#Take5 # 37: The Best Way to Embed Learning Development?

Creating powerful learning spaces and real learning across a suite of first year Computing modules

This #Take5 blogpost is brought to you by Tom Burns and Sandra Sinfield – reflecting on a project that embedded creative learning development practice in an ‘Higher Education Orientation’ module offered to students across a suite of first year Computing, Design and Animation courses.

‘MySpace’ – not

In university, students, especially those from non-advantaged backgrounds, can become rendered silent and passive or alienated and disaffected by the very spaces in which we teach and expect them to learn. Students can experience ‘our’ spaces, the lecture theatre and computing lab, the library and classroom, as disempowering, as not belonging to them. This is exacerbated when our curriculum spaces make little room especially for our non-traditional students. This is especially problematic when even those ‘study skills’ spaces that are supposed to facilitate the transition into the academy of widening participation students is not made enabling or welcoming. This is an issue that we wanted to resolve – especially in one particular partnership when we worked together with Computing colleagues to re-imagine a Higher Education Orientation module that ran for three different groups of computing students – programmers, designers and animators. We wanted to re-cast and reinvigorate the HEO to create more welcoming learning spaces for students overall.

It’s learning development Jim…

In particular we wanted to debunk the idea that an HEO was a module designed to ‘fix’ ‘deficit’ students. Instead the module leader – Alan Hudson – worked with us to reimagine the whole curriculum from scratch. Together we formed a Project- or Problem Based Learning module where the students were provoked, intrigued and challenged to learn – and in academic spaces that they could occupy differently: more creatively and more powerfully[1].

Rather than route marching students through a ‘skills’ programme designed to bring them ‘up to speed’, we launched the students on their university quest – setting creative projects to pique their curiosity and challenge them to learn something that they wanted to learn – in spaces that they could make their own – and only reaching out for successful study and learning strategies if and when they became appropriate and useful.

What’s your object?

The project that drove the student learning was linked to ‘A history of the world in a 100 objects’. Each student had to research an object and build an interpretative representation of that object in their virtual building spaces. They would then go on to make a presentation on their object and its importance to the rest of the class – and the final assessment point was a report on the design and evaluation of their particular representation.

To facilitate active student learning and engagement, we worked with the students in a range of different spaces. We took the students to the British Museum to research their topics; we engaged in interactive workshops in real life (IRL) – offering notemaking, reading and writing strategies through dynamic play rather than didactic instruction; and in SecondLife (SL), the 3D virtual world that we were using, learning happened not in realist, mimetic representations of classrooms or lecture theatres. Rather we created a student ‘building zone’ in SL so that students could actively create and build their representations – and inhabit their own learning spaces and their own learning in more powerful ways; finally, we built a seashore complete with beach and susurrating sea, as the reflective learning space.

Pic: Our Galleon on the SL beach – with the deckchairs

Students reflected on their learning IRL via brief writing patches, classroom conversations – and via formal presentations. Reading was facilitated by collaborative working on textscrolls and the writing was scaffolded by free writing activities. Students as their avatar selves also reflected in SL ‘sitting’ in deckchairs around campfires, solving gnomic puzzle cubes and investigating the mysterious galleon that we shipwrecked when we wanted to deliver them additional thought-provoking ‘supplies’.

Our space

And it was amazing to see how the students occupied and made, especially the virtual, learning spaces their own. On entering SL, even if they had never used that space before, they entered with more confidence and panache than they tended to enter the real life classrooms. Rather than be intimidated or to suffer in embarrassed silence, we observed students asking for help and saw the more experienced ‘gamers’ help the ‘newbies’ build their avatars and construct their objects.

The avatars themselves were also revelatory. The common misconception is that the anonymity of social media spaces encourages deception, or the hyping of an idealised self. However, we saw students inhabit this space differently: not building ‘perfect’ representations of themselves but making ‘flawed self’ avatars – or something more playful: a Klingon, a female sea captain, a bumblebee.

Pics: Sandra Avatar (okay – I went for an idealised self!) – and the student Klingon avatar

We observed (judged against previous ‘skills’ modules) that the creative project stimulated real student engagement and that the positive self-representations and activities in SL spilled over into RL such that their playful learning, their presentations and eventually their academic writing were all undertaken with more confidence and style.

In conclusion

In SL and IRL, we worked to represent study and learning as active, fluid, engaging and, together with the students, created participative knowledge-landscapes in the real and virtual worlds in which we operated.

