The many hats of a Learning Developer

#becomingeducational Year of Learning Development: The Many Hats of the Academic Mentor/Learning Developer

We know that for many people this is the start of an amazing year and an amazing journey… These are the people who are either becoming Academic Mentors or Learning Developers for the first time… and/or those who are incorporating more LD into their current university position(s).

Learning Development offers energy, excitement and challenge: no two days are ever the same – sometimes, no two hours are ever the same; we are kept on our toes from moment to moment …

Here we are sharing Helen Webster’s reflections on the many hats of the learning developer.. Helen captures the energy and dynamism of our jobs – and we hope that you find it as interesting and entertaining as did we.

Please add a Comment – pass it on – keep the conversation going.

Best,
Sandra & Tom

rattus scholasticus

Learning Development’s a varied job- we’re never bored! Every hour could bring a different student, studying a different discipline with a different need. And, I’d argue, we too are different each hour in response.

I’ve addressed the question of what is a learning developer from various angles, but this time I’d like to look at how we’re more than just one thing. In our work, we play a number of roles, and wear a number of hats, depending on what suits the circumstances. At the ALDinHE Regional Development day at Newcastle University back in January, and again at a meeting of National Teaching Fellows in LD hosted by Sally Brown and Giskin Day at Imperial College, I encouraged participants to explore this diversity with an activity which looked at their responses to a number of roles. I distributed a number of cards, each with a different hat on. Those hats…

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Teaching Introverts

#becomingeducational Year of Learning Development: teaching introverts
Today we are happily re-blogging Helen Webster’s provocative post on teaching introverts.
Why – she asks – do we insist that people work together?
Why not allow some students to work on their own?
Or – perhaps – signpost your session – introverts one way – extroverts the other… and build the learning form there?
What we particularly like about this post – apart from making us think about the pain we inflict on introverts – is the ultimate point about allowing students themselves more choice in the way that they work.

rattus scholasticus

“Get into pairs and discuss with the person next to you…”

It’s the go-to model for workshop activities. One to ones are by definition dialogues, and we also try to capitalise on the social constructivist nature of learning in our group sessions. The whole of my PGCE beautifully modelled social constructivist principles in the way it was taught. And the amount of independent learning in Higher Education means there’s plenty of time for students to work on their own outside class, if they want to. However, I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with how many of my workshops include paired or group discussion as a first resort.

Why? Because I can’t stand it myself as a student.

I’m an introvert. I like to think things through carefully and work out what I think and how to articulate it before I then bounce that idea off others. I don’t find that starting off…

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Helping students write a literature review – Part II

#becomingeducational Year of Learning Development

The key focus of #becomingeducational posts this year will be on theories, case studies, strategies and resources designed to help those new to Learning Development; those with more Learning Development type responsibilities whilst their major focus might be with librarianship or another academic discipline; and/or discipline academics who might just want to develop their ability to support their students’ learning through emancipatory and empowering practice.

This re-blog from ‘Doctoral Writing’ explores how we might help students conceptualise and undertake Literature Reviews.

Do leave your own comments!

All the best,
Sandra & Tom

DoctoralWriting SIG

This is Part II of the guest post by Cecile Badenhorst of Memorial University in Canada. For an extended discussion of these ideas, go to her article on “Literature reviews, citations and intertextuality in graduate student writing”

In the first part of this blog post, I suggested that explicitly teaching students the genre of literature reviews and the many ways experienced academic writers use citation practices can help students understand this challenging genre. In this post, I want to focus on complexity in literature reviews. These papers require complex higher order thinking skills and the ability to critique, evaluate and review knowledge in sophisticated ways. Reproducing this complexity is often the most challenging for students. It is even more challenging for those of us involved in teaching this genre: How do we make the complexity more visible and accessible?

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Switching Roles

#becomingeducational The Year of Learning Development – the many roles that we adopt …

In this post the amazing Helen Webster explores the different roles that we inhabit as Learning Developers – teacher/listener/coach/mentor – pointing out that these different roles all require different behaviour from us – and will therefore necessitate different behaviours in the student with whom we are working.
What Helen asks is: how will the student know? How will they know which role we are inhabiting in any one time – and how will they know the sort of behaviour that we are expecting from them?
These are such excellent questions and go to the very heart of Learning Development practice.
When LDing – we tend not to be ‘teachers’ knowing the right answer – we are more likely to be listeners with dollops of coaching and mentoring – and our trick is to help the student feel comfortable in the spaces that we create – and to feel empowered to inhabit those spaces meaningfully – as they become the academics that they want to be.
This is particularly pertinent and thought-provoking for those new to LD who may have only just found themselves comfortable with a teaching role – and now find they have to inhabit this much more liminal and tricky ‘third space’.
Thanks again to Helen for sharing her thoughts – do add your own Comments.
Best,
Sandra & Tom

rattus scholasticus

In the course of a one-to-one session, a skilled Learning Developer might take on a number of different roles in turn, each ‘hat’ we wear carefully chosen to meet the need arising out of the conversation as it progresses. As we switch roles, adopting a range of techniques suited to each function, there’s one more thing we need to bear in mind: the role of the student.

If we are the teacher, the student is pupil. If we are coach or mentor, they are our coachee or mentee. If we are listener, they’re the one who needs to talk. Our roles might be taken on in reactive fashion, in response to the student’s first taking a position, but it’s more likely that we’re the one making that choice, and that choice determines and shapes the student’s counterpart response. The question is, do they know that?

