#LTHEchat 221: Student Unions’, the Student Experience and the University. Led by Colina Wright @colina_wright

Naassom Azevedo via Unsplash

Please note that the use of the term Students’ Union within this discussion is intended to cover Student Associations and Student Guilds. 

I love working within Students’ Unions (SU’s), having done so since graduating over 20 years ago. I got involved in my SU when, as I approached Christmas in my second year, I had to rethink whether university was right for me. I was a young black female, the first in my family to attend university but fortunately supported by the fact attending university was the norm within my (white) stepfather’s history. I struggled with a lack of understanding with regards to what university was. This was before the discussions about BAME attainment gaps, the language didn’t exist and if it did, it would actively have been discouraged from broader conversation, through fear of institutions being perceived as racist organisations. 

It was my engagement with a volunteering project, led by the SU with young girls from an underprivileged area of the city, that got me through my university experience. My SU introduced me to the widening participation agenda and the empowerment of young people – both students and those projects set out to help them – and created a desire in me to pursue a career whereby I could have a positive impact on the community. And so my journey began…

Sadly SU’s are increasingly coming under fire for stereotypical behaviours: initiations and anti-social behaviour demonstrated by some sports teams, encouraging or preventing freedom of expression within societies and unfortunately, not for the positive contributions they make within their respective cities/towns. These positive contributions include, but are not limited to: contributing to the local economy, raising money for charities, numerous volunteering projects with local citizens or generally providing developmental opportunities for university students.

I believe there is something truly unique about the opportunities SU’s present and the difference they can make to students and the community; they have the ability to genuinely be life-changing in addition to contributing positively to university recruitment and retention. They exist to enhance the student experience but can often be perceived within the university context as parasitic, rather than symbiotic relationship. 

This tweet chat aims to explore:

  • The relationships academic and professional services staff may and could have with SU’s 
  • What  SU’s can do to ensure that we work together to achieve our collective mission, that is, to enhance the student experience and create leaders of the future. 

Further Reading

Amirianzadeh, M., Jaafari, P., Ghourchian, N. and Jowkar, B., (2011) Role of student associations in leadership development of engineering students. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, pp.382-385. https://pdf.sciencedirectassets.com/277811/1-s2.0-S1877042811X0023X/1-s2.0-S1877042811019008/main.pdf 

Atilade, T. and Wickremasinghe, R. (2021) Where are the black squares now? WonkHE 9/7/21, https://wonkhe.com/blogs/where-are-the-black-squares-now/

Blake, S. and Roberts, L. (2021) Is partnership possible in a pandemic?, WonkHE 24/9/21, https://wonkhe.com/blogs/is-partnership-possible-in-a-pandemic/ 

Dickinson, J. (2021) What on earth is student representation for? WonkHE 1/6/21, https://wonkhe.com/blogs/what-on-earth-is-student-representation-for/ 

O’Donnell, P. Brabner, R. and Dickinson, J. (2021) Students will build back community better – if we support them to do so, WonkHE 11/6/21, https://wonkhe.com/blogs/what-have-students-ever-done-for-the-community/ 

Phipps, C., (2020) “We already do enough around equality and diversity”: Action taken by student union officers to promote LGBT+ inclusion in university sport. Sociology of Sport Journal, 37(4), pp.310-318.


Colina Wright

Colina Wright @colina_wright is currently the CEO of the University of Sunderland Students’ Union and will become the CEO at the Union of Students, Derby, in the new year. She has a strong background in membership engagement following other experience gained at De Montfort University, Sheffield Hallam and New College Nottingham. Her experience within both FE and HE Students’ Unions’ followed her own experience of being an Elected Officer at Sheffield Hallam University (Multicultural and International Students’ Officer) and her passion for student voice, inclusive practice and the power of Students’ Union to create real impact and change has continued to characterise her career to date. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from De Montfort University and an BA (Hons.) in Communication Studies from Sheffield Hallam University. She has served as a Trustee for Buckinghamshire New University SU and Wearside Women in Need.

