#Take5 #44 The best way to run our Journal?

Reflections of a journal editor.


The Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education (JLDHE) is  ALDinHE’s flagship publication – and as we near the end of the brilliant LD@3 which has replaced #aldcon this year we wanted to bring you news of JLDHE and the way it is changing.

This blog post is brought to you by Alicja Syska, the Co-Lead Editor at the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, based at the University of Plymouth. After taking over the Journal and overseeing the revamping of its online platform, she wanted to share her reflections on the journey with the Learning Development community, which responded in the most welcoming manner to the new shape and mission of JLDHE.

The fanfare

‘That’s why I emailed. Things like that [revising the whole JLDHE online format] take forever and the outcome is just a short email to tell everyone when really you deserve a fanfare!’

… one colleague wrote to me in response to our recent announcement that we launched a new website for the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Another added, ‘the site is now bookmarked and I’m eager to be more research informed’. These and other kind words from fellow Learning Developers were both balsam for my soul and strong affirmation that what we do matters a great deal.

Pic: New look JLDHE

When we produce something for the world, we make ourselves vulnerable. It is our baby, our creation, and now it’s out there for the taking: both a gift to the world and a creative open wound that bleeds with criticism and heals with love and appreciation.

The baby

Even in journal years though, we’re not a baby anymore. In fact, John Hilsdon, who had been the father figure of JLDHE since 2008, decided last year that it was ready to stand on its own feet and set sail into new waters. I was elated and a bit stunned to be chosen his successor, mostly because English is not my first language and because – beyond my absolute passion for editing and my dedication to rigorous standards – I felt that I was still not experienced enough as an editor. Crippling doubts nagged at me, who was I to do it?

Pic: John Hilsdon, JLDHE founder and Alicja

The joke

There is an old and much loved Polish joke (which I will modify here slightly) about a Stormtrooper, a Musketeer, a Polish resistance fighter, and the devil riding in a hot air balloon. The balloon is falling and the devil wants everyone to jump to save himself, so he says to the Stormtrooper, ‘You must jump – it’s an order’, and the Stormtrooper jumps. Then the devil turns to the Musketeer and after commanding him doesn’t work, he pleads, ‘You will look very glamorous on the way down, and life is meaningless anyway’, and the Musketeer jumps. Finally, the devil approaches the Pole and nothing works to convince him, so he exclaims in resignation, ‘You! You will never jump!’, and so the Pole jumps. The moment this seemingly impossible opportunity opened to me, I knew I would do it (or die trying!).

The teacher

A long learning curve awaited but John was a generous teacher. We worked closely together throughout 2019 and by the end of the year, I had a clear idea of where I wanted the Journal to go and how to optimise its service for the Learning Development community. Building on my experience with John, I chose to retain the collaborative nature of journal management, and was delighted when Gita Sedghi offered her time and enthusiasm to join me; we are currently co-leading JLDHE.

The team

The Journal’s exquisite editorial board has been the strength of JLDHE since its inception. We are currently a small team that includes Christina Howell-Richardson, Gita Sedghi, Craig Morley, Cathy Malone and Eleanor Loughlin, with Andy Hagyard serving as our technical support (and without whom our new website would have probably taken at least another decade to materialise) and Christie Pritchard as our link with ALDinHE. The range of expertise among our editors is truly humbling and their ability to serve as the first responders to our authors, and to do so in a supportive, constructive, and professional way, constantly impresses me. They always seem to find the perfect balance between ensuring high quality of the submissions and being careful not to discourage new perspectives and bold ideas in the field of Learning Development.

The future

We have now left behind a full decade of publishing quality papers – around 250 pieces written by nearly 500 authors and guided by a couple dozen editors and scores of reviewers – and began a new decade of innovations and bold initiatives. This year, we have expanded the range of submissions we accept, established a Conference Special Issue as an annual tradition, and initiated a new support system for our peer review process. We appreciate the hard work our reviewers put into ensuring rigorous publications and endeavour to give back by developing training resources and mentoring opportunities that will strengthen existing relationships and nurture a new generation of reviewers in Learning Development. The first of these initiatives was our webinar as part of LD@3 chats, but we will be introducing more in the summer.

The rewards

Leading a journal might be a considerable pressure on one’s time and resources, but it also offers innumerable rewards, such as witnessing the development of new ideas in the field and intoxicating designs in emerging research. It involves closely watching critical reflections on pedagogic approaches and formulation of recommendations for best practice to LD colleagues and beyond. It means participating in dissemination of ideas that push our state of knowledge and understanding about how students learn just a little bit further. I cannot imagine a more exciting intersection of thinking, reading, practising, and promoting what we do in Learning Development.

Your turn

Being ALDinHE’s flagship publication and seeing ourselves as an essential part of the LD community, we strive to draw on its expertise to energise and empower new and established writers developing research in Learning Development. Thus, we encourage you to respond to our calls for reviewers that we periodically post to relevant JISCmail lists (LDHEN, SEDA, EATAW) so you can offer your professional opinion on colleagues’ work and help us support emerging talent. You might also be interested in joining our editorial board at some point. Say ‘yes’ to our invitations to publish with us too – we will all benefit from your expert knowledge. We are closely following the sessions run by LD@3 and looking forward to the presenters submitting their articles for JLDHE’s Special Issue on the 2020 ALDinHE Conference, to be released in Autumn/Winter 2020. We have a steady presence on Twitter too, all designed to keep the conversations around publishing in Learning Development dynamic, strong, and current.

I hope you see the Journal the way I see it: as a lively, dynamic and welcoming space to disseminate your sweat and tears, also known as writing.


Alicja currently leads the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Not content with being contained in one identity, she is a Polish-British hybrid academic – part Learning Developer part Lecturer in History, both at the University of Plymouth. Despite short professional stints with engineering and pharmaceutical companies, she has never really left HE, always returning to working with students as her main professional driver. She is a Fellow of Advance HE and a Certified Leading Practitioner in Learning Development, a firm believer in the one-minute rule and a self-proclaimed deadline junkie – she credits both for her productivity.

