Journal March 15th 2011

Write a brief summary of any work-related activities undertaken on 15th March 2011 and/or your nearest working day . In posting your reply, you consent to the potential use of anonymised extracts from this material in resources that may in future be published by the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE), for educational and professional development purposes only.


Well it’s taken me two weeks to fill this in – so I guess I am pretty busy – exacerbated by worse than usual email crashing all over the place.
15th March was an email and admin day – so simple to write – so time consuming to do especially when the system crashes and crashes again. Went into Basil Fawlty mode, would have hit the PC with a branch from a tree – if I’d had a tree to hand!
I did spend time reviewing documentation for a new Centre that is emerging from the ashes of our LDU and Writing Centre. In November we were issued with redundancy notices – so spent Christmas writing refutations of the case for closure… We managed to make a case for not such severe cuts as originally planned and it has been proposed that a new Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching will be birthed 1st August 2011. Our new Head of Centre is consulting in re exactly what we will be able to offer – in terms of university, staff and student support. The new Centre will be mostly staff-facing – but we are hoping to work with the Faculties to build any student-facing support – in virtual, embedded, co-curricular and adjunct modes – that they want to develop.
We are pleased that something has been saved and we are really looking forward to working with staff across the University to embed, to develop resources and initiatives – and to build an action research/cpd cycle. We also hope that our work with students will continue somehow.
In this I cling to Margo Blythman’s metaphor for Learning Development: We are like spiders’ webs, supporting students in our dusty corners – swept away by every new broom that arrives… and emerging web like again in due course…

Carol Elston

I was not in work on the 15th so this is my diary for Monday 14th. This was my first day back at work after a lovely week in Madeira (if you haven’t been I would recommend it).

I had weeded out my emails over the weekend but I still had quite a few to deal with first thing. This was followed by a meeting with a faculty team librarian looking at ways to convert some of her library sessions for the business school into e-learning resources. An interesting project and the first of many similar requests I should think.

I then started to look in earnest at our next big project, a resource to help students with the transition to university. This was followed by the penultimate meeting with the project team from the Life Share digitisation project. This project is in its final stages and if you are interested in digitisation you can have a sneak preview at:

Michelle Reid

I started my Tuesday with my ALDinHE Steering Group hat on – I sent out emails to colleagues at Reading, Aston and Falmouth about organising a training day for learning developers on specific learning difficulties (watch this space!). I was then doing a quick bit of research into the Director of the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) so ALDinHE could send a letter in response to the guidance to universities charging fees of more than £6,000. We are making the case for universities to allocate a proportion of these fees towards ongoing learning development provision once students enter university, not only towards recruitment and retenion of students from non-traditional backgrounds.

My next task was to get in touch with a Real Estate and Planning lecturer who I had team taught with last term. I wanted to see what kind of feedback we had got on the module and also to gather evidence for a reflective entry in my portfolio for my Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP). It was a challenging but rewarding module to teach on as it had been changed a lot since the previous year and the lecturer based the project she asked the students to do on her own cutting-edge research. The feedback and marks were positive and the students rose to the challenge, but I think we can make the task and the learning outcomes far clearer for next year.

Following this I had a meeting with a Psychology lecturer about a session we are co-facilitating next week. It is a sign off session for students doing the RED Award – a newly introduced award at Reading to recognise students’ paid work and voluntary experience. The session is designed to help students reflect on the skills they’ve developed and how to ‘market’ these to employers. It was very interesting to see how my Psychology colleague applied her discipline knowledge to the psychology of achievable careers goal setting and how I applied my Learning Development perspective to the need to provide appropriate ‘evidence’ to be able to communicate your skills to employers – both using our subject perspectives and expertise to enhance a session on career development.

I had three appointments with students – one on essay writing and one on how to revise for language exams. My third student didn’t show up, which gave me a bit of a breather in a day full of liaising and meetings and following up contacts!

Carina Buckley

I knew Tuesday would be busy – this week I’m squeezing 5 days into 3 so I got in early to get a head start on catching up with emails before my first student arrived. A couple of colleagues in the library are working on updating all the referencing advice and we had a long email discussion about referencing interviews and Kindle books. What a great start to the day!!

My first student came at 9.30 and then it was pretty much non stop until 12.30. I escaped into the park for a quick lunch with a colleague and then it was back to the office for another batch of appointments – ten in total during the day, including one via email. The queries included simple referencing, understanding how to calculate a cash budget, checking the grammar in a few essays, understanding what an essay title actually meant and working out why an essay failed and how to improve it next time. I also had a member of staff come for advice on how to teach paraphrasing and reflective writing to her students, which was gratifying and unexpected!

Fortunately I’d already prepared everything I needed for the 3 hour workshop I was due to take the next morning because I made it to 4.30 and headed for home as fast as I could!