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#LTHEchat 220: Decolonising Learning Technology. Led by Professor John Traxler @johntraxler

Image created by TierneyMJ via Shutterstock

What is Decolonising and What is Learning Technology?

This part is easy. Learning technology, the phrase adopted by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), embraces digital learning, e-learning and online learning, formal and informal, intended, spontaneous or accidental, but also the pedagogies, philosophies, theories and cultures that surround and inform them. It is also educational technology or ‘edtech’ but this and perhaps the other terms all have assumed connections and associations with formal education systems, and we need to bear.

This part is less easy. Here goes. A manifesto from students at Keele University (2021) provides us with a working definition. “Decolonization involves identifying colonial systems, structures and relationships, and working to challenge those systems. It is not “integration” or simply the token inclusion of the intellectual achievements of non-white cultures. Rather, it involves a paradigm shift from a culture of exclusion and denial to the making of space for other political philosophies and knowledge systems. It’s a culture shift to think more widely about why common knowledge is what it is, and in so doing adjusting cultural perceptions and power relations in real and significant ways.” (Sadly and ironically, this uses the American English spelling.)

This sounds both highly political and fairly abstract however, events at the universities in Cape Town and Oxford, tagged as #RhodesMustFall, make it clear that feelings run high. Recent news about the repatriation of ‘Elgin Marbles’ – to use the colonialists’ terminology – and the Benin Bronzes and the simmering discontent about the appropriation of indigenous knowledge from cultures as diverse as the Sami and the San by pharmaceutical companies round out this picture.

A recent newspaper article entitled ‘Lecturers are key to ending colonial epistemicide’ (University World News 2021) provides an excellent and more accessible overview, saying “The simplest definition of decolonisation of the African university is the process of undoing all legacies of colonialism.” Understandably, given the African university context, the article does not focus on the legacies of colonialism within UK universities or the colonisers more widely. We must recognise that there are multiple experiences that learning technologists can help to decolonise, the Punjabi student in an English university, the Aboriginal student in an Australian university, the Kikuyu student in a Kenyan university, the Kabyle student in an Algerian university, the Basque student in a Spanish university and so on.

The first of three ALT webinars on the topic provided some other contributions saying, ‘Great to see a more detailed definition of decolonisation. Not just making space for minorities/ migrant communities, but highlighting colonial structures, and challenging them. As much as we wish, technology is rarely neutral (or neutrally used). ‘and talking of ‘undoing all legacies of colonialism.’

There are also movements to ‘decolonise the curriculum’ and moves to ‘decolonise research’ but what exactly might it actually mean? And given the moves to decolonise the curriculum, what should technologists do to decolonise learning technology before handing it on to curriculum professionals?

The Implications of Decolonising Learning Technology

The forthcoming #LTHEchat will help develop an improved understanding of the implications of ‘decolonisation’ for us all whether we are learning technologists, academics, allied professionals and/or researchers who use learning technology, and especially ‘edtech’. Decolonising is about combating the ways in which learning technology represents and reproduces the ideas and values of the dominant white anglophone majority. There is clearly a resonance between a mission to decolonise learning technology and a mission to decolonise the curriculum. Educators are not learning technologists and so the role of learning technologists is to decolonise learning technology before handing it onto curriculum specialists.

 The topic had been on my mind for quite a few years in different forms. I wrote a paper five years ago (Traxler 2017) that implicitly tackled one aspect of it, namely the technology itself. I asserted that digital technology was instrumental in increasing the disadvantage of peoples, communities and cultures that were different and distant from the norms, values, habits, styles, languages and cultures of the global and national mainstreams. Specifically those distant and different from the dominant global Anglophone digital corporations. These represented the dominant largely white, European, metropolitan and bourgeois ethos of the colonial and post-colonial education systems and subsequently the neo-colonial global digital corporations, agencies and foundations.  Digital technology in education was re-arming forms of colonialism or perhaps arming forms of neo-colonialism.

This happened in a multitude of ways. I can think of many but perhaps the emergent ‘decolonising learning technology’ community can add many more. Some include:

  • Digital technology as a conduit to access knowledge and information
  • Technologies of search (eg Google)
  • Digital technology changes many aspects of language and of learning
  • ‘Official’ languages used by the education system’s learning technology
  • Critique the research that underpins digital learning and learning technology.