Pic: A little bit of Plymouth University

#Take5 # 43 The best way to game-ify Learning Development?

This blog post is brought to you by Craig Morley, a Learning Developer at the University of Manchester Library, whose Source Top Trumps resource won the LearnHigher prize draw at the ALDinHE 2019 Annual Conference – and which we are really happy to celebrate during this alternative version of the ALDinHE Conference: LD@3!

We open with a brief overview of LearnHigher, indicating how you might offer your own resources for consideration.

That LearnHigher experience

Learn Higher supports learning developers by promoting and facilitating the development and dissemination of high quality, peer-reviewed resources for learning development. To further support our successful resource authors we invite those with high ratings to provide a paper on their resource. One of these is then chosen by the working group to be submitted as the LearnHigher entry for inclusion in the ALDinHE newsletter and Take5 blog.


Dr Craig Morley’s Top Trumps resource is designed to introduce students to a variety of ‘information sources’ – from which to access information, learn and complete their assignments – and to begin to think critically about these sources. It was approved by the LearnHigher panel for acceptance onto the site as we felt that adding some gamification to learning development sessions was a very positive step that would engage students in their learning in a fun and active manner.

You can do it too

The Learn Higher site offers a vast range of free learning development (LD) resources submitted by LDrs for use by LDrs. Having a resource accepted to Learn Higher not only engages you in the LD community but can also be used towards gaining your CEP/CELP accreditation (http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/development/). Submitting a resource is easy, just click on the ‘Submit Resource’ tab on the Learn Higher webpage (http://www.learnhigher.ac.uk/submit-resource/) and follow the guidance.

(The LearnHigher Working Group)

Craig’s ‘Source Top Trumps’

Craig is a Learning Developer at the University of Manchester. He has worked in higher education for over nine years in a variety of positions, teaching both history and learning development across three institutions. Craig is an editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, Chair of the North West Academic Libraries (NoWAL) Academic Skills Community of Practice and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Craig can be contacted at craig.morley@manchester.ac.uk

Why and how I decided to develop this particular resource

I decided to develop this resource as a way to make introducing the basics of information literacy (and the potential value of utilising a range of different sources of information) to new students more fun – for both students and myself!

As learning developers and librarians, introducing students to the different types of sources they will encounter throughout their studies is at the heart of our early interactions with new students. Early requests from academics to embed library inductions or referencing support into the curriculum tend to include a focus on what sources students should be consulting in their disciplines. For me, this makes these sessions doubly important. Firstly, it is our chance to make a good first, and lasting, impression on students. The better job we do, the more likely students are to see us as a genuine and credible source of expert support throughout their time at university. Secondly, the better students understand the sources they can use, the better their prospects in assignments.

From my own experience, it is easy for this to become didactic, with interaction limited to little more than asking students to draw up lists of pros and cons of each type of source. I know this is not the case for everyone and I have seen some really great examples of activities that can be used to introduce sources – LearnHigher, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, and the ALDinHE annual conference are all fantastic spaces to find new ideas. But, I always found delivering these sessions quite challenging!

Gaming the system

So, during the summer I spent a lot of time wracking my brain about how I could improve my approach to introducing sources. Sessions had already been requested and booked in for September and October, so I had to think fast! Luckily, I had been reading a lot about playful learning and gamification around the same time, which sparked my imagination and brought back some childhood memories! Top Trumps, with their rankings and battles, seemed perfectly suited to get students thinking about which sources were most appropriate and academically credible for their own research. Battling journal articles, book chapters and newspapers may not be as exciting as battling Star Wars characters or football players – but, hey-ho, I decided to give it a go (rhyme intended!).


First on the to-do list was to create the Top Trump cards themselves. I used Canva for this. I am not a creative person in the slightest – drawing stick-people is the height of my artistic talents! Luckily, Canva makes putting all sorts of designs together relatively easy. Once I had a template, it was straight-forward enough to make different cards for different sources. The ‘basic’ deck of Source Top Trumps can be seen below. I also created an ‘information pack’ for each card, which had background information on the strengths and weaknesses of the sources. Students used these packs to decide how to rate the different sources.

Resource usefulness

My own suggested steps for how to use the Top Trumps can be found on the resource page in LearnHigher. Although, *spoiler alert*, that is not the only way they can/have been used (more on that later…).

I have used the Source Top Trumps with first year Nursing, Midwifery and English Literature students, adapting the deck slightly for each group. I believe using the Top Trumps made these sessions much more effective and enjoyable than ones I had led in the previous year. They completely changed the focus of the session from teacher-centred to student-centred. Rather than being told by an ‘outsider’ what sources they should be using in their own disciplinary research, students used the Top Trumps to identify which sources they should prioritise themselves. My own role was changed from directly leading the students to the ‘correct’ answers to facilitating students to find their own answers. My hope was that by playing a game to discover the pros and cons of different sources and battling sources against each other, the students would be more likely to search out and use the ‘better’ sources in their own research and work going forward.

One of my worries was that while I had been able to use Top Trumps for small-groups, would they work with larger groups? Luckily, my colleague, Francesca Robinson at UCLan, found a way to answer this (Thanks, Fran!). Fran used Google Forms to let students enter joint, agreed-upon scores for each source type. An example of the Google Form she used can be seen here. I think this shows how adaptable the Top Trumps can be with a little imagination – they can be used with small and large groups both online and offline.


Tips for running the activity

A few tips I’d share from using the resource!

  • Confidence – like with any playful learning it’s important to ‘sell’ the activity to get students involved.
  • Relaxed – it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself and the activity itself as part of the fun: don’t take things too seriously!
  • Know the rules – any good ‘dungeon master’ needs to be on hand to solve any disputes or questions. Things can get competitive!