We saw that the alternative spaces were indeed inhabited alternatively, playfully and powerfully by these first year students. They collaborated, they explored, they built. They claimed, occupied and transformed their own learning places; making their own marks on the educational ‘landscape’.

Pic: our student on the poopdeck of the representation she made of HMS Beagle (note – it’s floating in space)

This collaboration created praxis a virtual world away from students being plugged in to a remedial package to ‘fix’ their supposed ‘deficits’ or a curriculum approach where assessments test whether set learning outcomes have been met and nothing more ineffable is offered or created. Here the social construction of meaning and of knowledge was played out through real and virtual student bodies, in enabling spaces and via participative, collective endeavour.

We feel that this mode of collaboratively embedding emancipatory Learning Development within, through and across a whole module and in very creative ways offers a very different model of ‘embedding’ LD within the curriculum. This way of working with such creative and generous discipline colleagues helped us also to reaffirm the power of creativity as emancipatory practice and led to our development of a much more creative and ludic approach to LD work – with staff and students.


Tom Burns and Sandra Sinfield work in the Centre for Professional and Educational Development within London Metropolitan University and have co-authored textbooks focussed on successful study and learning practices: Teaching, Learning and Study Skills: a guide for tutors and Essential Study Skills: the complete guide to success at university – for Sage publications (who were the people who insisted on having ‘study skills’ in the titles). They collaborated on this project with Alan Hudson who has since moved on to produce SL theatre productions and wrote the paper associated with this project with Debbie Holley who used to work at LondonMet, but who is now a Professor specialising in Technology Enhanced Learning at Bournemouth University. All of them are involved with ALDinHE.

[1] Viz. Sinfield et al ‘The shipwrecked shore and other metaphors…’, Investigations in university teaching and learning Vol 8.


#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 #35: The Best Way to differentiate?

Happy new academic year!

#Take5 is back and ready to go. This year our hope is to bring you at least one post a month – and to kick us off we have a great post from Jennie Dettmer, one of the organisers of an inspirational event that took place between ALDinHE and SIGMA – the maths people! 

ALDinHE and SIGMA in An Event of Four Firsts

This #Take5 post is brought to you from Jennie Dettmer, one of the organisers of the joint ALDinHE and sigma Network regional event on ‘Current Issues in Differentiating Learning Development’ at the University of Bedfordshire on Monday 22nd July 2019.

Jennie Dettmer

First Joint Event

This was the first joint event between ALDinHE and sigma Network. sigma Network supports maths professionals across the country, similar to how ALDinHE supports Learning Developers nationally.

The presentations outlined differentiation issues across the different subjects and highlighted the good practice that can be shared between all Learning Developers.

Topics covered included:
Student-centered workbooks covering Maths and IT skills for science
Differentiation in stats workshops for international students
Implementing an open science policy for stats support
An integrated approach to differentiation of academic skills
Meeting increased expectations…
Differentiation for diverse groups…
Supporting students in Foundation Year writing modules.


Questions for the presenters naturally led to a group discussion after the morning and afternoon presentations with the event facilitating networking between members of the two organisations.

Delegates in room

Shared tips: Accessible Presentations & Google Slides

Accessibility checklists for PowerPoint were sent out prior to the event, which ensured that all the presentations delivered at the event were accessible.

Powerpoint checklist

On the day, one of our presenters, Theresa Elise Wege, piloted the use of Google slides which creates automatic closed captions during a presentation.

Theresa presenting

Reaching Out Online: watch the session videos

This is the first time that a free regional event has recorded the presentations and made them accessible to ALDinHE and sigma Network members. This enables those who were unable to attend to access the presentations and we hope that this will encourage other organisers to do the same.

By enabling access to recordings, we hope to broaden the reach of good practice from the regional event. The recordings are available at http://bit.ly/symposiumrecordings and are hosted on YouTube so that the accessibility functions of close captions and scripts are available to viewers where needed.


For the first time, a regional event had twitter hashtag. This provided another marketing avenue and delegates were able to interact with the event online.

Twitter interactions


Jennie works at the University of Bedfordshire as a Learning Developer Tutor, with an interest in TEL and accessibility. Within ALDinHE, she is a member of the LearnHigher working group and the Conference Working Group. She is also the joint Secretary and Vice Chair of the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) East England group. Follow her on Twitter: @JennieDettmer

Jennie is happy to talk to anyone who wants to include any of the practices outlined above in future regional events.

#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.

#Take5 #33 The best way to write an ALDinHE recognition scheme application?