What emerges is the possibility of a simplistic but structured approach to decolonising learning technology. Working upwards and outwards from:

  • Hardware
  • Operating systems and system software
  • Applications especially browsers, web2.0, social media and open source, interfaces and interactions
  • Dedicated educational technologies especially MOOCs, VLEs and the surrounding and supporting software systems such as plagiarism detection, learning analytics and automated assessment
  • Procurement, deployment, training, support, management and maintenance
  • Buildings and architecture
  • Curriculum design
  • Edtech policy and guidance and
  • Cultural and societal expectations

We need to be asking at each level, where is the colonialization, how does it happen and what should we do?

There are risks of course. Firstly, that any of these levels, decolonisation will degenerate into targets, objectives, percentages and tick lists. Secondly, that it will be seen as offering something extra or remedial or palliative to minority communities rather than offering something enriching to everyone.  Thirdly, efforts at decolonisation will be driven by members of the majority community and inevitably seen through the lens of their (mis)understanding and privileges. Lastly, decolonising learning technology and decolonising the curriculum can somehow happen without decolonising the institutions and organisations.

Pragmatically and operationally, any process of change must appeal to managers, shareholders and the rank-and-file of any organisation as well as its ideologues, liberals and progressives. This division sounds like a categorisation from the Diffusion of Innovations frameworks, a rephrasing of, for example, ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’. Certainly any organisational transformation needs a Theory of Change and the Diffusion of Innovations provides at least a practical workable outline. It suggests working with early adopters and innovators supporting and encouraging the development of examples and pilots, working with opinion-formers and gate-keepers before moving onto increased institutional programmes and only lastly resorting to regulation and enforcement, but most of all recognising that at every step these are issues of ‘hearts and minds’.

References and Further Reading

Adams, R. (2021). Can artificial intelligence be decolonized?. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 46(1-2), 176-197.

Elers, S. (2014). Maori are scum, stupid, lazy: maori according to Google. Te Kaharoa, 7(1).

Hall, R. (2013) On the Secular Crisis and a Qualitative Idea of the University. Available online: http://www.richard-hall.org/tag/history/page/4/  (accessed on 13 October 2021).

Keele (2021) Keele’s Manifesto For Decolonising The Curriculum? Available online at  http://www.keele.ac.uk/equalitydiversity/equalityframeworksandactivities/equalityawardsandreports/equalityawards/raceequalitycharter/keeledecolonisingthecurriculumnetwork/

Mail & Guardian (2012) available at https://mg.co.za/article/2012-12-27-zumas-dog-comments-meant-to-decolonise-the-african-mind/  accessed 13 October 2021

Meier, A., Goto, K., & Wörmann, M. (2014, June). Thumbs Up to Gesture Controls? A Cross-Cultural Study on Spontaneous Gestures. In International Conference on Cross-Cultural Design (pp. 211-217). Springer, Cham

Millwood, R. (no date) available online at https://www.teachthought.com/learning/a-visual-summary-the-most-important-learning-theories/ and elsewhere, accessed 18 October 2021

News24 (2013) Available online https://www.news24.com/news24/Technology/News/Mxlish-the-12th-official-SA-language-20130328, accessed 13 October 2021

Traxler, J. & Lally, V. (2015) The Crisis and the Response: After the Dust Had Settled, Interactive Learning Environments 24(5), pp1016-1024

Traxler, J. (2017) Learning with Mobiles in Developing Countries –Technology, Language and Literacy, International Journal of Mobile & Blended Learning, 9(2): pp1-15

Traxler, J. (2018) Learning with Mobiles: the Global South, Research in Comparative and International Education, Vol. 13, Number 1, pp 152 – 175

Traxler, J. (2018), Digital Literacy: A Palestinian Refugee Perspective, Research in Learning Technology, Vol. 26, pp1 – 21 https://journal.alt.ac.uk/index.php/rlt/article/view/1983