Impact and Feedback

I haven’t done any detailed evaluation of the long-term usefulness of the resource yet. However, from informal feedback I received from students and lecturers, students seemed to enjoy using the Top Trumps and found the activity useful in preparing for upcoming assignments. The Top Trumps were also received well by colleagues who had a go at playing the game at an ALDinHE regional symposium on Innovative Approaches to Learning Development at the University of Salford in July.

Enjoyed learning about the card games. Will definitely be looking at
using Top Trumps or a version of it in my sessions.”

“Excellent-will be using Top Trumps and Faculty Fortunes sometime

As with most elements of playful learning, some students found the Top Trumps activity childish. Although it is interesting that this view came more from English Literature students, rather than the Nursing and Midwifery groups, which had more mature students.

Your Turn!

If you’re interested in using or adapting the Source Top Trumps please do let me know how it goes and what you changed!


Craig is a Learning Developer at the University of Manchester. He has worked in higher education for over nine years in a variety of history and learning development positions across three institutions. Craig is an editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education (http://journal.aldinhe.ac.uk/index.php/jldhe/issue/view/29), Chair of the North West Academic Libraries (NoWAL) Academic Skills Community of Practice and Fellow of the HEA.

#Take5 #42 The best way for Learning Development to tackle #Covid19?

So what’s the problem?

“I have had to contain the anxiety not only of students but lecturers who are new to this way of working.” LondonMet Academic Mentor

The coronavirus (#COVID-19) global pandemic has presented many challenges for Learning Developers. This #Take5 blogpost is brought to you by Lee Fallin from the University of Hull and Sandra Sinfield from London Metropolitan University and ALDinHE and focuses on the challenges for University staff and students of moving learning online and some of the issues it raises for us as learning developers. Reflecting on our experience so far, we’d like to think we present some solutions to these issues, and we conclude with our suggestions for staying connected as a Community of Practice. We hope you enjoy the read and are keeping yourselves safe.

Learning Development in a time of crisis

The majority of this blog post reflects on the experiences of the Skills Team at the University of Hull and our move to an all-online service due to COVID-19. The Skills Team has a wide remit running appointments, workshops, self-help, integrated module teaching and Peer Assisted Student Sessions. We cover learning, writing, information literacy, digital literacy, digital skills and research skills for students and academic/research staff.

As a Team, we were fortunate to have access to Adobe Connect, a webinar tool that we have been using for a couple of years to facilitate most of our workshop programme. We also have a couple of team members who have design and coding experience, allowing them to edit the website and our booking technology to reframe the service at pace. This allowed us to move from a face to face service to an online one in the space of a day. We are also lucky to be a part of the University Library, and so have access to a wide range of resources in our directorate, including LibApps which has made much of this possible.

The Skills Team have maintained our service through a mixture of video recordings, webinars, phone calls, emails and live chats. Where it has been pedagogically appropriate, we have offered Adobe Connect sessions at the same time as a previously scheduled activity. This has included the substantial re-writing of content to facilitate new online interactivity. All such sessions are recorded to be shared with anyone who may not have been able to attend due to care obligations, homeschooling or other responsibilities. Where live sessions have not been appropriate, we have created new YouTube videos and shared these with students with instructions for self-paced learning. This is supported by our new Remote learning SkillsGuide (but more on that later!).

We’ve also tried some new things along the way. We’ve joined the wider staff from the University Library on their livechat function, allowing students to connect with one of us for text-based chat (powered by LibAnswers). We’ve also supported the ramping up of the University Library’s social media presence, now allowing students to directly message us on Twitter and Facebook. These are triaged by Library staff in LibAnswers and passed onto us if it is learning development or skills related.

As a result, we have not cancelled any service or session without providing an appropriate alternative on the same timeline. This has been a tough time in many ways, and a steep learning curve, so we are sharing here some of the highlights of what we have learned so far in terms of moving learning development online.

The problems of online learning development sessions

Communication technologies like Skype, Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect and Microsoft Teams can help us connect with students and maintain services. While this is a great way to mimic the interactivity of face to face sessions, they don’t work for everyone. Learning developers have a difficult time ahead, balancing service continuity alongside service accessibility.

There are many learning developers in ALDinHE who work exclusively in an online context. Such learning developers also work with students who chose to study online from the start of their studies. The global pandemic has thrown both learning developers and students into a situation they may have purposefully avoided. Not all students will have access to the hardware or internet connection required to take part. Their technical skills may have ill-prepared them for this kind of study – or they may just genuinely be uncomfortable with this type of communication. Some learning developers will have reservations about technology too!

For some students, this leaves email or telephone support as a fallback, and it is incredibly challenging to facilitate a learning development session by these means. A telephone call takes away useful visual cues and can make looking at student work with them challenging. While they can share work beforehand, they lose some control over it in doing so. It is also difficult to tell if they are benefitting from the session.

An email appointment falls too close to ‘marking’ or assessing student work. This may break one of the most important of the ALDinHE professional values, ‘working alongside students’. The second we are perceived to be assessing student work, we place ourselves as the powerful, knowledgeable practitioner, dictating changes to the student. This is not to say email support is inappropriate. We just need to be careful about how we facilitate this. Given the pandemic, some will question if we should blur those boundaries – just to help students get through this. This is definitely something that individuals need to reflect upon.

