Sharing insights: KIITE contributes to national learning development conference

Several staff members from the Keele Institute for Innovation and Teaching Excellence (KIITE) have recently presented their work on learning development at the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) annual conference.

The three-day conference took place at the University of Exeter from 15-17th April, with themes including:

  • The theory and practice of Learning Development
  • Leadership and management in Learning Development
  • Critical and innovative Learning Development practices

Dr Chris Little, Teaching Fellow and Learning Developer within KIITE presented two papers, the first examining recent work from Chris and the team on developing cross-institutional undergraduate writing retreats. Chris discussed who engages with these retreats, what achievements are made, and the impact that they can have on future academic practices.

The second of Chris’s papers explored the short and long-term reported benefits of participation in an extra-curricular undergraduate research conference delivered annually at Keele University since 2016. The JADE Student Learning Undergraduate Conference (JSLUG) seeks to empower undergraduate students as independent producers of knowledge.

Dr Chris Little commented:


“This was my first time presenting at ALDinHE and I loved sharing two very different papers showcasing the range of work we do in Student Learning and KIITE. It was really good to reflect on the challenges and advantages of delivering an initiative like JSLUG and compare notes with others developing their own undergraduate conferences.

It was also really useful to share where we are up to with undergraduate student writing retreats as this work is something new to Keele and, seemingly, the sector. ALDinHE was a great opportunity to share insights into the students who choose to participate in both of these initiatives and challenge preconceptions around who engages”

Angela Rhead, Teaching Fellow and Learning Developer within KIITE, along with Clare Foster a lecturer in Keele Management School and Jane Shaw a liaison librarian, presented their work on evaluating the benefits of a collaborative approach to planning and delivering academic practices within the curriculum.

The group shared the findings of their current ALDinHE-funded research project, which evaluates the impact of a collaboration between a lecturer, learning developer and liaison librarian to embed academic practice development in a Level 5 Marketing module. The module attempts to increase student engagement with academic journals specifically, and confidence in academic enquiry generally. A series of lectures and tutorials, delivering the underpinning practices of literature selection, critical reading and literature review, are embedded in the module concepts and co-taught.

Angela Rhead commented:

"This is my third visit to the ALDinHE annual conference and it was fantastic to have Clare Foster co-present, with many learning developers reporting high levels of envy at the degree to which we are involved in curriculum development at Keele. It was also brilliant to have Jane Shaw there to show the value of library services in these disciplinary collaborations.

The new L4 marketing module that has emerged from this collaboration is an outstanding example of embedded academic literacies and should provide a model for anyone wanting to develop a similar approach to module design, delivery and assessment"

For the full abstracts from the presentations, see below, or visit the ALDinHE Conference website.


Abstracts:

“Healthy pressure from peers”: The value of providing structured writing retreats for undergraduates

Dr Christopher Little, Keele University

Since 2016/17, the Student Learning team have been developing and running a range of undergraduate (UG) student writing retreats both within formal curricula and as part of our freestanding provision offer. There are many pedagogical reasons as to why we should develop and deliver writing retreats for undergraduates. However, this particular innovation came about due to a very different reason – failure. Since its inception, the Student Learning team has offered a wide range of workshops to support final year dissertations. Universally, this provision has failed to engage students, resulting in empty sessions and, frankly, wasted time.

Research has proven that staff writing retreats have a range of benefits from improved productivity and motivation through to an increased self-identification as ‘writers’ (Moore, 2003; Murray and Newton, 2009; Papen and Theriault, 2017; Swaggerty et al., 2011). Inspired by members of the Student Learning team attending staff writing retreats for personal development, writing retreats for undergraduates in were piloted in 2016/17, embedding them in the formal curriculum of one particular undergraduate programme. These proved extremely successful and were consequently made a part of our cross-institutional offering in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic years. This presentation will detail the relevant literature that has informed this endeavour, then detail the progress of these cross-institutional undergraduate writing retreats. It will discuss who engages with these retreats, what they achieve and the impact that they may have on future academic practices. Finally, it will suggest the future direction of this area of practice.