Recognition scheme Writing Retreat

 This #Take5 post is brought to you from Steve Briggs and Katherine Koulle who co-manage the administration and development of the ALDinHE recognition scheme – and who ran the Writing Retreat on 8th May 2019.

A need for recognition

Recently, Steve Briggs, ALDinHE and Professional Development working Group co-chair,  explained the background to the ALDinHE recognition scheme in a previous #Take5 blog – https://lmutake5.wordpress.com/2019/03/20/take-5-31-the-best-way-of-getting-recognised/

Making time to get recognised

The response to the ALDinHE recognition scheme has been overwhelmingly positive: in the first two years over 50 recognitons were awarded. Nonetheless, a common reason that Learning Developers cited for not completing an application was difficulty in setting aside dedicated time to ‘get the application done’. Moore, Murphy and Murray (2010) indicated how structured writing retreats can provide a dedicated environment for participants to fully engage in a writing task, with support from peers:

“The facility that the retreat provides is to create a non-distracted environment in which participants can ‘stay with’ their writing project for uninterrupted periods of time” (p.23)

“Writers’ retreats focus on encouraging participants to engage actively in the target activity, not just to talk about it, to think about it or to plan to do it (though these processes may be important too)” (p.24).

It was decided that piloting a one-day recognition scheme writing retreat would provide a great way of supporting those Learning Developers who were finding it hard to make the time to apply.

The retreat

The retreat was held at the UCL Institute of Education on the 8th May 2019. Delegates were able to attend either in person or remotely via Blackboard Collaborate. Eight Learning Developers attended in person and eight attended remotely.

Pic 1: Remote attendance

Attendees represented multiple universities including: UCL Institute of Education, Birkbeck University of London, University of Bedfordshire, St Mary’s University, London Met University, University of East London, King’s College London, Queen Margaret University Edinburgh, and Glasgow Caledonian University.

Structure of the day

We started the retreat by listing our writing goals. Most attendees hoped to get their application completed on the day. While a couple planned to use the day to provide a starting point to scope their application and identify any evidence gaps.

Pic 2: The whiteboard of dreams

This was followed by two 90-minute writing blocks, with a break in between.

Pic 3: Space to write: the dispersed room

After a break for lunch we revisited our writing goals and reviewed progress.

Pic 4: The friendly critical gaze: reflecting on our writing

We then completed two more writing blocks and closed the day with a feedback and evaluation discussion.

Feedback from attendees – in person:

 “Great to have time to get the application started”

 “It was such a great resource for completing the application, I really don’t think I would have otherwise! Brilliant to get immediate feedback too”

 “Today’s writing retreat not only helped clarify the process of applying for CeP but was also extremly useful in terms of thinking about my own continuous professional development for the next year or so”

 “It’s been very useful to have the time and support given for the application. The conditions were very good and conducive for writing”

“Thanks so much for the opportunity to write in a nice, different setting than my office at work or home where other tasks are always screaming to me”

A great day to get things done and be productive”.

 Remote – but not distant:

Feedback from those attending at a distance was equally positive:

“Thanks for a great day – very reflective”

 “I have really enjoyed making this time and space to write with you all – and it has worked.”

 And the Facilitators enjoyed their day as well:

“I have not run a writing retreat before but found it to be a really great experience. Everyone who attended was really engaged and it was fantastic to see so much progress made in recognition scheme applications. My take away insight was having space away from the office really works when it comes to getting writing done”.  

“It was wonderful to have such a great group of both face-to-face and remote participants join us for the very first ALDinHE Recognition Scheme Writing Retreat. We structured the day so that there was dedicated time to spend on writing the applications, but also for reflection and discussion, which was really insightful.”

Looking ahead

It is planned that an application writing retreat will become an annual event held during the three month recognition scheme application window. Future dates will be advertised via the Learning Development in Higher Education Network (LDHEN) Jiscmail list: https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A0=LDHEN

Want to apply?

For more information about the Recognition Scheme please check out our website: http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/development

You can apply if you:

1) Are based at an institution that is an ALDinHE member; or

2) Have an individual ALDinHE membership. ALDinHE membership information is available via: http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/join

DEADLINE: In response to popular demand the deadline for applications this year is 3rd June 2019


Moore, S., Murphy, M. and Murray, R. (2010) Increasing Academic Output and Supporting Equality Of Career Opportunity in Universities: Can Writers’ Retreats Play a Role?, The Journal of Faculty Development, 24(3), pp. 21-30


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

 Katherine Koulle is a Senior Teaching Fellow at the UCL Institute of Education Academic Writing Centre. She co-manages the ALDinHE recognition scheme and is a member of the ALDinHE Steering and Professional Development Working Groups.