Helpful guidance for online learning development

This is based on our experience of launching all of our services online, including some of the initial learning along the way:

  1. If using webinars, provide detailed instructions on how to use any required technology. Where possible, provide students with a test link or room.
  2. When arranging appointments, always give students an opportunity to dictate how they want to communicate. Some will want to speak through audio/video, some will wish to text chat, some will want to listen to you and type back.
  3. For live sessions, try to give students an alternative. Where they cannot use web-based synchronous technology, consider offering email or telephone support. Recordings and videos can also help.
  4. Experiment with different times of day if you are having connectivity issues. We’ve tried to avoid teaching before 10 am as early-morning meetings seem to slow down everyone’s connection to the internet and webinar service.
  5. Ask students! The only way we can know what they want is through dialogue. This is a very new experience to many, so try to give students the opportunity to give feedback on services.
  6. You can say no. Sometimes a live session is not pedagogically appropriate. We created a whole new suite of self-paced online learning to replace our on-campus sessions based on software. As students need to be able to follow along, it is not possible to facilitate via webinar.
  7. Think of the circumstances. In the context of a global pandemic, we may need to change the rules of engagement to ensure access to learning development. For example, in this context, is an email appointment okay?
  8. Be very wary of free tools. If you are not paying for them, you may be putting the data and privacy of you and your students at risk. Speak to your University legal teams and ensure any services you use are fully GDPR compliant.

Example from the Skills Team webpages

Booking an online appointment

Providing the option for telephone and email appointments

Self-help and guides

For many learning developers, enabling ‘self-help’ is a crucial way to support large numbers of students. For this reason, most institutions offer study guides on their website or institutional VLE. Unlike appointments and workshops, such guidelines are available 24/7 and to all students at the same time.

While guides do not offer the dialogue of student-learning developer activity, they are at least a fall-back and do promote student independence. However, because of the sudden move to remote learning due to the pandemic, many of these guides may have a gap. What do students need to know about remote learning?

Filling the gap – Remote learning SkillsGuide, a repurposable resource

#COVID-19 is probably already causing numerous anxieties and issues for our students. The sudden move to remote learning will create many more – for students and staff. While some aspects of learning will not change under the new near-lockdown regime instigated because of the global pandemic, others will.

Learning and socialisation are nearly inseparable. With months of social distancing and perhaps near-lockdown ahead, students will need support with what this means for their learning and wellbeing. Students will also need to adapt to the introduction of webinar and video. There is a real risk they will fall into the trap of treating online learning like they would YouTube videos or TV. Just like a lecture; videos and webinars still require notes, reflection and internalisation. The biggest issue, however, may be technology, with some students having chosen their programmes to avoid it. While universities are doing the right thing and working hard to help students continue their studies, the barrier technology may play needs to be acknowledged. At a minimum, guidance on how to connect and collaborate online is needed.

To help address some of the above issues, the Skills Team at the University of Hull has produced a new guide on ‘remote learning’. The Remote learning SkillsGuide is designed to help support students adapting to the new reality of studying wherever they may be because of the global pandemic.

As this guide has been contextualised to Hull and our available technology, we have licenced this specific SkillsGuide with the CC-BY-NC-SA licence to allow other institutions to take what we have developed and adapt it to their context. The terms of the licence can be found here on the Creative Commons website. We hope this helps. We will continue to develop this guide and would welcome suggestions or contributions from others. If you have anything to add, get in touch with @LeeFallin.

Terminology is important, especially as we consider the new paradigms of remote learning. We struggled with the name for this SkillsGuide – but resisted reference to learning at home, off-campus or learning online. As many students are geographically ‘stuck’, we did not want a reference to ‘home’, especially as we are supporting students who are still on-campus. While the primary way we are communicating is online, we also did not want to suggest the whole paradigm of learning has shifted online also. Old techniques work fine for study too.

The guide can be accessed here: https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/remote

And Finally… Stay Connected!!

We want to conclude this #Take5 with a plea to take the time to stay connected. The Universities of Hull and LondonMet have both been incredibly supportive which has helped us all to find our feet, but really – this is when the hard bit of making lockdown work really starts. In the Hull Skills Team, we have a daily video call at 9:30 am to share a coffee and our plan for the day. It is a great opportunity to see how everyone is doing and if there are any pressures in their day. At LondonMet we have a distributed system of Academic Mentors embedded in Schools, and are working out how to use Microsoft Teams to stay connected. This doesn’t just mean work-related issues, but to discuss and plan around the different caring responsibilities members of the teams have now found themselves with. It is so important to be honest with your colleagues and managers in this difficult situation. Your wellbeing is important – and you should reach out if you are struggling.

We realise not everyone has these opportunities. If you are in a team of one, there are lots of ways to keep engaged with the wider learning development community. It is important to find time for this. You will not be alone in reading and hearing about all the many and wonderful things that you could be doing right now with all this free time on your hands… and thinking: ”Time?! What free time? Oh dear lord, I’m busier than ever…”

We know that you are all busy – more than busy – but this is important, too. Stay connected with this, your community.

Additional resources and information

“LD@3” – daily live-streamed webinar series replacing the ALDinHE and LILAC Conferences. These started Monday, 30th March at three pm – and run till mid-May. Each one is designed to last for an hour. The complete programme is available here: Events. There is a diverse range of topics, from supporting group work to helping students with reflective writing.

#creativeHE’s invitation to explore and celebrate creative self-expression – between April and May – as a contribution to World Creativity and Innovation Week and the Age of Creativity & Get Creative Festivals: https://www.facebook.com/groups/creativeHE/ The discussion will be curated in the next issue of Creative Academic Magazine.

#Take5 blogpostTake 5 (with cached resources) and https://lmutake5.wordpress.com/ (direct link). As always, we ask that if you have a blog post of your own lurking inside you, please get in contact and we can help you get it out!

#studychat Study Chat – Home – frequently updated education magazine.

#LTHEChat blog: https://lthechat.com/ – and a reminder that the weekly Wednesday night chats in Twitter – between 20.00-21.00 – are always a good place to feel connected. Even if you have never joined in before – why not try them now? Recent cached resources for learning and teaching are here: Quick link to Resources – there’s also an invitation to stay connected – not least using the hashtag #virtualcoffee | – and their Easter Egg: LTHEchat Easter-Egg – which flags up free films, concerts, museum tours, concerts, arts and crafts and books. Easter is coming – take a break!

