Journal May 15th 2011

Write a brief summary of any work-related activities undertaken on 15th May 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.

Kim Shahabudin

Against all sensible expectations for a Monday morning, I felt (as Becka Colley would say) extremely Tiggerish yesterday and bounced into work with a brain full of (probably unachievable) ideas. One was to rework our Study Advice website as a smartphone app – fortunately my colleague Michelle has contacts who know about these things so that idea’s now parked in the ‘find out how much and start looking for funding’ space. Another was to develop some animated resources on the lines of Stuart Johnson’s wonderful ‘What it means to be a critical student’ at Leicester ( – that’s for a quiet moment later in the summer. Also proposed that Michelle and I write up some of the ‘what do we tell people we do’ entries that people have been posting followed our recent conversation: working title (after a phrase from the Blythman and Orr article that Pauline recommended on that thread) will be something like ‘ “We have Marx: you have spelling”: identifying the real expertise of learning developers.’ Then I gave myself a damn good talking-to and got back to working on the last raft of brilliant ideas/unfinished projects (pro-active support strategies for dyslexic students in Classics and discipline-specific referencing tutorials)…

After lunch (and yes, I am making myself take a proper lunchbreak away from the computer most days now) I played bad cop with a student with procrastination issues, then attended a FlashMeeting of the LearnHigher Working Group where we discussed the future of the website, possible funding bids and organising a summer meeting for the LearnHigher Forum.

After which, having no Zumba close to hand, I watered the vegetable plot for relaxation…!


Monday was a busy and varied day, recognisable to LDers everywhere. I am a fractional member of staff, 0.8, which means that I should work four days or 28 hours per week. This means that I rarely work on a Friday – and my personal commitment to my own sanity is to try not to look at emails over the weekend. So Mondays involve coming in to messages that have accumulated since late Thursday and responding to them whilst juggling the other things that I have to fit into the day. At least I don’t have voicemail on my work phone: it takes less time to reply to emails than to listen to, decode and respond to phone messages.

I responded to a phone call from a colleague in our Faculty of Applied Social Sciences (FASS) about the implications for the Faculties of the deletion of student-facing Learning & Writing Development at our institution. I gave a brief run down of some of the Faculty-specific provision that we already provided for their students: two seven-week study & academic skills courses per year, two Dissertation Writing courses per year and two Writers Clubs per year – alongside some of the staff support we have offered recently, including re-designing modules with staff, embedding write to learn across courses and supporting creative induction activities … and of course their students have had access to our extensive central provision (see – all now to go.

I noted that my new line manager is planning to discuss the implications for the Faculties of the new Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) with the Deans and Associate Deans, so I wrote a quick summary of all the extra- and in-curriculum work that the LDU has recently undertaken with the subject of his first Faculty visit to better brief him for that discussion.

We are currently writing Staff Guides on ‘Using teaching and assessment strategies to engage students and improve the quality of their learning’ to underscore our new relationship with the Faculties and to support their current re-design of the University’s much reduced curriculum offer. (We are having our courses cut by 70% and we are in the process of moving from a system of eight x 15 credit modules per year to one of four x 30 credit ones.)

I reviewed the penultimate draft of our Staff Guide – and also posted it out to the ‘Embedding Learning Development’ Task and Finish group that emerged from the last ALDinHE Conference (to which I unfortunately could not go – but which sounded brilliant). Even though not at the conference, I hope to join this group for it is intent on sharing good practice about embedding learning development – and thus the sorts of initiatives that we are very much engaged in here – and that we will need to promote much more widely in the future.

I received a flyer in my email about my colleague, Fiona English’s new book: Student writing and genre: reconfiguring academic knowledge. I’m very interested in buying this one and putting her ideas into practice. I’m already exploring the notion that making notes is a first stage in reconfiguring knowledge…

And finally I attended two virtual meetings via Flash – one as part of the ALDinHE Steering Group and one as part of the Learn Higher Steering Group – the latter is about taking forward the resources for staff and students that exist on the LearnHigher website – and that have been passed to ALDinHE following the end of the HEFCE funding for the Centres for Excellence in Learning and Teaching last year.

(After that it was off to a Zumba session to cheer myself up – it’s a hard cruel world in HE these days!)


As well as enjoying the great weather I did quite a lot of work-related stuff yesterday. I’ve been transferring our hideous old website into a much better content management system (software is Concrete5 – for those interested in these things its infinitely more user friendly than Joomla) and had some updates to add. Later I spent a pleasant couple of hours tearing pictures out of the newspapers before they go out for recycling… Why? Because I’m running some more visual methods workshops soon – a lunchtime seminar for our Business School in which I’ll be demonstrating why and how they could use drawing, collage and other visual approaches in their teaching (still not sure how to condense usual 3 hours worth of activities into 55 minutes!). The other is for a group of PhD students – dual focus: the session is intended to help them explore possibilities for their own research and also to elicit data on their experiences of supervision. Never a dull moment…..

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