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!!
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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Learning Developer as Mentor

#becomingeducational Enjoying my vacation now but…
I really enjoyed this blogpost by Helen Webster on one of the roles of the Learning Developer.
Here Helen discusses the notion of LDer as mentor – as always – it is a thoughtful and usefully provocative post…
What do you think?

rattus scholasticus

There’s a question that hovers in the air in a learning development tutorial.

“What would you do? How would you do this if you were me?”

Sometimes it’s voiced, sometimes it simply hangs unspoken at the margins of the conversation. When it’s asked, we might choose to answer it, with caveats, or we might turn the question back on the student – it’s not about what I would do, it’s your work, your decision. Does the question make us uncomfortable? Possibly. It somehow feels beside the point, too easy, too dependent, too deferent?

But it’s a valid and reasonable question. It reveals something about why the student has approached us, and what they value in our advice. I think we need to find a productive way of responding, while avoiding any of the pitfalls it opens up.

How do students see us? What do they see in us? Some of…

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The Danger of the Comfort Zone

#becomingeducational Recognises this post from fellow LDer Helen Webster
How many times do we see the subtlety and nuance of our work reduced to – could you just check my spelling or from lecturers – they can’t write – can you give them help with their spelling, punctuation and grammar?
As Helen says in her elegant post below – we are learning developers – and we care about writing as a medium for learning – and of course as the most popular and privileged form through which students will be assessed.
We typically believe that the elements of writing – that grammar and syntax – will improve through meaningful writing habits and practices… and that where students fear writing and only write for assessment – they will not develop the writing habit that will also develop their writing practices.
Anyway – Helen says it so much better – so do read her blog.
Happy summer!

rattus scholasticus

I don’t care about writing.

For someone with a degree in Modern Languages, who heads something called the Writing Development Centre, who loves literature and language and who winces at grocer’s apostrophe’s, that’s a pretty bold statement.

Many students and academic staff expect that a major part of my role is to be the Grammar Police, waging a war against poor writing, the abused apostrophe, the careless comma, the split infinitive and the dangling modifier. Lecturers ask me to teach students to improve their grammar and sort out their syntax; students perk up when I show them a list of conjunctions which will improve their cohesion, a ‘recipe’ for writing a paragraph or the rules of their/there/they’re. That’s what they want me to do, that’s what they think will help.

In the context of Learning Development though, I care about writing only in as much as it is the medium…

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Spotlight on…the Padlet Project

#becomingeducational It’s the summer… time to be impressed –
by this wonderful project
We’ve just been blown away by the empowering and supportive Padlet project – and the way that it has sought to help students make sense of their reading – and of academia itself.
Have a look at what they’ve done – and see what you think!
Sandra & Tom

The Active Learning Network

What is the Padlet Project?

The Padlet Project is an active learning initiative developed by Wendy Garnham in conjunction with the Technology Enhanced Learning team at University of Sussex for use with Foundation Year Psychology students.

Why was the project developed?

Traditional seminars were dominated by one or two more confident students whilst a number of other students either remained silent or had not completed the necessary reading before arriving. Students who experienced some anxiety about attending seminars found it difficult to walk into a room where others were already seated and waiting to begin. Student engagement reduced across the term.

How does the Padlet Project work?

The Padlet Project is now entering Phase 3 in its development. Below is a timeline of how the project has developed.

Phase 1:

Before the seminar, students were expected to read a key seminar paper. As students entered the seminar room, they immediately…

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Sharing ReGenring – with a little help from my template

#becomingeducational Gets all #reGenring17
The power of reGenring was explored and celebrated at #reGenring17 – NTU this June.
It was a fabulous day – full of excitement, fun and laughter – not something you can always say about an academic conference!
This post looks at the power of reGenring – and the way that ALke structured this with her Poster Template…
What reGenring so you do?

Tactile Academia

Here the first follow-up post promised in my write up of the #ReGenring17 conference.

For the afternoon we had scheduled a ‘Sharing Session’ – essentially some time for people to just talk to each other. In order to give some broader starting points than just the keynotes, I had put out a Call for Practice as a first announcement of the conference, and quite a few people had responded to that.

The idea was that people would pick an example of their genring practice to show off, so that delegates could have a look at this. I had decided to give a structure to this by asking the sharers to fill in a very basic questionnaire about their projects to send to me the week previously, which I then fitted into a basic template. So everybody who shared their work had a poster that was following the same format.

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Training: The What or the How of LD?

What do learning developers do – and how can they do it well?
Really thoughtful and engaging post by Helen Webster on the what and how – of learning development work.
Do join in the conversation…

rattus scholasticus

What do you expect from professional training? As I’m developing some training for ALDinHE on one to one work, I’ve given quite a bit of thought as to what participants might expect, and whether I’ll be meeting those expectations. As I see it, training offers two main aspects, the What (i.e. the content) and the How (i.e. the skills), and the balance between these can vary enormously in training programmes.

For example, when I did my PGCE, the focus of that training was exclusively on the How – it was assumed that our original degrees or other professional background had already covered the What. Talking to our Student Union advisers, however, their training and CPD seemed to consist almost entirely of the What – the legislative background which underpinned the advice they were providing, and very little of the How to advise effectively – it was expected that you’d pick…

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