Virtual Writing Group. Once LD@3 finishes, mid-May, we plan to run regular virtual writing groups for LDers and Academic Mentors to create a supportive space to help us all to write. The idea is to create these spaces in our institutional Collaborate online learning space, running for an hour and a half, once a fortnight – so that we can come together and produce words. (If you would like to join in, just do – but you are welcome to let us know. If you feel there would be benefit in a preparatory session on writing for publication, please let us know.)

Homeschooling – for those working from home with children: Unschooling Your Kids During Coronavirus Quarantine – and once we’ve practiced ‘un-schooling’ at home – who knows what that might do to our approach to Learning Development?

Coronavirus and your wellbeing | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems. For many people, working from home is new and may be challenging. If you’re anxious about coronavirus or self-isolating, this guide has helpful advice to help support your mental wellbeing.

Hybrid Pedagogy – if in need of a compassionate voice in these frightening times: An Open Letter On the Future of Hybrid Pedagogy

AND – finally – be kind to yourself, because things will never be the same again: Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure


Lee Fallin is an Academic and Library Specialist working at the Brynmor Jones Library, University of Hull. He provides learning, writing, information/digital literacy, research and statistics support to students and staff across the University. This includes appointments, workshops, online help and integrated teaching.

Sandra Sinfield is a member of ALDinHE and works in the Centre for Professional and Educational Development at LondonMet. She provides support for academic and professional service staff across the university, including through the delivery of the formal PGCert/MA in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and the #studychat FaceBook group: Study Chat – Home

#Take5 #41 The best way to lay the foundations of success?

This #Take5 post is brought to you by Helen Hewertson … who works at a large post 92 UK University. She is the main person responsible for the day-to-day running of the foundation programme in Humanities and Social Science and is module leader for and teaches on all the core modules. There is a cohort of between 40-100 students per core module which cover topics like study skills, critical thinking, research methods and digital literacy. 

20190926_100930 (1)Helen’s student’s drawing

Start here

“The foundation entry degree was probably the best thing I did. After being out of education for so long (15 years) this entry point gave me an opportunity to gain invaluable experience in creating university level pieces of work, practise my presentation skills and make lifelong friends.” Student 1

Foundation entry is an additional year to prepare students before they start the first year of their full degree. Foundation entry has a wide variety of students from different backgrounds. My university has a high proportion of widening participation students. A lot of the students are unfamiliar with the demands of university and how it is different to what they’ve done before. So the foundation year is pivotal in getting them used to the way university works and what is expected of them. We develop students with a scaffolded approach with more support in semester one and more independent learning and group work in semester two. In my practice, I’m heavily influenced by an academic literacies approach and by work from Paulo Freire, Pierre Bourdieu, Lisa Delpit, and Kimberle Crenshaw among others. 

This Blog looks at strategies for inclusion and transition for widening participation students starting university through a foundation entry programme.  

What makes a really good student anyway?

The aim for these students is to give them the tools and confidence to succeed at university. We might discuss what makes a really successful, learner/student, and students draw what they think. They start with a typical student, and then a really successful student.

Helen’s student’s drawing

We also utilize the teaching styles that they are likely to come into contact with. I generally use lectures for giving students relevant information and theory that will then be discussed in the seminars and put to practical use.  

The second lecture for the study skills module is on academic reading, where we discuss different conceptions of reading. We then look at relevant journal articles and have discussions about academic reading and referencing in subsequent seminars.  It is important that students feel engaged and included. I use my research informed teaching background to find relevant journal articles I can use with the students that gets them used to how academic writing works. An example of this is the Building a Scholar in Writing model by Bailey et al. (2015). The students find the metaphor used in this model very useful when checking what they need to cover for an essay.

Research-informed Teaching

The figure below on curriculum design and the research-teaching nexus, by Healey et al. (2007) has been pivotal in developing my modules. The study skills module, is focused around the research-tutored, research-oriented and research-led sections. Whilst other modules can utilise all four aspects of the model. This helps the students feel engaged and practically apply any knowledge they are taught.

RIT model Healey et al

Figure 1 Curriculum design and the research-teaching nexus (Healey et al 2007)

Tensions and Tools

It is important when teaching to consider inclusion and the appropriate use of learning technologies for engagement as we can no longer just stand at the front talking at students (which of course LDers don’t do!) when you have an increasingly diverse cohort. More active learning has been shown to be beneficial for all students (Theobald et al., 2020). 

One of the tensions is in my delivery in lectures. I have to be very careful to make sure that I don’t move around too much and talk too fast, especially if there is a BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter for deaf students as it takes longer to sign something than to speak it. 

Videos are useful learning tools as it helps break up the lecture and supports student engagement. (Sherer & Shea 2011). I make sure that if I am using videos they are subtitled, however, there is a lack of relevant resources with subtitles. TED talks are useful and come with subtitles in many languages. This is useful for international students, as helps to remove the language barrier. 

All these videos and slides are on the VLE a few days before the lecture. This and other adjustments enables inclusive pedagogy, extending what is generally available to everybody regardless of background or need (Florian and Black-Hawkins 2010).

Reflection- what am I doing here? 

Getting students to reflect on their learning is an important step in their learning journey. “Critical reflection requires us to ponder our practices, processes, and identities. It also requires us to look beyond our own circumstances to the external factors, policies, and people that might influence the choices we make and the actions we take.” (Sutherland 2013 p.111) This is important, as with research and group work there can be many external factors that influence us, not to mention our personal lives. It is about acknowledging the successes, but also the challenges we face and developing strategies that work that can help us in the future.  