Traxler, J., Khlaif, Z., Nevill, A., Affouneh, S., Salha, S., Zuhd, A., & Trayek, F. (2019). Living under occupation: Palestinian teachers’ experiences and their digital responses. Research in Learning Technology, 27. https://doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v27.22

World University News (2021) Lecturers are key to ending colonial epistemicide, World University News, available online at https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20211006114502190


Professor John Traxler

John Traxler, FRSA, @johntraxler is Professor of Digital Learning in the Institute of Education at the University of Wolverhampton and UNESCO Chair: Innovative Informal Digital Learning in Disadvantaged and Development Contexts. He has extensive experience developing e-learning and mobile learning capacity amongst university teachers. Over the last five years, he has become involved in policy and strategy. He is a frequent international keynote speaker, and has worked with a number of international agencies and international corporates.

Q1. How do the technologies we use in our work represent, reinforce and reproduce the ideas, concepts, images and values of particular countries, communities and cultures?

Q2. Do educational technology systems embody the teaching, learning and assessment ideas of mostly one community and culture?

Q3. Do the theories of e-learning come from one particular cultural and pedagogical tradition?

Q4. Which communities or cultures are different and distant from those represented by our technologies?

Q5. How would you define decolonisation? Who would benefit?

Q6. How is decolonising our work supported and/or constrained by our institutions, our IT and our curriculum colleagues?

https://wke.lt/w/s/ZKV_t3 via Wakelet

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#LTHEchat 219: Supporting and Assessing Student Groupwork. Led by Peter Hartley @profpeterbrad, Mark Dawson @Mark_g_dawson & Sue Beckingham @SueBecks.

An image of a group of students working together by Robert Kneschke on Canva

The significant expansion of student numbers across Higher Education (e.g. numbers doubling between 1992 and 2016, ONS, 2016) led to a corresponding increase in the use of student groupwork. While some of this expansion was inevitably prompted by resource constraints, there were also powerful and longstanding educational arguments in favour of developing teamwork skills (e.g. Hartley, 1997; Jaques 1991). This was not just to placate the repeated demands from employers for HE to produce more ‘work-ready’ graduates (which usually highlighted areas such as communication and teamwork) but also an acknowledgment of the value of social and active learning practices in education (Hoidn & Reusser, 2020).  

A range of teaching resources helped lecturers to emphasise the importance of collaboration and cooperation, including collections of group exercises and problem-solving tasks, games and simulations (e.g. Race, 2000), and guides/handbooks on small group teaching (e.g. Exley and Dennick, 2004). Several courses/modules experimented with self-analysis tools such as Belbin’s Team Roles Inventory (e.g. Macdonnell, 2012, using the approach from Belbin, 2010). 

Innovations have included new teaching methods such as Team-Based Learning (Team-Based Learning Collaborative, nd) and SCALE-UP [Student Centred Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies] (Nottingham Trent University, nd). The HEFCE-funded project investigating how these methods could be scaled up across institutions demonstrated significant impact on student learning (see at https://aclproject.org.uk/the-project/ ). Innovations in assessed project work across the sector often involved external ‘clients’ and applied learning to simulate the demands from possible future employers. 

The majority of innovations have focused on groups and teams which worked predominantly face-to-face. That focus is also obvious in guidance for students (e.g. Hartley and Dawson, 2010), and even in texts published more recently (Hopkins and Reid, 2018). The online pivot caused by the pandemic moved us all online. As a result, we all now have some experience of online collaboration and we also have technologies available, such as MS Teams / Zoom, which enable both staff and students to collaborate and share work online relatively easily. At the same time, and given extra impetus by recent events, there has been a push in many Universities to provide their students with opportunities to network and learn online using international groupwork through innovative education practices such as virtual exchange and collaborative online international learning [COIL] (Leask, 2020). 

We argue that teamwork skills are equally if not more important than they have been in the past for all students regardless of discipline – Matthew Syed provides data from both academia and commerce to suggest that “pretty much all the most challenging work today is undertaken in groups for a simple reason: problems are too complex for any one person to tackle alone” (Syed, 2019, p.14). Teamwork and interpersonal skills remain highly valued graduate skills (Prospects, 2021). 

