The role of an embedded learning development centre in enhancing

The role of an embedded
learning development centre in
enhancing the curriculum
Dr Stephanie Mckendry, Dr Jane
McKay, Deborah O’Neill
The workshop
• Overview of the Learning Development Centre (LDC)
• Case studies
• Our activities
Learning development as an integral
element of teaching practice
Many educators, particularly in HE, have assumed their students will arrive with
the necessary academic skills already in place.
It is also common to separate writing/study skills from mainstream course content
and diagnose certain students as problematic if they fail to pass assessments.
- Research suggests this is inappropriate and ineffective.
- The increasingly diverse student body (in HE, FE…) means it is no longer possible
to assume the level and prior experience of learning of incoming students (Haggis,
- It is unlikely there ever was a ‘golden age’ of a relatively homogenous student
body entering with well developed study skills (Gourlay, 2009).
- Learning to learn is necessary in each new context (Ramsden, 1992).
- Independent/autonomous learning needs to be explicitly developed amongst
students if it is desired by educators (Broad, 2006; Hewitt-Taylor, 2002).
Learning to learn
Our pedagogical philosophy:
It may be best to explicitly recognise and discuss the role of emotions in learning and the
feelings/insecurities of new learners. Learning is an inherently emotional process (Christie
et al., 2008; Beard, 2007).
An academic literacies approach neither expects an unproblematic acculturalisation nor
pathologises those who may initially struggle (Gourlay, 2009; Lea, 2004).
Academic skills are sometimes discipline-specific rather than generic and thus are context
Academic support is best built into any course and taught alongside the subject content.
Embedded, processual complexities of thinking, understanding,
and acting in specific disciplinary contexts need to be explored as
an integral part of academic content teaching within the
disciplines themselves.
Haggis, 2006
Why embed learning
• Students increasingly entering study through ‘non-traditional’ routes (Leathwood
and O’Connell 2003), with a diversity of qualifications, personal circumstances and
expectations. Particularly true of GCU.
• Role of clear and realistic expectations is vital in ensuring students engage with
programme and integrate into academic life (Lowe and Cook 2003, Fitzgibbon and
Prior 2006, Ramsden 2008).
• Widening participation activities have been traditionally outreach based (college
liaison, pre-entry support, etc). Focus has more recently shifted to inward-facing
developments, such as embedded academic support (Bishop 2009).
Why embed learning
Different models and modes of delivery exist, and differ from institution to institution
Central service
Learning development centres
working across institutions
Dedicated academic
development activities which
take place outwith an academic
programme (Bennet et al,
Devolved provision
department based staff
Learning development planned
as part of the curriculum
(Bennet et al, 2001).
Literature increasingly suggests that the latter of these two approaches is preferable
(Mitchell ,2000; Wingate, 2006; Cassidy & Eachus, 2000), as integration of all learning
(generic as well as subject-specific) is highly desirable.
Why embed learning
Some of the strengths of delivering embedded support instead of additional
are summarised below:
-Linked to curriculum
-Limited integration
Why devolve learning
It is entirely possible for central provision to be
embedded, enhancement-based, tailored and
longitudinal. Equally, devolved models can be remedial,
reactive and generic.
But, we believe the opportunity to nurture the
advantages of embedding and avoid the drawbacks of
‘bolt-on’ are greatest with a School-based approach.
-Proximity to staff, students and teaching areas
-Closer relationships with staff
-More detailed knowledge of curriculum and cohorts
Glasgow Caledonian University
• Formed in 1993 with merger of Glasgow Polytechnic
and Queen’s College, Glasgow.
• 5th largest in Scotland in terms of student recruitment.
• Student population of over 17,000.
•3 Schools.
Student Demographics (f/t, u/grad entrants in 2010/2011):
- 62% female (82% within School of Health and Life Sciences)
- 35% 21 or over (45% within School of Health and Life Sciences)
- 37% live in areas classified in bottom 2 quintiles of the Scottish Index of
Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)
The LDC and the Institution
The LDC in the School of
Health & Life Sciences
LDC Director
 First point of
student contact
 Booking
 Tracking
 Evaluating
Academic Development Tutors (ADTs)
 English for
 Psychology
 Biological
 Allied Health
 Social Work
 Psychology
 Vision Sciences
ICT Skills Tutor
 ICT Skills Learning
and Teaching
 Website and VLE
 Nursing
 Midwifery
•ADT lead in each of the following: International students, articulating
students, disabled students, pre-entry and transition support, research and
scholarly activities
•ADTs have roles on programme, curriculum development, learning &
teaching boards/committees
Activity: case studies
Consider the following case studies
How can the LDC best support this student?