#Take5 #32 The Best way to have a conference?

ALDinHE Conference 2019: Critical perspectives of learning development practice – and hills

This #Take5 blogpost is brought to you from Lee Fallin – the phantom tweeter of #aldcon 2019 – you know, the one who produced all those beautiful, illustrated visual notes…

The 2019 Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) Annual Conference was hosted by the University of Exeter. This was my sixth ALDinHE conference, and my first time in the lovely city of Exeter. This blog post will provide my reflections on the conference and a summary of the keynotes by Dr Liz Morrish (Tuesday) and Professor Shân Wareing (Wednesday).

Day 1
The first day of the conference offers the opportunity to attend workshops led by the ALDinHE Steering Group. The workshops usually include sessions that support:
• Writing for the associations journal,
• Research and development grants
• Using/writing for Learn Higher
• Professional recognition

These are all core services and/or membership benefits offered by ALDinHE as part of individual or institutional membership, and it is always nice to see these given valuable space in the conference programme.

I attended the session on research funding and the scholarship of learning development. It was absolutely fascinating with Dr Maria Kukhareva & Dr Carina Buckley leading a discussion on the nature of learning development scholarship. I reflected on this further in a separate blog post, from which I came to the conclusion that there is something different and unique about learning development scholarship in relation to broader higher education research, I just can’t define it.

This narrative was continued in Dr Helen Webster’s session on facilitating learning development group sessions, asking what the distinctive element of learning development group teaching.


Day 2
The second day of the conference was the most substantial, being a full-day programme followed by the conference dinner (and quiz) in the evening. The day started off with the regular welcome, but also the awarding of the professional recognition (CeP/CeLP) certificates. I am proud to say I was able to collect my CeLP award after engaging with the professional recognition scheme following last year’s conference. If you’ve not applied yourself, I recommend you check out Steve Brigg’s previous Take5 post. I found CeLP a highly rewarding process – and very distinct from the HEA Fellowship. I highly recommend it.

The keynote (Pressure vessels: the epidemic of poor mental health among academics) was delivered by Dr Liz Morrish. Given the profile of student mental health, it was so interesting to hear from someone championing staff wellbeing. Liz’s journey was absolutely inspiring, especially given her determination to keep voicing issues around the intensification of teaching and research under the pressure of metrics like the TEF and REF, even when she got blow back from her previous institution for doing so. I’d think the issues Liz discusses are essential reading for anyone working in higher education. You can see my notes from this (in mindmap form) below:


Following the keynote, 21 different papers and workshops were held across three timeslots. This was an almost overwhelming choice, but I was very happy with the three I chose to attend. For fear of this post going on forever, I will avoid a more detailed account.

Day 3
The final day of the conference brought another fascinating keynote from Professor Shân Wareing. Shân spoke on Learning development and student narratives, perfectly tailoring her work to the learning development context. Language is so incredibly powerful, and Shân wove a fascinating keynote around the different narratives about students. This led to an interesting discussion on the nature of student partnership, which you can see reflected in my notes below. Given the technical difficulties from the previous day, I also had the privilege of live steaming this particular session, which you can catch via Twitter.



Similarly to day two, the keynote was followed by an overwhelming range of sessions which to attend. Once again, I won’t elaborate further for fear of post length. I will however reiterate that I found all interesting and very informative for my practice. I also had the pleasure to present my own work on #DigiResHull – the support of academic and PGR digital literacy via an online SPOC (Small Private Online Course).

The closing plenary of the ALDinHE conference is always an enjoyable opportunity to say goodbye and wish friends old and new safe onward travels. The close is accompanied by a glass of bubbly which is always a lovely way to wrap up the conference. I am absolutely devastated that I missed this because I had to leave early to get the train.

The conference closing plenary is also used to announce the winner of the poster competition. This year, Gemma Stansfield from LSE won with here striking poster on walk and talk one-to-one study support.

In short, ALDinHE Conference 2019 was another inspiring three days of everything learning development. Even if there were a lot of hills to climb…



Lee Fallin works for the University of Hull as a Library Skills Adviser. He is an ALDinHE Certified Learning Practitioner (CeLP), Microsoft Certified Education (MCE) and Educational Doctorate (EdD) candidate. Lee’s research and scholarly interests include learning spaces, digital learning, accessibility, inclusion and research methodologies. You can find Lee on Twitter as@LeeFallin or on his personal blog.