For one module they are expected to submit a reflective diary about the learning journey and experiences of group work and research. We discuss models of reflection in class in semester 2 (see also https://lmutake5.wordpress.com/2020/01/30/take5-39-the-best-way-to-surf-the-reflective-wave/) and do an activity around identifying reflection in sample pieces of writing. The insights the students develop about their own learning practices and skills shows how useful this process of reflection is because many would have not come to this realisation if not for the reflective assignment. 

In my school we are required to give two assessments per module. I try to set assessment for learning not just of learning.  Sadler (1998) talks about the importance of formative assessment. I use this to set an essay plan in HUC110 which catches most issues before the final assessment. After getting formative feedback on the essay plan,  we look at examples of past essays and then mark them using the marking criteria. 

With the essay I require a self-evaluation based on Rust (2002). This new module structure I developed allows them better insight into how academic work is structured and marked, as well as promoting self-reflection on their work. This is useful to promote metalearning and develop employability skills. Module evaluations show these practices work for most students.   

What the students said

“I told so many people that I’m glad I did a foundation year before starting my degree. It just easier way to make that bridge between A levels and degree!” S4

Students tend to be very unconfident when they start university especially in foundation year. So one of the main successes of foundation entry is being able to build student confidence, so they are familiar with ways of being and belonging at university. They develop a support network, and know where to get help when needed. It gives students insight into academic skills development and how to navigate the university environment for students who come from widening participation backgrounds. We have a good retention and completion rate, and our students are more likely to get a degree than the national average.

I recently did a survey of previous foundation students, to see if doing the foundation entry year has helped them in their degree. Some student feedback is detailed below:

“I currently present the psychology departments student experience talks, along with other foundation entry students. We sing its praises throughout our talks. In my opinion this shouldn’t be an option if you don’t get the grades you require or you haven’t been in education for a while but should be integrated into the standard degree. The skills we learnt within the foundation year have set us up perfectly for university life and we all feel like we had an advantage compared to the other first year entry students.”  Student 1

“The Foundation course was the first step which prepared me for the degree course. It not only provided me the academic support, but moral and psychological support as well. When I started the course, I was not confident enough, but the foundation course was the founding step which helped me to grow.  After finishing the foundation year, I have completed the Year 1 and 2 successfully, and now I am in the final year.  Thanks to all the academic staff of foundation year for helping me out to move forward.“ Student 2

“Foundation year really prepared me for my first year. It gave me more confidence to approach staff members for any issues I had. The greatest help was in preparing me for my essays. I do believe I would have had much lower grades if I would not have taken the foundation course.” Student 3 

“We did have some really interesting lectures which really fired my enthusiasm for learning.  In addition to the subject based ones, I also thought study skills and, was the other one called developing academic knowledge were very useful. They helped refine the skills needed to produce work of the required standards. It was really great to have the opportunity to have a taster year of academic life before it was all full on! I can honestly say that the foundation is a great way to increase skills and confidence.” Student 5

Your Turn

My advice would be that if you are considering how to make your lessons more inclusive, then think about the diverse cohort and what strategies you can put in place to make sessions more active and participatory. Are there any barriers to inclusion in the setting? Have you thought about inclusion for not just disabled students, but those from diverse backgrounds who might have had no experience of higher education before, and no idea of what to expect? My big tip would be to have a look at the theorists I mentioned and think through how reflection and research-informed teaching can make a difference to designing your modules or courses. Good luck!


Helen Hewertson is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and has taught at various levels and to learners with various abilities and ages. She is currently teaching on the Foundation programme in the School of Humanities, Language and Global Studies, and is module leader for several modules. Helen is also the Chair of the Pedagogic Research Forum and is passionate about educational research and inclusive teaching.


Bailey, A., Zanchetta, M., Velasco, D., Pon, G. and Hassan, A. (2015) ‘Building a scholar in writing (BSW): A model for developing students’ critical writing skills.’ Nurse Education in Practice, 15(6) p. 524–529.

Campo, Negro and Núñez (2013) Use and Abuse of Audiovisual Media in the College Classroom. Slides Show and Web Pages Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 93 p.190-194 

Freire, P. (1992) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin Edition

Florian, L. and Black-Hawkins, K. (2011), Exploring inclusive pedagogy. British Educational Research Journal, 37, p.813–828. doi:10.1080/01411926.2010.501096

Jenkins, A. Healey, M. and Zetter, R. (2007) Linking teaching and research in departments and disciplines York: The Higher Education Academy   Available from http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/teachingandresearch/LinkingTeachingAndResearch_April07.pdf Accessed on 03/10/08

Rust, C. (2002) Purposes and principles of assessment. LEARNING AND TEACHING BRIEFING PAPERS SERIES Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development. Accessed on 23/3/2017 available at https://www.brookes.ac.uk/services/ocsld/resources/briefing_papers/p_p_assessment.pdf 

Sadler, D. R. (1989) Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems, Instructional Science, 18, p.119–144. 

Sherer, P., & Shea, T. (2011). Using online video to support student learning and engagement. College Teaching, 59, p.56-59

Sutherland, K.A. (2013), “The importance of critical reflection in and on academic development”, International Journal for Academic Development, Vol. 18, No. 2, p. 111–113. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2013.802074 

Theobald, E. J., Hill, M. J., Tran, E., Agrawal, S., Arroyo, E. N., Behling, S., Chambwe, N., Cintrón, D. L., Cooper, J. D., Dunster, G., Grummer, J. A., Hennessey, K., Hsiao, J., Iranon, N., Jones, L., Jordt, H., Keller, M., Lacey, M. E., Littlefield, C. E., Lowe, A., Newman, S., Okolo, V., Olroyd, S., Peecook, B. R., Pickett, S. B., Slager, D. L., Caviedes-Solis, I. W., Stanchak, K. E., Sundaravardan, V., Valdebenito, C., Williams, C. R., Zinsli, K. and Freeman, S. (2020) ‘Active learning narrows achievement gaps for underrepresented students in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math.’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March, p. 201916903.