What kinds of activities would help this student adapt to the
university environment and succeed through the years of their
How can the LDC influence the curriculum in order to ensure
support for this student?
What we do
• Multiple strategies are employed to
ensure that different learning needs are
met. These include:
– Embedded, in-module sessions
– School wide workshops
– One-to-one support
– Pre-entry support
• A range of collaborative research projects are
undertaken to inform provision
Embedded activities
• Designed in collaboration with module leaders
• Cohort-specific needs are identified and
tailored sessions developed
• Success of these sessions depends on:
– Extent to which module staff and ADT work
– Timing of delivery
School-wide workshops
• Open to all students in School, although
targeted at levels 1 and 2
• Separate programme for post-graduates
• Cover generic topics but contextualised to
heath and life sciences programmes
• Demand is often high and attendance good
One-to-one appointments
• Two-hour appointment slots are offered MonThurs (each appointment max 45mins)
• Students are encouraged to attend workshops
before seeking individualised support
• Support is provided in a developmental and
transferrable way
Examples of projects and initiatives
• Pre-entry programmes
• Scheme to support academic/social
integration among international students
• Blog to support nursing students on
• Research into how students take notes
• Development of online transition support for
FE students
Whole group discussion
Please spend 5 minutes in your small groups reflecting on our
activities and how they relate to the case studies.
- Do you agree with our approach?
- Does this change any of your earlier discussions/decisions?
Please be prepared to report back to the whole group.
Final thoughts:
How effective is LDC-based learning development support in
developing the curriculum and supporting students and can the
model be applied to delegates’ own circumstances?
What influence can LDC staff have on curriculum design and how
can they best deliver embedded, assessment specific teaching and
learning where input is minimal?
How can staff and student expectations be managed with the
change to this new model?
Contact details
Dr Jane McKay
[email protected], 0141 331 8067
Dr Stephanie McKendry
[email protected], 0141 331 3450
Deborah O’Neill
[email protected], 0141 331 8611
The School of Health Learning Development Centre
[email protected]
0141 331 3456
Fitzgibbon K, & Prior, J. (2006) ‘Students’ Early Experiences and University Interventions – a Timeline to Aid
Undergraduate Student Retention’, Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, Vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 17-27
Gourlay, L. (2009) ‘Threshold Practices: becoming a student through academic literacies’, London Review of
Education, Vol. 7, no. 2, PP. 181-192.
Beard, C., Clegg, S. & Smith, K. (2007) ‘Acknowledging the affective in higher education’, British Educational
Research Journal, Vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 235-252.
Bishop, C., Bowmaker, C. and Finnigan, T. (2009) ‘Mrs Mop, Mechanic and /or Miracle Worker : Metaphors
of Study Support’, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education
Broad, J. (2006) ‘Interpretations of independent learning in further education’, Journal of Further and
Higher Education, Vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 119-143.
Cassidy, S. and Eachus, P. (2000)’ Learning Style, Academic Belief Systems,Self-report Student Proficiency
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Christie, H., Tett, L. Cree, V., Hounsell, J. & McCune, V. (2008) ‘‘A real rollercoaster of confidence and
emotions’: learning to be a university student’, Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 33, no. 5, pp. 567-581.
Haggis, T. (2006) ‘Pedagogies for diversity: retaining critical challenge amidst fears of ‘dumbing down’’,
Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 521-535.
Hewitt-Taylor, J. (2002) ‘Teachers’ and students’ views on self-directed learning’, Nursing Standard, Vol. 17,
no. 1, pp. 33-38.
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6, pp. 739-756.
Leathwood, C. and O’Connell, P. (2003) ‘It’s a struggle’ the construction of the ‘new student’ in higher
education, Journal of Educational Policy, Vol. 18, no 6, pp. 597-615
Lowe, H. & Cook, A. (2003) ‘Mind the Gap: are students prepared for higher education?’, Journal of Further
and Higher Education, Vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 53-76
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Stierer, B (Eds) Student writing in higher education: new contexts, Buckingham: Society for Research into
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Ramsden, P. (1992) Learning to teach in higher education, London: Routledge
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