Unlike a counsellor, we…

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Learning Developer as Therapist?

#becomingeducational Year of Learning Development: learning developer as therapist?

We are so happy that our year of learning development is coincidental with Helen Webster dusting off her excellent blog and delivering so many thought-provoking, informative and just darn useful posts on the what, why and how of learning development.
Helen is doing this as she leads a Writing Centre and contributes to ALDinHE’s (http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/) Professional Development Working Group and the development of a range of PD opportunities for those in Learning Development roles across the sector.
How lucky are we?
Anyway – in this post Helen muses on the role of learning developer through the lens of the notion of a therapeutic community.
Add your Comments?
Best,
Sandra & Tom

rattus scholasticus

There was recently a very interesting discussion on the LDHEN list about the role of Learning Development in shaping the university as a therapeutic community. I was interested in the word ‘therapeutic’ as it relates to Learning Development, and my contributions were largely about whether what we do could be construed as therapy, given that we sometimes work in similar ways to therapists such as counsellors. I pursued this line of thinking further offline, in discussion with other colleagues but also with my family members, who are clinical psychologists and social workers and very insightful on the topic. This was really useful in helping me further articulate what I think LD is, and where the boundaries are. I’ve reproduced some of my comments on the email list here together with the further thoughts from discussions with my family and colleagues.

I don’t think Learning Development is a therapeutic activity. For…

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What makes our writing ‘academic’?

#becomingeducational The year of sharing what it means to be a Learning Developer
As we said in our previous post – this is the year that we are being particularly tasked with working with librarians, personal tutors and other academics in re new aspects to their roles which include what we call Learning Development (but which is variously discussed as developing study and academic skills – fixing writing problems – improving retention – supporting at risk students – giving study skills advice).
We know that a key aspect of our work when Learning Developers was working with students on their assignments…
and that whilst for academic staff the main concern was the grammar, punctuation and spelling of the students – the main concern for the students themselves was a fear of getting it wrong – a fear of failure – and the fear of being made to look and feel a fool.
In an attempt to bridge the gap between tutor concerns and those of students – we are re-blogging this post from Julia Molinara – where she interrogates the nature of academic writing itself.
Perhaps this indicates a way of working with our own students?
Do share your strategies for helping students develop their emerging graduate/academic writing identities…
All the best,
Sandra & Tom

DoctoralWriting SIG

Our guest blogger this week, Julia Molinari, is an EAP (English for Academic Purposes) Tutor and PhD Researcher at the University of Nottingham in the UK. She is bilingual English/Italian and teaches academic writing to Home and International undergraduate and postgraduate students. Her PhD research focuses on ‘what makes writing academic’ and is supervised by the School of Education and the Department of Philosophy. She blogs at https://academicemergence.wordpress.com/ and tweets @serenissimaj and @EAPTutorJM.

By Julia Molinari

When you ask anyone this question—be they initiated or not—their answers will roughly cluster around the following features: its formality, linearity, clarity, lexical density, grammatical complexity, micro-macro structure (i.e., from paragraphs to whole-text organisation), intertextuality and citation, objectivity, meta-discursivity (Learnhigher; Bennett 2009; Bennett 2015, 6-8).

As someone who teaches academic writing to undergraduates and postgraduates with English as a first or additional language, I hear such answers all the time. And it’s…

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Learning Developer as….Which role?

#becomingeducational Welcome to the Year of Learning Development!!
Here at #becomingeducational we are really honoured to be working with Academic Liaison Librarians, Academic Mentors and Personal Academic Tutors who are all now being drawn into Learning Development work in some form or another…

We want to welcome all those new to Learning Development – or all those who are having to slightly re-focus their strategies and approaches – and we have decided that for #becomingeducational this will be the Year of Learning Development! The year that we focus on LD in terms of our theoretical underpinnings, case studies, resources, strategies and techniques… and our Community of Practice.

Check out the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/) – here you will find our free online Journal: The Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education is interesting and useful – and may be a vehicle for your own publishing – as our Conference is a place to present your own work. You will also find peer reviewed teaching and learning resources here. Finally – do please join our Community of Practice via http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/ldhen – we are a friendly community happy to discuss what we do – and how we do it.

Meanwhile – we’ve just had a heated conversation in the office about the difference between development, coaching and mentoring – and how we variously matched what we do against those ‘labels’ or practices…

So – how lucky we are to find that our Helen has just produced a brilliant blog on just this topic.

Please let others who are changing job or adopting new responsibilities akin to learning development know?

All the best – and a happy new academic year!!
Best,
Sandra & Tom

rattus scholasticus

I’ve written a lot recently about the different roles which we take on in our work as Learning Developers, in particular, the four main ones: Teacher, Mentor, Coach and Listener. There are others, of course; sometimes I’m an adviser, sometimes I’m a critical friend, sometimes I’m a signpost or a sympathetic ear. But the four main ones are the ones I find myself working in the majority of the time.

Of course, I don’t mean that I choose one role and stick to it for the rest of the session; I will switch in and out of roles potentially several times in a session, depending on what’s required. But how to know in the moment which role might work best?

In an earlier post, I portrayed the four main roles along a continuum, spanning knowledge and agency, between student and tutor. Actually, if you separate these factors out…

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