#Take5 #40: ALDinHE: The Best Way of Ensuring Sustainability for the Future

The first ALDinHE symposium took place at London Metropolitan University in 2003 – and an Association was born. That Association has been growing, developing, flourishing. This #Take5 blogpost has been written by Steve Briggs, Co-Chair of ALDinHE, to bring Learning Developers up to date with all the latest developments. Have a read. Leave a Comment. Get involved.




Growing and Flourishing

The last five years have been an exciting time for ALDinHE (Association for Learning Development in Higher Education). There have been some brilliant developments and expansions to our membership offer. For example, we have introduced a recognition scheme, regional events, research bids and a new website. We have had fantastic feedback from the learning development community in relation to these new developments and institutional membership of ALDinHE has reached at an all-time high (currently 95 ALDinHE members).

Whilst we welcomed this growth, it became apparent that the steering group was not best set up to manage our growing service offer. Therefore, over the last nine months the ALDinHE Steering Group has looked at how we could restructure steering group duties to ensure better distribution of responsibilities and, through doing so, safeguard the long-term sustainability of the association.

On the 13th February 2020, ALDinHE held an online extra-ordinary general meeting where members voted unanimously to approve the Steering Group’s restructure proposal.

What has changed? 

Historically, the ALDinHE steering group comprised four named positions (two Co-Chairs / Secretary / Treasurer) which formed the ALDinHE Executive. There were also twelve Steering Group Members (who chaired working groups / led projects). Steering group recruitment was through self-nomination and operated on a 12-month cycle.

Looking forward, ALDinHE will organise itself around three themes, which map against the association’s strategic priorities. A member of the ALDinHE executive will lead or co-lead each strategic theme. Each theme encompasses operational areas, which reflect operational services provided by the association:

Theme 1: Research Theme 2: Practice Theme 3: Events and external relations
Operational areas: 

  • Journal
  • Research funding
  • Scholarly activity
Operational areas:

  • Training
  • Recognition
  • Learn Higher
  • Peer mentoring
Operational areas: 

  • Conference
  • Regional events
  • Communications
  • Partnerships and collaborations

A member of the steering group will lead each operational area. Typically, a minimum two-year term of service will apply to each role.

There will also be two members of the SG without portfolio (1-year roles to allow new members to become involved in the steering group every year).

Welcome to the new ALDinHE steering group

Existing ALDinHE steering group members have been matched into new steering group positions as follows:

Position  Role holder
ALDinHE Co-Chair (research) Carina Buckley
Journal lead editor Alicja Syska
Research funding lead Maria Kukhareva
Research development lead Christie Pritchard
ALDinHE Co-Chair (practice) Steve Briggs
Professional development lead Helen Webster
Recognition lead Pam Thomas
Learn Higher lead Amanda Pocklington
Peer mentoring lead Sandra Sinfield
ALDinHE Secretary Kate Coulson
ALDinHE Treasurer Carina Buckley
Conference lead Melanie Crisfield
Regional events lead Maddy Mossman / Alistair Morey
Communications lead Jacqui Bartram
Partnerships and collaborations lead Ella Turner
Steering Group Member To be appointed 
Steering Group Member To be appointed

Working groups : Now is your chance to get involved

ALDinHE working groups will now be refreshed and aligned to new operational roles. This provides a fantastic opportunity for more members of the learning development community to get involved. The new working group list:

  • Journal Editorial Committee
  • Research Development Working Group
  • Research Funding Panel
  • Communications Committee
  • Collaborations Team
  • Conference Committee
  • Regional Events Coordinators
  • Training and CPD Working Group
  • Peer mentoring Coordinators
  • Learn Higher Editorial Committee

Opportunities to get involved will be advertised via the LDHEN Jiscmail list over the coming months. Likewise, most of the ALDinHE operational leads will be at the ALDinHE 2020 conference in Northampton and are happy to chat about how you can get involved.

Interested in joining the steering group? 

Calls for self-nominations for steering group vacancies will be posted via the LDHEN Jiscmail list.


Dr Steve Briggs is Head of Professional and Academic Development at the University of Bedfordshire. He has been Co-Chair of ALDinHE for almost four years. Steve is a Chartered Psychologist and a PFHEA.


#Take5 #36 The Best Way to Tell Our Stories?

Stortelling in Learning Development

This #Take5 blog post is brought to you by Anne-Kathrin Reck co-organiser of the recent ALDinHE one-day regional symposium at the University of Portsmouth: ‘Storytelling in Learning Development’ (September 12th 2019). This turned out to be a day filled with fun, informative and participatory sessions, covering presentations, workshops, show & tells and a world café session. The speakers were recruited from the university with subject areas ranging from law to gaming, maths and performing studies. The presenters were learning developers, lecturers, librarians, and a faculty dean!

What’s the story morning glory?
Storytelling is undoubtedly powerful and not only for children. It preserves memories, personal histories, culturally important activities. Stories stay with us, they move us. If you need more convincing, read here: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/06/4-reasons-why-storytelling-is-powerful/.

With this in mind we planned our symposium in search of stories linked to academia, from around the university, looking at it through a LD lens. These are the highlights of that day.

It’s the way I tell them
I can only report on the strand I chaired, but participating in telling a story through body language (‘Acting Out Stories’) was received very well with a lot of laughter – and well acted!

Pic 1 Acting out stories (author’s own)

Equally, being exposed to precious (no food or drinks here!) books and artefacts from the library’s special collection was a real treat. We got our hands on objects that do not see the light very often, some books from the 17th century even. I for one did not know that librarians are inspired to research deeper into the background of their artefacts, linking them to real life stories and write about them.

Pic 2 Objects from the special collection at UoP (library)

After lunch we were all introduced to some spooky history of Portsmyth [sic] (‘Supernatural Storytelling & the Re-reading of Local Space’) associating it to the local landscape.

