#Take5 #32 The Best way to have a conference?

ALDinHE Conference 2019: Critical perspectives of learning development practice – and hills

This #Take5 blogpost is brought to you from Lee Fallin – the phantom tweeter of #aldcon 2019 – you know, the one who produced all those beautiful, illustrated visual notes…

The 2019 Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) Annual Conference was hosted by the University of Exeter. This was my sixth ALDinHE conference, and my first time in the lovely city of Exeter. This blog post will provide my reflections on the conference and a summary of the keynotes by Dr Liz Morrish (Tuesday) and Professor Shân Wareing (Wednesday).

Day 1
The first day of the conference offers the opportunity to attend workshops led by the ALDinHE Steering Group. The workshops usually include sessions that support:
• Writing for the associations journal,
• Research and development grants
• Using/writing for Learn Higher
• Professional recognition

These are all core services and/or membership benefits offered by ALDinHE as part of individual or institutional membership, and it is always nice to see these given valuable space in the conference programme.

I attended the session on research funding and the scholarship of learning development. It was absolutely fascinating with Dr Maria Kukhareva & Dr Carina Buckley leading a discussion on the nature of learning development scholarship. I reflected on this further in a separate blog post, from which I came to the conclusion that there is something different and unique about learning development scholarship in relation to broader higher education research, I just can’t define it.

This narrative was continued in Dr Helen Webster’s session on facilitating learning development group sessions, asking what the distinctive element of learning development group teaching.

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Day 2
The second day of the conference was the most substantial, being a full-day programme followed by the conference dinner (and quiz) in the evening. The day started off with the regular welcome, but also the awarding of the professional recognition (CeP/CeLP) certificates. I am proud to say I was able to collect my CeLP award after engaging with the professional recognition scheme following last year’s conference. If you’ve not applied yourself, I recommend you check out Steve Brigg’s previous Take5 post. I found CeLP a highly rewarding process – and very distinct from the HEA Fellowship. I highly recommend it.

The keynote (Pressure vessels: the epidemic of poor mental health among academics) was delivered by Dr Liz Morrish. Given the profile of student mental health, it was so interesting to hear from someone championing staff wellbeing. Liz’s journey was absolutely inspiring, especially given her determination to keep voicing issues around the intensification of teaching and research under the pressure of metrics like the TEF and REF, even when she got blow back from her previous institution for doing so. I’d think the issues Liz discusses are essential reading for anyone working in higher education. You can see my notes from this (in mindmap form) below:

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Following the keynote, 21 different papers and workshops were held across three timeslots. This was an almost overwhelming choice, but I was very happy with the three I chose to attend. For fear of this post going on forever, I will avoid a more detailed account.

Day 3
The final day of the conference brought another fascinating keynote from Professor Shân Wareing. Shân spoke on Learning development and student narratives, perfectly tailoring her work to the learning development context. Language is so incredibly powerful, and Shân wove a fascinating keynote around the different narratives about students. This led to an interesting discussion on the nature of student partnership, which you can see reflected in my notes below. Given the technical difficulties from the previous day, I also had the privilege of live steaming this particular session, which you can catch via Twitter.


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Similarly to day two, the keynote was followed by an overwhelming range of sessions which to attend. Once again, I won’t elaborate further for fear of post length. I will however reiterate that I found all interesting and very informative for my practice. I also had the pleasure to present my own work on #DigiResHull – the support of academic and PGR digital literacy via an online SPOC (Small Private Online Course).

The closing plenary of the ALDinHE conference is always an enjoyable opportunity to say goodbye and wish friends old and new safe onward travels. The close is accompanied by a glass of bubbly which is always a lovely way to wrap up the conference. I am absolutely devastated that I missed this because I had to leave early to get the train.

The conference closing plenary is also used to announce the winner of the poster competition. This year, Gemma Stansfield from LSE won with here striking poster on walk and talk one-to-one study support.

In short, ALDinHE Conference 2019 was another inspiring three days of everything learning development. Even if there were a lot of hills to climb…


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Lee Fallin works for the University of Hull as a Library Skills Adviser. He is an ALDinHE Certified Learning Practitioner (CeLP), Microsoft Certified Education (MCE) and Educational Doctorate (EdD) candidate. Lee’s research and scholarly interests include learning spaces, digital learning, accessibility, inclusion and research methodologies. You can find Lee on Twitter as@LeeFallin or on his personal blog.

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