#Take5 #76 Writing as liberatory practice

This #Take5 is brought to you from @EvilDoctorB herself (Carina Buckley) – and her demonic sidekick @AlicjaSyska – or the other way round… (You can see them below literally inhabiting our LD third space)… We are so happy that after writing their most excellent paper on writing as liberatory practice, they agreed to write this blog for us. And oh what a blog this is fizzing with energy and joy – if this doesn’t get you writing …

Unlock your knowledge and liberate LD

‘And there are so many stories to tell, too many, such an excess of intertwined lives events miracles places rumours, so dense a commingling of the improbable and the mundane!’ (Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children)

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Photo – Carina Buckley and Alicja Syska – by Alicja Syska

An invitation to write

Recently, we published an article for Teaching in Higher Education (Syska & Buckley, 2022), in which we argued that Learning Developers have a duty to write and publish within their area of practice. We put forward the claim that without this shared endeavour, Learning Development can never grow as an academic field, as our collective knowledge remains locked up. Effectively, we aimed it as a provocation to our colleagues to join us. 

We didn’t dream it up alone. In an effort to represent and include the voices of the community, we had invited dialogue through conference presentations, conversations and informal reviews. In this process of collective autoethnography (Adamson and Muller, 2018) we brought together a range of experiences that have shaped us all as writers, and these are also reflected in the tweets we received following publication, some of which are presented below. At the same time, this article is inevitably a telling of our own stories, as these have guided our approach. 

We could talk endlessly about writing, but the main thing that we have discovered is that writing (not talking!) breeds writing. The more you write, the more you will want to write, and the more others will want to join in. By writing, we invite you to write. Writing thus becomes a self-perpetuating mechanism for building the field. 

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Photo – screenshot from Twitter

Liberate yourself! 

There are so many reasons not to write – we’ve heard them all, and used a few ourselves. And this is where the concept of liberation comes in, as we must first of all liberate ourselves from the doubt that we have nothing important to say, and then from the burden of self-justification that can constrain us when writing about our practice. That’s why we developed a framework to acknowledge and overcome obstacles to writing and to help unlock the knowledge we all have in order to build the field. 

Most writers experience various forms of resistance to writing and the key roots of this resistance lie in the inability to answer basic questions about the writing and publishing process, such as why we want to write in the first place, what it is we want to write, who we want to write it for (i.e. where to publish), and how to do it. Each of these questions comes with its own unproductive narratives that need to be addressed so we can become liberated writers and free our minds for the writing process. 

The model below (Figure 1) presents these four key questions in the pyramid, with statements in black boxes representing common obstacles to writing and white boxes offering a more productive reframing of these statements. In the spirit of Learning Development, the model does nothing more than what we practise in our daily LD work: it demystifies the writing process and offers effective writing strategies. The latter are elaborated on in more detail in the article itself. 

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Figure 1: Model for writing as liberatory practice (Syska & Buckley, 2022).

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Photo – screenshots from Twitter

Let’s move on 

What we were hoping to achieve in this article is to shift the existential conversations that tend to preoccupy us in LD, including what LD is and how to delineate its boundaries. Dr Lee Fallin captured it perfectly in his tweets:

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Photo – screenshots from Twitter

Instead, we wanted to concentrate on the values that unite us as a community, the conversations that happen between us, and on broadening out those conversations by inviting other voices to join in through writing. 

And the rewards of writing are bountiful. They involve more than seeing your name in print and professional kudos (although let’s be honest, we all crave these!). They are also about becoming part of the larger effort to build a collective story, about sharing ideas and making connections. Writing gives back through that sense of being in the room where the critical conversations are happening, creating something that didn’t exist before, inspiring others, influencing the development of the field, and knowing that it’s only the first step, and one of many, and it doesn’t have to be the end. 

And it’s a great excuse to celebrate! 

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Photo – screenshots from Twitter


Adamson, J. & T. Muller. 2018. “Joint autoethnography of teacher experience in the academy: exploring methods for collaborative inquiry.” International Journal of Research & Method in Education 41(2): 207-219. https://doi.org/10.1080/1743727X.2017.1279139 

Syska, A. & Buckley, C. (2022). Writing as liberatory practice: unlocking knowledge to locate an academic field. Teaching in Higher Education, https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2022.2114337 


Dr Carina Buckley is the Instructional Design Manager at Solent University. She has a Ph.D. in Archeology of Human Evolution and is a Principal Fellow of Advance HE. She is a Certified Leading Practitioner in Learning Development and currently serves as the Treasurer of ALDinHE. She has published on a range of topics, including innovative pedagogies, blended learning, teaching academic literacies online, and using Lego in LD practice. She is a co-host of the Learning Development Project podcast, which explores the ideas that have shaped LD with the authors who contributed them to the field. Her research revolves around the issues of writing and publishing in LD, professional identity, and leadership. 

Dr Alicja Syska is a hybrid academic at the University of Plymouth, at home in both Learning Development and History. She has a Ph.D. in American Studies, is a Senior Fellow of the Advance HE and a Certified Leading Practitioner in Learning Development. She is on the ALDinHE Steering Group and serves as lead editor for the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Her publications cover a variety of themes, such as representation and identity, research methods, facilitating learning and writing in HE, and podcasting for connection. She is a co-host of the Learning Development Project podcast, which explores the ideas that have shaped LD with the authors who contributed them to the field. She is an active researcher of LD identity and its development through writing and publication.

CODA: The Learning Development Project Podcast – episode 2!

How do you show impact in learning development? And how do you write about your work when you hate writing? Listen to Kate Coulson from the University of Northampton tackling these very issues, in Episode 2 of The Learning Development Project.

If you missed it, you can catch up on Episode 1, with John Hilsdon discussing the origins of Learning Development.

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