References

Moore, S. (2003). Writers’ retreats for academics: exploring and increasing the motivation to write. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 27(3), pp.333-342.

Murray, R. and Newton, M. (2009). Writing retreat as structured intervention: margin or mainstream? Higher Education Research & Development, 28(5), pp.541-553.

Papen, U. and Thériault, V. (2017). Writing retreats as a milestone in the development of PhD students’ sense of self as academic writers. Studies in Continuing Education, pp.1-15.

Swaggerty, E., Atkinson, T., Faulconer, J. and Griffith, R. (2011). Academic writing retreat: A time for rejuvenated and focused writing. The Journal of Faculty Development, 25(1), pp.5-11.


A United Front: evaluating the benefits of a collaborative approach to planning and delivering academic practices within the curriculum.

Clare Foster; Angela Rhead; Jane Shaw, Keele University

The module attempts to increase student engagement with academic journals specifically, and confidence in academic enquiry generally. A series of tutorials, delivering the underpinning practices of literature selection, critical reading and literature review, are embedded in the subject concepts and co-taught.

Academic reading is a significant but under-investigated academic practice in HE (McAlpine, 2012) even though it is an almost universally troublesome concept (MacMillan, 2014). A focus on this aspect of academic literacy should, therefore, be interesting to a wide range of colleagues working in learning development. Reflecting on immediate and sustained changes in students’ academic confidence and practices, we will share our materials and our analysis of factors that may have nurtured those changes, which delegates may use to inform practice.

We will discuss the place and ownership of ‘study skills’ in HE (Wingate, 2006), offering an opportunity to evaluate how collaborative partnerships between academics, learning developers and other academic literacies professionals can deliver learning development. This engages with two current debates: firstly, the relationship between learning development and subject learning, including arguments around extra-curricular, embedded, generic and contextualised models. Secondly, the relationship between academics inside the curriculum and ‘outsiders’ such as learning developers and liaison librarians, in designing and delivering learning development (Clughen & Connell, 2012; Smart, 2018).

References

Clughen, L., & Connell, M. (2012). Writing and resistance: Reflections on the practice of embedding writing in the curriculum. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 11(4), 333-345.

Macmillan, M. (2014). Student connections with academic texts: a phenomenographic study of reading. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(8): 943-954.

McAlpine, L. (2012). Shining a light on doctoral reading: Implications for doctoral identities and pedagogies. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 49(4), 351-361.

Smart, J. (2018, April) ‘At your service’? Can collaboration between UK EAP and subject teachers obviate Raimes’ so-called ‘butler stance’? Paper presented at BAEALP-TEAP workshops. Durham/Bristol, UK

Wingate, U. (2006). Doing away with study skills. Teaching in Higher Education, Vol 11 (4):457-469


Fostering engagement in research beyond assessments and the curriculum via an undergraduate research conference

Dr Christopher Little, Keele University

This paper will detail an investigation into the short and long-term reported benefits of participation in an extra-curricular undergraduate research conference delivered annually at Keele University since 2016. This conference is entirely organised by a central learning development unit. It will particularly focus on expectations and experiences of undergraduate students with regards to undergraduate research (UR) beyond assessment and the potential it has for significant student engagement in the institution, not just the programme of study. It will also reflect upon the challenges and advantages of delivering such an initiative from a centrally-based learning development unit.

The conference sought to empower undergraduate students as independent producers of knowledge. This paper will detail the students who chose to attend and challenge preconceptions around who engages in such initiatives. Students with disclosed disabilities, mature students, BAME students and those from POLAR 1 and 2 backgrounds all engaged at levels significantly higher than institutional benchmarks. The project utilised an action research approach across three academic years to investigate any reported longer-term benefits, up to one year after participation. As a result of engaging in the conference, students report a development of presentation and research skills and an increased interest in the disciplines of others. Significantly, students also report an increased engagement with extracurricular activities, such as discipline-specific conferences and additional courses, beyond their formal curriculum as a result of participating in this conference.

By outlining the conference project, contextualising it within relevant pedagogical literature and discussing the broader benefits of undergraduate research, a shared understanding of the benefits of such practices will be developed, with regards to developing an undergraduate research community.