Parallel Sessions 4: 11.00 – 12.00

PAPERS (25 minutes each)

11.00 – 11.25

‘Let’s work together’: Exploring students’ perception of their roles as Student Ambassadors and/or Course Representatives, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
Karen Lipsedge, Alison Kelly, Hilda Mulrooney
Kingston University

As a widening participation HEI, with over 50% of our students identifying as BAME, Kingston University places the voices, experiences and opinions of our students at the heart of the design and delivery of our course and outreach programmes. Student ambassadors and course representatives are central to this work. They also provide staff (academic, professional and support) with a conduit between current and new students and the university. Becoming involved actively within the university through taking on volunteer and paid roles such as course representatives or student ambassadors, also enhances students’ sense of belonging. As research underscores, a sense of belonging within higher education impacts upon student integration and participation (Thomas, 2012), improving engagement and retention (Strayhorn, 2012; Hausman, 2009; Freeman et al, 2007). This paper explores how the perception, experiences, expectations and sense of belonging of student ambassadors and course representatives has changed as a result of Covid-19. Much of the focus to date by HEIs has been on the impact of the pandemic on the teaching and learning experience of students and staff. What has been missed, however, is the impact Covid-19 has had on students’ volunteer and paid extracurricular roles, both in terms of their day to day operation and on the students’ perception as they begin working online and face to face. To ensure that HEIs continue to work together with their students, this paper draws upon quantitative and qualitative data collected using questionnaires and interviews from 97 Kingston University students (68 course representatives and 29 student ambassadors) to explore their changing roles in the wake of Covid-19. The global pandemic has impacted on all our lives in many different ways. In recognition of the central role students play the success of HEIs , our paper considers the impact it will have on our concept of student engagement and belonging at HEIs now and in the future.


  • Freeman T, Anderman L, & Jensen J (2007) ‘Sense of Belonging in College Freshmen at the Classroom and Campus Levels’. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75, pp203-220.
  • Hausmann LR, Ye F, Schofield JW, Woods RL. (2009) ‘Sense of belonging and persistence in white and African American first-year students’. Research in Higher Education, 50, pp.649–669.
  • Freeman T, Anderman L, & Jensen J (2007) ‘Sense of Belonging in College Freshmen at the Classroom and Campus Levels’. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75, pp203-220.

Students’ perceptions of blended learning
Alicja Syska, Christie Pritchard
University of Plymouth

This new academic year 2020-2021 has seen significant changes in how learning is delivered and received, and how students develop their sense of belonging, both within their programme and as a university community. The session will report on a research study designed to understand students’ perceptions of and attitudes to this change, including their learning experience and sense of belonging. While we believe that blended learning affords unprecedented opportunities to enhance student experience by making learning more accessible, more varied, and more inclusive – and these aspects are perceived largely positively by students, it also presents the challenge of fostering students’ sense of belonging. This is true of both the online setting and socially distant face-to-face instruction. There is a danger of increased student isolation (McNay, 1994) due to the perceived and/or real barriers to connecting with peers, opportunities to form casual friendships, and simply being in the close presence of others (hooks, 1994), especially in the case of first-year students. The need to monitor and support students’ efforts to develop a sense of belonging has been demonstrated in research, which further suggests that failure to foster belonging has direct impact on student satisfaction, performance and retention (Tinto, 2003; Thomas, 2012). Approaching this study as learning developers, uniquely placed to recognise and explore students’ concerns about their experience, we hoped to generate authentic responses from participants. We will thus share what we learned from the students and how these lessons might inform our approaches to blended delivery in the future. 


  • Hooks, B. (1994) Teaching to Transgress. Routledge. 
  • McNay, I. (1994) ‘The future student experience’, in Haselgrove, S. (ed.), The student experience. Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education/ Open University Press, pp.169-179. 
  • Thomas, L. (2012) ‘Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change: final report from the What Works?’ Student Retention & Success programme. Available at: (Accessed: 24 August 2020). 
  • Tinto, V. (2003) ‘Learning better together: The impact of learning communities on student success’. Higher Education monograph series, 1(8), pp.1-8.

