The LDHEN hive mind: Learning development in UK higher education as a professional culture

Researcher: Katharine Stapleford

Institution: University of Leeds

Research Year: 2020

Project aims:

The Learning Developer in Higher Education works with students to help them make sense of the language and practices of Higher Education (HE). It is a relatively new role and has grown in response to the Widening Participation agenda which has seen an increase in entry of ‘non-traditional’ students into HE. Learning developers’ job descriptions, employment contracts and institutional location vary between institutions and the role is often misunderstood across academia. There has long been discussion and debate within the learning development community regarding the professionalisation of the role and what this might look like. The literature in this area is sparse and to date consists of small scale surveys of learning development practitioners with inconclusive findings. This mini project aims to contribute to our understanding of learning developer professional identity by analysing six months of discourse from the Learning Development in Higher Education (LDHEN) Listserv. This is explored through the lens of social identity theory and findings suggest that the learning development community functions as a professional culture based on collegiality, trust, shared values and a protected collective knowledge base. This attitudinal perspective of professional identity as professional culture is proposed as a more productive approach to the debate than more traditional interpretations of professionalism based on qualifications and formal training.

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