’t included any documents with the booking and had given only a brief idea that they wanted to discuss structure and referencing.

I logged in around 8am with a cup of tea and checked my emails. Then I sent three emails to academics for whom I’ll be delivering embedded sessions in the coming weeks. Two of these were digital library sessions which include database search demonstrations, so I requested any suggestions of subject-specific key words. Biology gave me: Ichthyosis, docetaxel, lung cancer, branch deadwood, selective estrogen receptor modulators, juniperus communis, placental vasculogenesis, polymorphic microsatellites, epiphytes. I noticed the US spelling of estrogen straight away and made a mental note to use it to explain the use of the asterisk as a wildcard to account for both UK and US spellings in one search. Criminology gave me: crime, deviance, conflict, media, biological theory, labelling, critical criminology, punishment, sub-culture, zemiology or social harm, neoliberalism and structural inequalities. Knowing I’d be writing a reflective diary about my day, these responses immediately had me reflecting on the varied nature of my role. I always find the highly specialised keyword suggestions I receive back from academics quite amusing. Often, I’ll immediately sit and devise a search strategy with plenty of trial-and-error searches. However, these sessions aren’t for a few weeks. On reflection, it’s amazing how some of these terms will stick in my head. A personal favourite comes from Geology at least an academic year ago – pyroclastic floes. Very satisfying.

I had an email come through to say a student had booked my remaining 1-2-1 appointment slot. Later, I had another to say the student had cancelled. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut used to say.

The broadband installer arrived around 10am but this was in no way disruptive. I made him a coffee.

Each Academic Skills Advisor on the UniSkills team has a workstream. Mine is induction and transition. As part of this, I’m also part of Learning Services’ Members, Access and Partnerships group. Last month I sent out induction materials to new and existing partner contacts but hadn’t received any response from one of the new ones. I’d followed this up last week but still didn’t have clarity on who my named contact would be. Last week there’d been a further wrinkle – I’d received two entirely different names for partner staff with different roles (academic rather than library or support as is typical). After several emails from members of the group this morning, which included some dead ends as far as contacts go, I rang the partner institution and made enquiries. It was confirmed the originally named contact was still working there and was the person to get in touch with. A few emails later, and I’d booked a Teams call for next week with the programme leader instead. I then had to update the group on how this deviates somewhat from our standard operating procedure. I guess sometimes a Learning Developer has to be Poirot. Or maybe Philip Marlowe.

Lunch was a sausage sandwich – one of the perks of WFH. I watched a short video on the horror films of Vincent price while I ate. Double WFH perk.

I listened to episode 4 of the Learning Development Project podcast. Debbie Holley spoke eloquently about Learning Development, which I’ve been making strides to learn more about. I found it interesting that Debbie discussed the ALDinHE values and emancipatory practice, as they’ve since been updated to remove emancipatory practice as an explicit term, in favour of partnership working.

I saw Student X at 3:30pm for an online half hour 1-2-1. Student X had three specific questions. The first was about secondary citations. I screen shared the EHU Harvard Style Guide and pasted the example directly via the chat. The second question was about how to paraphrase at the start of a sentence. I gave examples, shared my screen to demonstrate Academic Phrasebank, and explained the difference between narrative and parenthetical citations. I offered to email a useful set of slides from our embedded sessions giving examples of paragraph structure and paraphrasing, as well as the Big Four Checklist (a personal favourite). The third question was about searching the EHU database for research articles critiquing the National Curriculum for a given subject. I screen shared to demonstrate how to combine keywords and use phrase search with filters in an advanced search. Then I demonstrated the Subject Resources relevant to Student X.

These were all very bread and butter questions and I felt satisfied answering them. Student X used the expression, ‘This may be a stupid question…’ twice, and I reassured them that there’s really no such thing – whatever you need to know, just ask. Student X explained they had been out of education for 15 years, had been at a different institution previously and had been familiar with a completely different referencing system. Student X also felt rusty when it came to academic writing. Again, I offered reassurance that these feelings are totally normal. I sent the email and recorded the session attendance on our system.

My colleague and I arranged to get together next week to go through our D2 Fellowship applications as each other’s critical friend.

I received a very positive feedback email from an academic whose brand-new Level 4 cohort I delivered to yesterday. It’s nice to know your efforts are appreciated.

At 4:31pm I received an email asking me to provide feedback on the shadowing scheme I participated in – as a shadowee not a shadower – before the summer in MS Forms.

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