Parallel Sessions 2: 13.15 – 14.15

PAPERS (25 minutes each)

13.15 – 13.40

Taking root in the curriculum: A full integration of Learning Development and subject teaching in domestic foundation year programmes at the University of Surrey
Robert Walsha, Sam Hopkins, Rachel Stead, Gerald Dampier, Carol Spencely, Nayiri Keshishi
University of Surrey

At the University of Surrey, we successfully made the case for embedding LD expertise fully into the teaching teams in each of our four new Foundation Year strands, firstly in Engineering/Physics and in Business/Economics (programmes commencing 2018/19) and subsequently in Nursing and in Biosciences/Chemistry (2019/20) and Social Sciences/Psychology (2020/21). Our Teaching Fellows in LD are 7/10ths based in the departments in which they teach, located alongside their teaching team colleagues, and 3/10ths based within our Academic Skills and Development (AS&D) service. Structurally, the posts are part of AS&D, which was argued as important for ensuring institutionally coherent, connected LD. Postholders combine experience as learning developers with knowledge of subject area. We will highlight 3-4 quick case studies from the strands, demonstrating how LD expertise can have a powerful impact on positive curriculum design/change; examples include: supporting adoption of integrated and programmatic approaches to curriculum development, ensuring extensive in-class formative activities, significant team teaching (more so as teaching team members become more confident in understanding and learning from each other’s specialisms), and a wealth of examples of creative and innovative active learning. Creating opportunities for sharing learning and teaching practice has been critical to the project, within and across the strands. Though it is early days in terms of evaluating the model, all indications are that it is successful; nevertheless, there are challenges, which will be highlighted in the presentation. As part of the discussion we will consider what might be taken from this experience for application at other levels of HE.

Breaking the chains of videoconferencing: The possibilities of educational escape rooms
Debbie Holley, Carina Buckley, Kate Coulson
Bournemouth University, Solent University, University of Northampton

The ‘Student digital experience insights survey’ recently released by Jisc summarised the experiences of over 20,000 HE students at a range of 28 institutions, including the surprising finding that only 20% of students gain any ‘real world’ simulation experiences as part of their degree. These tend to be in engineering, design and healthcare, limiting opportunities still further. Game-based learning, or gamification, has become more popular in recent years as a means by which real-life problems and scenarios can be presented to students in a more immersive way, allowing them to explore knowledge, content and techniques through simulation. While this can create motivation and engagement for students (Tang et al, 2009), the research around gamification has more often concentrated on the variety and novelty of technologies involved, rather than the pedagogy of those choices (Clarke et al, 2017), despite creativity, games and roleplay being established educational methods (e.g. the Community of Practice @CreativeHE draws upon these methodologies to inform their research). This presentation introduces the concept of Escape Rooms as a situated, experiential pedagogy that exploits the technology to create an educationally rich, collaborative learning experience that has the potential to provide for all students the ‘real world’ simulations they have been missing. While many delegates will undoubtedly be familiar with Escape Rooms in some form, we focus on them here within the framework of digital creative practices that engage and support students in their learning, and offer a template and resources that can be adapted for local contexts. 


  • JISC. 2020. Student digital experience insights survey. 
  • Clarke, S., Peel, D.J., Arnab, S., Morini, L., Keegan, H. and Wood, O., 2017. escapED: a framework for creating educational escape rooms and Interactive Games For Higher/Further Education. International Journal of Serious Games, 4(3), pp.73-86. 
  • Tang, S., Hanneghan, M., & El Rhalibi, A. 2009. Introduction to Games-Based Learning. In Connolly, T., Stansfield, M., & Boyle, L. (Ed.), Games-Based Learning Advancements for Multi-Sensory Human

13.50 – 14.15

You can take a student to water, but will they drink and prosper? (Is it engaged students that Learning Development support?)
Alison Loddick
University of Northampton

There is evidence that Learning Development tutorials impact student grades (Loddick and Coulson, 2020). However, this is thought to be due to engaged students asking for support. As a result, their grades are better rather than the impact of Learning Development. However, this is an untested hypothesis. This research paper examines this hypothesis, determining whether students who visit Learning Development for 1-to-1 support are more engaged, self-confident, feel they belong or worry about their ability. Furthermore, this paper explores whether accounting for engagement, Learning Development still makes a difference in terms of attainment or whether the link between engagement and attainment cannot be separated. The findings come from a university-wide survey in early 2020, which included 292 undergraduate students at the University of Northampton. The survey examined the prevalence and usage of Learning Development. Additional questions from a study by Yorke (2016) were asked to ascertain students level of academic engagement, self-confidence and belonging. This data was then merged with the students’ academic assessment grades. The results compare those students who used Learning Development tutorials and drop-in with those that had not. Unsurprising engaged students were more likely to seek Learning Development 1-to-1 support. This finding alone brings into discussion planning of future interventions. 