#Take 5 #31 The best way of getting recognised?

The ALDinHE Recognition scheme

This #Take5 post is brought to you from Dr Steve Briggs a Co-Chair of ALDinHE  and a driving force behind the design and development of this key Learning Development recognition scheme. 


The need for recognition

The Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) represents individuals working as Learning Development Practitioners in the UK. ALDinHE offers opportunities to share best practices and ideas, and to provide CPD and professional development opportunities for members.

The field of Learning Development has grown significantly in the last fifteen years and most universities in the UK now have a Learning Development provision. How Learning Development is institutionally operationalised varies quite a bit in terms of structure (for instance, could be based in the library, student support, teaching and learning directorate) and team size/remit. Nonetheless, Learning Development Practitioners share a commitment to working directly with students to help them make sense of university and develop the academic skills (such as writing, study skills and maths) required to be successful. This is commonly through extracurricular activities (such as drop-in or appointments) and/or working with course teams to build academic skills development opportunities into students’ programmes of study.

Given the growing number of HE professionals who identify with working in a Learning Development capacity it is unsurprising that there has been a growing community call for more recognition of the professional expertise and skills required to effectively work as a Learning Development Practitioner.

Getting Professional – Getting Recognised

At the 2018 Learning Development Conference in Leicester, ALDinHE launched a new recognition scheme for Learning Development practitioners. This is designed to promote ‘Learning Development’ as a profession in its own right and protect the Learning Development practitioner title per se. Successful applicants receive formal recognition of their specialist knowledge and practice. This demonstrates expertise to both current and prospective employers. This might also be useful when applying for a HEA fellowship.

An ALDinHE Learning Development Practitioner recognition scheme was first proposed at the 2017 Learning Development conference during a ‘Community Keynote’ delivered by the association Co-Chairs (Carina Buckley and me). During this session, delegates worked in groups to define characteristics associated with a practitioner becoming a certified Learning Developer. This session revealed a strong community consensus that although practitioners can have quite diverse roles, they will share Learning Development values.

Community keynote feedback led to ALDinHE (2018)[1] defining five values that should guide the work of Learning Development practitioners:

  1. Working alongside students to make sense of and get the most out of HE learning
  2. Making HE inclusive through emancipatory practice, partnership working and collaboration
  3. Adopting and sharing effective Learning Development practice with (and external to) our own institutions
  4. Critical self-reflection, on-going learning and a commitment to professional development
  5. Commitment to a scholarly approach and research related to Learning Development.

The recognition scheme requires practitioners to demonstrate commitment to these values and is graduated across two levels:

  • Certified Practitioner (CeP) aimed at individuals demonstrating LD excellence within their institution
  • Certified Leading Practitioner (CeLP) aimed at individuals demonstrating LD excellence beyond their institution    

And it’s working

During the 2018 application window (March – June) we received applications from practitioners based at thirty-one universities in England, Scotland and Ireland. To date, 35 CeP and 17 CeLP have been awarded. 

Successful applicants are:

  • Given a certificate in recognition of their LD expertise.
  • Listed on the ALDinHE website – publically recognising their expertise.
  • Encouraged to add their ALDinHE status in their email signature.

Feedback from applicants

 “ As Learning Developers we all understand the need for reflection and, no doubt, do execute it in some way on a regular basis. However, reflecting for the purpose of achieving a level of certification that makes a statement to others in and outside of the profession is, I find, a far more rigorous and revelatory process. It has been both encouraging, illuminating and inspiring to undertake and I trust that it serves to help establish Learning Development as an integral part of the education system”.

 “Completing CeP allowed time to critically reflect on my learning journey as a learning developer and demonstrating my commitment to the ALDinHE professional values”.

 “The CeP application process afforded an extremely useful framework within which to critically reflect on my professional experience as a basis for further developing and extending the range of my teaching, educational support and professional experience. It was an enriching experience for me and I feel privileged to have been awarded the CeP status”.

How to apply

You apply if you: 1) Are based at an institution that is an ALDinHE member; or 2) Have an individual ALDinHE membership. ALDinHE membership information is available via: http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/join

The recognition scheme is open for applications between the 1st March and 30th June 2019. For more information contact please check out our website: http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/development


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

[1] ALDinHE (2018) About. Available at: http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/about (Accessed: 4th February 2019).