11.35 – 12.00

Having the freedom to challenge:
Decolonising the curriculum through academic skills

Rhian Wyn-Williams
Liverpool John Moores University

The Academic Achievement Team at LJMU has designed and are delivering a decolonised academic skills curriculum. Freed from the confines of subject content and disciplinary canons, as learning developers situated in the centralised and positive learning space of the library, we are able to introduce students to concepts and voices they may otherwise not encounter and are therefore ideally placed to respond to calls to decolonise the curriculum. Our aim is to go beyond visible diversification in our representation of students and scholars to avoid the tokenism that may perpetuate a deficit approach to the cultures, lived experiences and literacies of marginalised groups. Indeed, we explicitly make the canonical dominance of White, middle-class maleness in academia visible and encourage an exploration of reasons for its existence, along with its broader social and cultural significance. Underpinned by a critical pedagogy, we use resources related to structural racism and inequalities of class, gender and sexuality, encouraging students to bring their own lived experiences into the classroom. We believe this fosters a sense of belonging and validation whilst simultaneously challenging assumptions and preconceptions. This can involve, for example, evaluating articles on what ‘promoting British Values’ means and whether LGBT History Month is required, or critical thinking activities based around unconscious bias and the causes and effects of colonisation. This paper will explain the curriculum’s design, exemplified with lesson plans and resources, and report on its emerging impact on the student body.

Modelling groupwork digitally through roleplay and active learning
Helena Beeson, Richard Byles
University of Northampton

Modelling groupwork digitally through roleplay and active learning Developing the skill of groupwork is key for employment and is pedagogically effective, according to JISC (2015). Johnson and Johnson propose that students should experience groupwork in order to understand accountability and learn the required professional skills (2013). However, this is not always the case as such good practice is not shared consistently. A recent funded project was undertaken at the University of Northampton, utilising the skills of a Learning Development tutor and a Learning Technologist. One resulting activity required small student groups to work together to deliberate scenarios informed by previous student cohort observations around their groupwork experiences. The activity brought members together to devise solutions, subsequently developing them through role-play and cameras to create interactive videos. We enabled students to model skills needed for successful groupwork outside of assessment by engaging in predecessors’ lived observations. The focus was to present videos as if they were challenging future cohorts, thus removing emphasis from their own inhibitions and enhancing digital skills Given the shift to online learning through 2020 we have revisited this activity to create an alternative workshop to provide a somewhat different, remote groupwork experience. In this session we will discuss our approach to adapting this to online and students’ experiences. We will provide a practical example to maximise engagement and inspire debate.


  • JISC (2015a) ‘Assessing groupwork’, Transforming Assessment and Feedback with Technology. Available from: (Accessed 18th January 2020) 
  • Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2013). ‘The impact of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning environments on achievement’, pp. 372-374, in J. Hattie & E. Anderman (Eds.), International handbook of student achievement. New York: Routledge.

WORKSHOPS (60 minutes)

Step up to Masters: Supporting the academic skills transition for taught postgraduate students
Jiani Liu and Dan Pullinger
University of Leeds

The Skills@Library service at the University of Leeds conducted large-scale surveys and focus group research on the academic skills support needs and expectations of Masters students in academic years 2016/17 and 2017/18, with a view to developing our provision accordingly through the creation of high-quality, adaptable content and support. This research led to the creation of a new online resource for 2019/20, Step Up to Masters, which is designed to meet the diverse needs of this audience. As well as focusing on key topics highlighted by the research, the resource encourages students to reflect on their individual development priorities and to select the most relevant support options for their successful transition to PGT study. Step Up to Masters features staff and student voices, presented in the University of Leeds context, and is designed to complement departments’ own induction and transition programmes. Students also have the opportunity to explore key strategies for Masters study in more detail through an accompanying suite of face-to-face workshops on academic confidence; managing reading; academic voice; and intercultural group work. This workshop will explore our research findings, introduce the new online resource and workshops, and outline our initial evaluation results. Participants will be asked to: discuss the challenges their students face in making the transition to PGT study; share their own experiences of supporting successful transition; reflect on their own experiences of supporting Masters students’ academic skills development; and explore some of the Step Up to Masters workshop activities.