  • Loddick, A. and Coulson, K. (2020) Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education The impact of Learning Development tutorials on student attainment, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Available at: (Accessed: 4 November 2020). 
  • Yorke, M. (2016) ‘The development and initial use of a survey of student “belongingness”, engagement and self-confidence in UK higher education’, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 41(1). doi: 10.1080/02602938.2014.990415.

Let’s camp: Facilitating students’ academic reading practices in a reading camp
Sandra Eyakware
Brunel University London

Let’s camp: facilitating students’ academic reading practices in a reading camp The ability to read and write well, and to think critically are essential academic skills that enable students to be successful in their studies, with writing an area that has been identified as a key area of concern (Hermida, 2009; Ntereke and Ramoroka, 2015). Whilst writing is important, I observed that many issues with students’ writing seem to stem from issues with academic reading. Academic reading is an area of concern for students because they not only seem to find reading challenging and frustrating, but they often lack the confidence and skills in academic reading practices, leaving them to feel anxious (Rhead, 2018). To aid students’ reading practices, I developed a two-hour reading camp adapted from Angela Rhead’s (Keele University) whole-day Academic Reading Retreats, to appeal to students who may find a whole day of reading challenging and to accommodate students who have busy schedules. I used structured reading activities to enable students to simplify their approach to reading, and provided a space where they could reflect on their reading practices (Emmerich and Murphy, 2018; Rhead, 2018). The camp was open to third year undergraduate and postgraduate students working on their dissertations for whom academic reading was a particular concern. This presentation will identify how Learning Developers can adapt the camp for a shorter format that promotes active engagement with academic reading, and which allows students to develop a more effective reading practice.


  • Emmerich, F. and Murphy, A. (2018) ‘Digital Native First Year Law Students and their Reading Skills in a Post Reading World’, Journal of Academic Development and Education, (10), pp. 1-11. doi:
  • Hermida, J. (2009) ‘The Importance of Teaching Academic Reading Skills in First-Year University Courses’, The International Journal of Research and Review, 3, pp. 20-30.
  • Ntereke, B.B. and Ramoroka, T.B. (2015) ‘Effectiveness of Academic Writing Activities and Instruction in an Academic Literacy Writing Course at the University of Botswana’, Journal of Pedagogic Development, 5 (3), Available at: (Accessed: 08 August 2019).
  • Rhead, A. (2018) ‘Academic Reading Retreats: Discovering criticality together’, LDPC Solutions Blog, 21 March. Available at: (Accessed: 08 August 2019).

WORKSHOPS (60 minutes)

From ‘impact’ to ‘value’ – what can the student voice tell us about engagement with and experiences of Learning Development?
Ian Johnson
University of Portsmouth

This session offers space for ALDinHE members to critically discuss the implications of academic staff’s and students’ different articulations of the ‘value’ – ‘contribution or worth’ (Scriven, 1991) – of Learning Development work. It contributes to discourse developed by myself and others (Johnson, 2018; Webster, 2020; Stapleford, 2020) about the niche for learning developers’ professional identities, now and moving forward. Delegates will be given opportunities to share observations on the profession’s changing identity, found previously to be a point of tension (Hilsdon, 2017). This is drawn into ever-sharper focus following the changes to working practices necessitated by the pandemic, which have hastened the pace of change and increased the feeling of Higher Education being in flux. Thereafter, I will share the findings of primary research towards my Professional Doctorate, which elicited institutional and student viewpoints of the value of Learning Development work through questionnaires and interviews. The study probed value by asking, for example, why students and staff do or do not engage with learning developers, what benefit they perceive in return, and what factors tend to help and hinder the process. Not surprisingly, student and staff perceptions showed similarities but also significant differences. These point to the need for a more mutual understanding through which the profession can sustain and improve its recognisability and relevance. Attendees will consider the findings to discuss practical steps that might be taken, by ALDinHE members for example, towards a positive direction of professional development based on listening to all stakeholder groups’ views. 