In the strands that I had to miss, there was some real storytelling going on in legal settings and in maths support.

LD contributions
To round up the day, my colleagues Laura and Rhiannon both offered an excellent show & tell session about the coal face of LD in situ. Rhiannon explained and illustrated the background, logistics and impact of her international reading group. Laura ran a very well received session titled ‘Not Seeing the Wood for Trees: Encouraging Active Reading’ which confirmed what we all know – academic confidence can rest on reading.

All participants were engaged in the final world café session which I facilitated. Here they summarised what they had learned, focusing on how their understanding of the questions had grown during the day – evidenced in these pictures:

Pic 3 The What? Pic 4 The Why? & Pic 5 The How? (all author’s own)

Once upon a time
One of the highlights of the day was the sheer enthusiasm that delegates had for the potential of storytelling to substantially impact on their teaching and academic skills development work and therefore on their students’ learning. In sum, there was something on offer for a wide variety of tastes during our small symposium on storytelling – I can tell you that!

The feedback we received on the symposium was simply brilliant and inspires us to look further. We concluded that this topic certainly ‘has legs’. We are now in the process of setting up a research cluster for storytelling, initially for two of our faculties. Our event showed how multidisciplinary the appeal of the topic is. The next step, after offering this symposium as staff development, is a student focused event on stories and research. It’s already in the pipeline for November. We need to brighten up the dark months of the year with stories.

My personal take-away from the symposium is that I undoubtedly gained/refreshed skills I never thought I’d need. Collaborating with LD colleagues from another faculty went really smoothly and all three of us made contributions on different aspects of logistics and organisation (three heads are better than one) as well as contributing on the day. Rejigging the programme numerous times, changing the actual date for it and recruiting colleagues from several university faculties were just some points we learned during organising an ALDinHE symposium.

Bio: Anne-Kathrin Reck, University of Portsmouth,
is a former university lecturer of German and Russian who ‘discovered’ learning development in mid-career. Over the years she gained extensive experience of working with international students as well as in the area of dyslexia support. She now works in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at Portsmouth in the role of International Academic Skills Tutor. She is a fellow of the HEA.

#Take5 #34 The best way to write? The Hero’s Journey

This #Take5 post is a follow up to all the fruitful discussions recently held on the LDHEN list about the 12-steps of the narrative – and the different ways that they can help us to conceptualise writing – and how we might use that in our work with students.

This very practical and instantly useful blog has been written by Heather Dyer a consultant with the Royal Literary Fund who uses The Hero’s Journey in her writing workshops with dissertation students.

You’re a Hero on a Journey

We’re hardwired to see stories in everything: a relationship, a thesis, a life. Even a recipe has a narrative arc that shows how one thing leads to another. The desired outcome of a story is always discovery and growth – if we understand how and why things happen, we can shape outcomes in the future.

In academic writing workshops, I use the archetypal story structure ‘The Hero’s Journey’ to help participants reflect on – and reshape – their dissertations, research projects, academic career paths and personal challenges.

Hero's Journey

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is a universal story model outlined by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell collected myths from all over the world, identified common elements or stages, and then put them together in a ‘monomyth’. Typically, the hero receives a call to adventure, ventures forth to face challenges and temptations, and ultimately sacrifices something in order to receive the gift of insight, which they bring home to benefit the world.

The hero can of-course be male or female, and the model is flexible rather than prescriptive – but the beauty of the monomyth is that it provides a pattern for the process of growth in any area.

Consider a few of these stages in relation to whatever you’re currently wrestling with:

The Hero’s Journey Your Journey Try This
The call to adventure. Can you remember what motivated you to begin? Why does this quest matter?


Without emotion, we lose our motivation and our ability to make decisions.

To rediscover what drives us, freewrite for five minutes (quickly, in full sentences, without pausing or editing) on what you really love about this subject.
The hero meets helpers and tricksters on the path. How did you get here? What has helped or hindered you? Draw a timeline going as far back as you like, and mark moments that were turning points in your journey (people you met, books, experiences, etc.) You may find events branching off as vertical mind-maps. Looking back, what sort of things worked best for you? What would you like to do more of, in future?
The hero faces the monster in the cave.  

Your biggest obstacle or challenge.


Write down your problem, or question. Now rephrase it in ten different ways. Reframing it can reveal nuances you may not have considered. Are you even asking the right question?


Interrogate a problem by asking, Why? repeatedly, to try and get to the bottom of it. In business, this is known as root cause analysis and is used to identify underlying issues. Five ‘why’s’ are usually required.

Death and rebirth. What’s holding you back? Do you have a mistaken belief or are you clinging onto something you need to let go of in order to proceed down a new route? Freewrite for 5 minutes on what the solution is not.

Freewrite for 5 minutes on what you would like the solution to be.

Does this reveal any biases? Any blocks? Might there be another way?

Return; the hero brings new knowledge back to the world.



What’s the impact of your discovery? How will it change things?




How will you really know when you have achieved your goal or resolved a situation? Sit quietly for a few minutes, and visualize how things will be.

Reflect on the contribution your research is making and ask yourself, Why now? Who is it for? How will it help? What next?

The Story of Your Research

Sketching a rough narrative around your research project can help you get perspective. On the Hero’s Journey story wheel below, complete as many of the sentences as you can. This can be helpful in crafting an abstract – or even provide a structure for an entire thesis. Sentences like, ‘Until now…’ might describe your literature review in a nutshell. ‘So, what I did …’ sums up your methodology. ‘What I realize now…’ would be your contribution, your point of growth.

The Story of Your Research

The Story of Your Research


Heather Dyer is a consultant with the Royal Literary Fund. Her doctorate explores the psychology of creativity, and she facilitates workshops in creative thinking and academic writing. She is also a writing tutor with the University of the Creative Arts and a former RLF writing fellow of Cardiff Metropolitan University, Worcester University and Aberystwyth University.