#Take5 #85 What the Learning Developer Did Next

Reflecting on who we are: the evolution and growth of Manchester Met’s Learner Development team

This #Take5 blog is brought to you by Avril Buchanan, Chad McDonald, and Kate Haley from the Learning Development team at Manchester Metropolitan University following their recent takeover of ALDinHE’s Twitter account

The post can be seen as a follow up to last week’s #Take5 – which explored finding your feet as a new learning developer. This post constitutes a ‘what the learner developer did next’ – providing some musings on MMU’s LDU’s  evolution, how they currently work and why—and as they say: “recognising that we are still learning as we go!”

Who are we?

Like the wider Learning Development profession, the Learner Development team at Manchester Metropolitan University has evolved over time (www.mmu.ac.uk/studyskills). We’ve emerged from a decentralised, faculty-based role, which had a strong pastoral focus, to what we are today.

We are a multi-faceted team with various specialisms, including supporting academic literacies, TEFL, specific learning differences, and maths and statistics. The evolution of our department reflects how our work adapts to ensure we’re meeting the changing needs of the students we support across the entire university.

Screenshots of MMU LDU resources

Image: Screenshots of MMU LDU resources

What do we do?

At its heart, our team seeks to empower all students at the university to excel in their studies. We’re available to the approximately 40,000 students studying here, from foundation year through to doctoral-level study.

We foster an inclusive and fair learning environment that’s sensitive to the diverse student population at the university. In doing so, we offer self-selecting and embedded academic and study skills support. Our self-selecting provision gives students opportunities to engage with us outside of their degree courses, including in one-to-one appointments, workshops, short courses, and through asynchronous feedback on their writing.

The Learner Development team is proud to offer innovative provision that is designed to empower students to excel @ManMetUni But don’t take our word for it: here are some students’ comments about our team’s impact on their studies #ManMetProud #LoveLD #ALDinHESocialMediaTakeover

Ref: ALDinHE. (2023) [Twitter] Monday 6 March. Available at: https://twitter.com/aldinhe_LH/status/1632758040771407873 (Accessed 27 April 2023).

At the same time, we work in collaboration with academic colleagues across the university’s four faculties (Arts and Humanities; Business and Law; Health and Education; and Science and Engineering) to embed academic study skills into degree courses. This work is targeted towards the needs of specific cohorts, and include workshops embedded throughout specific units, diagnostic activities, and writing retreats.

As you can tell, collaboration drives our approach! Our consideration of collaboration extends to our work with students, Professional and Academic colleagues, external schools and colleges, as well as within the team. If you are interested in some of collaborations outside of the standard teaching space, why not have a listen to our “A Critical Thought” podcast, which was launched in 2019. An example of our in-team collaboration that we are particularly proud of is our peer-observation process, which puts collaboration and constructive challenge at the heart of our work.

Borne out of this work, we connect to the university’s key performance indicators supporting foci such as continuation, reducing award gaps, building belonging and confidence. We are active members of our university community and subsequently also lead on project work. You’ll have seen a taster of some of our work in our Twitter takeover, and we will be sharing more in the upcoming months in the LoveLD magazine.

Too excited to wait? Here’s a new piece of work we’ve just completed. 

Tutors at @ManMetUni recently used the collections from the @McrPoetryLib to create and run a study skills workshop using poetry to develop speaking and critical thinking skills. Check out the video below to find out more! #LoveLD #ALDinHESocialMediaTakeover

Ref: ALDinHE. (2023) [Twitter] Wednesday 9 March. Available at: https://twitter.com/aldinhe_LH/status/1633845187238846465 (Accessed 27 April 2023).

Why do we do it?

Like everyone else in the LD community, we are passionate about supporting students and our drive comes from knowing the difference this type of support can make to individuals. Unsurprisingly, this means our aim is to support students to become independent, confident, and active learners, and ultimately active and thoughtful citizens. 

We love chatting about what we do, and learning from others, so if you would like to chat offline, please reach out to us . . . our details are below.


Avril Buchanan is Head of Academic and Study Skills at Manchester Metropolitan University. Email: a.buchanan@mmu.ac.uk 

Chad McDonald is a Senior Academic and Study Skills Tutor at Manchester Metropolitan University, having previously taught academic skills at the Universities of Bristol and Chester. I have also worked as an Outreach Tutor at the Universities of Bristol and Southampton. In May 2021, I joined the LearnHigher Working Group. Email: c.mcdonald@mmu.ac.uk 

Kate Haley is a Senior Academic and Study Skills Tutor at Manchester Metropolitan University. Email: k.haley@mmu.ac.uk

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