  • Hilsdon, J. (2017, April 10-12). Problematising Learning Development [Paper presentation]. ALDinHE 2017: The Learning Development Conference. University of Hull. Retrieved 25th May 2018 from: 
  • Johnson, I. (2018). Driving learning development professionalism forward from within. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, 14, 1-29. 
  • Scriven, M. (1991). Evaluation thesaurus. Sage. 
  • Stapleford, K. (2019). The LDHEN Hive Mind: Learning Development in UK Higher Education as a professional culture. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, 16, 1-23. 
  • Webster, H. (2020, May 13). Does Learning Development have a signature pedagogy? [webinar]. LD@3 webinar series, Association for Learning Development in Higher Education. Retrieved 3rd January 2021 from:

Session Plan 

  1. 10 minutes – Whole group task – Scene Setting Ask delegates to share their observations (e.g. through Padlet or Google Docs) about how the events of 2020 have affected learning developers’ professional identities 
  2. 15 minutes including feedback – Breakout Groups – Groups asked to consider what differences there would be between how students and staff see the value of learning development work 
  3. 15 minutes – Present main research findings from qualitative and quantitative data, that draw out the overlap and the difference between how students and staff perceive LD work’s value 
  4. 10 minutes – Action setting. Based on the findings, groups each suggest practical actions that are within LD staff/ALDinHE control that can be taken towards reconciling learning developers’ professional identity tensions.

The pandemic neoliberal university – contemporary realities, crises and likely trajectories of UK Higher Education and Learning Development: continuities and/or divergences? An urgency of critical Learning Development?
Gordon Asher

The session provides an opportunity for participatory dialogues around the impacts of covid within a wider ‘crisis of Higher Education’ (Bacevic, 2017) and the actual and potential roles for Learning Development in responding to our contemporary pandemic conjuncture. As the increasingly neoliberal university suffers the impacts of a covid crisis, this session explores our contemporary realities, responses to them, and the likely trajectories of UK HE and LD. Small group and full room dialogues, with an invitation to share experiences and lived realities, worries and hopes for LD/HE, in these times of crisis, will follow on from a short initial provocation. The initial provocation will outline some of the important issues and problems, continuities and divergences in policy and practice, as HE responds to the covid crisis. It is suggested, that a central aspect of such responses illustrates that, in line with Klein’s (2008) disaster capitalism, both government and university management, are utilising the crisis and the urgent ‘shift online’ as cover and excuse to double down on an acceleration and intensification of an ongoing trajectory – the neoliberalisation of UK HE. Pivotal to the session are the questions: How/why/where/when does Learning Development fit or misfit within our contemporary conjunctures – and possible futures? What might be the roles for critical Learning Development (Hilsdon, 2018) and the conceptions and practices of ‘critical academic literacies’ (Asher, 2014) and ‘critical university studies’ (Morrish, 2018), that view education as a public project committed to eo-social justice (Asher, 2015), in shaping our responses to the pandemic neoliberal university (Hall, 2020)? 


Enhancing public speaking skills using improvisation techniques
Jess Napthine-Hodgkinson, Nicola Grayson
University of Manchester

Anxiety around public speaking is well-documented. At the University of Manchester Library, we have been using improvisation techniques to equip students and staff with innovative ways to build confidence in this area. Our 60 minute workshop will demonstrate activities which use techniques to enhance public speaking skills to give a snapshot into the support we offer as part of our My Research Essentials (MRE) programme. Delegates will have the opportunity to engage with the activities, try out techniques and learn more about how this support has been received. The workshop will give a brief overview of the MRE programme and we will share data to demonstrate the popularity of this session. Delegates will then participate in improvisation activities which support the development of public speaking and informal networking skills. We will define some of the issues around public speaking in order to illustrate how improvisation provides a creative and fun way to address this topic by helping individuals to devise strategies to cope with the stress and anxiety associated with this task. We will give attendees an opportunity to experience the fun-focused, supportive environment we create in our sessions through a series of warmup exercises for public speaking. We will demonstrate an activity which looks at the concept of ‘Yes, and…’. This is a technique that encourages positivity and collaboration by inspiring participants to contribute to and build on each other’s ideas. We will also outline other exercises utilising improvisation skills and provide an opportunity for Q&A.