Session plan 

  • Ice breaker and introduction: participants discuss and share in groups about the academic expectations at PGT level, and the challenges their PGT students face in transition (10 minutes)
  • A brief review of literature on PGT transition and academic experience, followed by an overview of our research findings (15 minutes) 
  • Discussion: participants share their own experience of supporting PGT transition (10 minutes) 
  • A brief introduction to the Step Up to Masters resource and workshops (5 minutes) 
  • Activity: participants, working in groups, will be given a chance to explore some of the activities in the Step Up to Masters workshops and discuss how they could be adapted and repurposed (10 minutes, includes feedback and discussion time) 
  • Our initial evaluation results and future plan for the Step Up to Masters programme (10 minutes)

The organic workshop
Kate Swinton
University of Northampton

As Learning Developers, going into teaching sessions can be problematic, we do not always know the make up of the rooms, the students abilities. We are going off information provided by the tutor, while this is useful, it does not always give us a clear idea of the needs of the students. With ‘organic’ teaching, a topic/ skill has been identified by their tutor and then the session is adapted to the needs of the students in the room during the session. The workshop becomes student led and tailored, for example if academic writing a statement is given, students then post their initials reactions in a sentence. These are posted anonymously to the in-class screens, the structure of the sentences then leads organically to the next part, the learning developer takes these as prompts. Parallel to this there are post it notes on each table so students can ask any question about any skill, these are collected throughout the session and fed in to the teaching. Organic sessions help address the issue of Learning Developers being brought into teach skill C when actually A ad B need to be taught first or for the more advanced students they can moved onto D,E.

Session plan:

  • 5 min Introduction of how the sessions came about 
  • 10 min Introduction of ‘organic’ workshops with examples 
  • 35 min An organic workshop for participants 
  • 10 min How did it go, How can adapt it for individuals

Advocacy and growing pains: Constructing a Learning Development toolkit
Pamela Thomas and Nazmin Khanom
London South Bank University

At LSBU, our Educational Framework (EF) for undergraduate courses is a set of key principles for curriculum design and the student experience. The distinct characteristics of the university’s EF approach encompasses: Employability, Embedding Learning Development (ELD), Pedagogy, Inclusivity and Assessment. One key foci for our team of Learning Developers is embedding learning development into course curricula for all students to scaffold their learning (Vygotsky, 1978) Contextualised and timely learning is a key part of the students learning experience and works well with the Writing in the Discipline approach ( and the Academic Literacy Model (Lea and Street, 1998). ELD is a key priority for the Centre for Research Informed Teaching (CRIT) and over the last four years we have been able to evidence our impact across the seven schools in the university. Our pilot project concluded that when academic staff collaborate on students learning it enhances their pedagogic practices and the engagement of the student learners (Wingate, Andon and Cogo 2011). As a result of our successes, we now want to scale up are embedded support which has led to the construction of our own learning development toolkit (Coffin, Curry, Goodman, Hewings and Lillis, 2006 and Hill and Tinker 2013). This workshop will share our experiences of scaling up our institutional wide advocacy for embedding learning development with practical strategies and experience of building and implementing a research informed toolkit. We welcome the feedback for future enhancement and development.

Session plan:

  • Introduction and scene-setting 
  • The value of professional conversation, and the barriers to it; recognition of the push/pull factors (invitation to delegates to share own experiences) [10 minutes]