Emily Danvers

Yesterday morning I helped to judge the research student’s poster competition as I’d been involved teaching them about poster design in the preceding weeks. I had to view about 10 and the students presented them to me and I marked them on their ability to communicate research and answer questions. This was all very well for the ones I understood but there was quite a lot of mindless head nodding from me during the heavy science. Very interesting though – I leant about recycling aluminum, human genome research, attitudes towards student loan repayments in Malaysia and mathematical formulas for sound waves! The ability to switch between disciplines is surely one of our main strengths as learning developers!

The afternoon was supposed to be spent teaching ‘getting started and staying focused’ but despite 7 people registering, no-one turned up, which I was secretly pleased about, given my busy morning. The central workshops the past couple of weeks have had very low attendance – lessons learnt for next year! So instead I worked on a funding bid to run hands-on maths workshops for local schools. It has been one of those red flagged emails on my ‘to do’ list for months!

There was a really interesting talk in the evening by Brian Butterworth from UCL about dyscalculia and its connection to brain activity. It is an area I knew previously very little about and it was really interesting. A colleague mentioned how dyscalculia is relatively unusual in Russia and how this might be related to the way we teach maths here with an emphasis on testing. Anyway, thats also on my ‘I should know more about this’ list.

A few more emails trying to chase the lecturer for the referencing style for some students I’m teaching tomorrow and then home. Apparently putting the referencing guide on the VLE or the intranet is a big ask. No wonder I’m teaching the students about referencing!


Up early to collect a printing job for a community project I’m involved with (nothing to do with work but a reminder that we are all juggling lots of different identities and commitments simultaneously). Then hoped to get a clear morning marking portfolios from lecturers at a university in Kurdistan who are taking our pgcert. incredibly interesting to see what differences and similarities there are between the challenges they face and those in UK HEIs.. A recurrent theme is how to help their students to feel confident enough to engage genuinely in critical discussion when their previous educational experience has emphasised rote learning.
But usual interruptions (email s some of which i couldnt ignore, essential catchup with colleagues) meant I only got halfway through before I had to head off to another site for a Sustainable Devt policy committee.

Joanne Wood

Another month races by – and not uneventfully! Since Monday I have a new underlying worry to occupy me in those quiet moments: I’m looking at potential ‘homelessness’ again – someone more important than me has their eye on my office. Just as I get it all set up and working well for me…
In a nice departure from the usual daily stream of tutorials I was invited to talk this morning to the participants of our CAP (Certificate in Academic Practice) course about the support we Faculty-Based Student Learning Advisors provide, with a view to informing curriculum design. I mainly tried to get across the mismatch between what lecturers and tutors say and what students hear (and how I try to redress it). I was very warmly received and then energised by the discussion. There is a lot of good will around these parts and it is backed up by some seriously good ideas – perhaps there is hope for us after all?
Business as usual this afternoon: C was beavering away in the space outside ‘my’ office. She’s nearly finished 4 of the 6 essays she needs to get done. K is getting the hang of motivation and has dared to face the coursework demon and so we analysed an essay title together. E didn’t make it in to ‘clock in’ but at least emailed to say she wasn’t coming – success!
A good place to stop then. It’s not dark or raining and I’ve got a new bike.
See you next month!

Kim Shahabudin

Started the day checking the PowerPoint slides for the workshop I’m giving tomorrow on exam preparation for mature students….cancel that, what I meant was throwing out last year’s slides and starting again. Funny how quickly your ideas about teaching and learning can change.

Then more thinking about mature students: liaising with a member of the Mature Students’ Society who has volunteered to update their Blackboard site and needs training; coming up with ideas for Freshers’ Week social events that mature students might be interested in; contacting people who might be persuaded to put them on.

The afternoon was pegged for student appointments: but nothing ever goes to plan. One of those that was booked in didn’t show up, but three urgent walk-ins made up for it! Topics ranged from whether to be assessed for an SpLD; how to manage time with five exams and an essay to prepare for and complete in less than two weeks; what a literature review was.

Finished the afternoon putting my materials together for tomorrow’s workshop – handouts, feedback sheets, guides etc – and a little light origami as I put together a few demonstration mini-planners, designed and downloaded from the very wonderful PocketMod (

Oh, and then there was this post wot I wrote!

Emily Danvers

I love these pocket mods! It did take me far too long to work out how to fold it!


well today is a day for quiet work. I have started with a quick read of the Discussion Board we manage on our PPDP M level Module which is actually always really interesting. I tend to find out what our staff are doing through this medium and you find some useful sharing of practice that wouldn’t normally be discussed.
I am also working with a colleague on a JISC and Student Retention project where my department has won a small amount of funding so we have been working on getting a small pilot together with one of our departments. Thankfully we got the OK from the head of that department yesterday so we are now working on the logistics of the session. Hooray!! 
Additionally I am also evaluating our Teaching Pods so we have an online questionnaire on Survey Monkey which I am monitoring at the moment with my colleague that’s involved.
Then a quick meeting with management followed by rewriting my abstracts for two conferences that are coming up based on my research on Student Directed learning..
tara for a bit!

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