An increasing number of studies reflect upon our pandemic experience and suggest lessons to be carried forward (e.g. Specht et al, 2021, and the other articles in this special edition of JPAAP). ‘Next Steps for Teaching and Learning’, the report from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (2021) published last week, highlights opportunities to develop “new models … for the delivery of teaching, learning and assessment”. Ensuring we consider equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in groupwork, and ways this can contribute to developing inclusivity and a sense of belonging for all students is vital.    

Given this new context, isn’t this the right time to re-evaluate our aims and assumptions regarding the ways that we support and assess students’ teamwork?

To support both their work at university and in whatever career they choose to pursue afterwards, we believe that all students need to develop a flexible approach to teamwork which integrates online and face-to-face practices. This is a major theme of our revised handbook (Hartley, Dawson and Beckingham, in press). But does this require any fundamental shifts in the ways that we support and assess student groupwork or are the underlying issues and concerns unchanging? We look forward to discussing this. 


Belbin, R. M. (2010) Team Roles at Work 2nd edn. London: Routledge.

Exley, K. and Dennick, R. (2004) Small Group Teaching: Tutorials, Seminars and Beyond (Key Guides for Effective Teaching in Higher Education). London: RoutledgeFalmer. 

Hartley, P (1997) Group Communication. London: Routledge.

Hartley, P. and Dawson, M. (2010) Success in Groupwork.  Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hoidn, S. & Reusser, K. (2020) Foundations of Student-Centered Learning and Teaching in Hoidn, S. & Klemencic, M. (Eds) The Routledge International Handbook of Student-Centered Learning & Teaching in Higher Education. Abingdon: Routledge. P. 17-46.

Hopkins and Reid (2018) The Academic Skills Handbook: Your Guide to Success in Writing, Thinking and Communicating at University (Student Success). London: Sage.

Jaques, D. (1991) Learning in Groups. London: Kogan Page

Leask, B. (2020). Embracing the possibilities of disruption. Higher Education Research and Development, 39(7), 1388–1391. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2020.1824211

Macdonnell, J. (2012). Using the Belbin Team-Role Self Perception-Inventory to Form Groups and Assign Roles for Media Production Assessment. Media Education Research Journal, 3(1), 50-62.

National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. (2021) Next Steps for Teaching and Learning. https://www.teachingandlearning.ie/vital/nextsteps/

Nottingham Trent University (nd) SCALE-UP. https://www.ntu.ac.uk/about-us/academic-development-and-quality/innovations-in-learning-and-teaching/scale-up

ONS (Office for National Statistics) (2016) How has the student population changed? https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/livebirths/articles/howhasthestudentpopulationchanged/2016-09-20

Prospects (2021) What skills do employers want? https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/applying-for-jobs/what-skills-do-employers-want

Race, P. (2000) 500 Tips on Group Learning. London: Kogan Page.

Specht, D., Chatterton, P., Hartley, P., and Saunders, P.  (2021)  Developing Belief in Online Teaching: Efficacy and digital transformation. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, Vol 9, 2, p. 68-76


Syed, M. (2019) Rebel Ideas: The power of thinking differently. London: John Murray Press

Team-Based Learning Collaborative (nd) TBL Published Papers. https://www.teambasedlearning.org/recent-papers/


Peter Hartley @profpeterbradPeter Hartley is now freelance Higher Education Consultant, and Visiting Professor at Edge Hill University, following previous roles as Professor of Education Development at Bradford and Professor of Communication at Sheffield Hallam. National Teaching Fellow since 2000, he has promoted new technology in education. Recent/ongoing consultancy includes work on institutional strategies for learning spaces, mentoring candidates for NTF/CATE, and assessment (usually involving concepts and approaches from the PASS project: https://www.bradford.ac.uk/pass/   Current interests also include concept mapping and visual thinking (project led by Dawne Irving-Bell from Edge Hill), and developments in human communication and online interaction.

An image of Peter Hartley.

Mark Dawson @Mark_g_dawson

Mark is currently a full-time research student at Coventry University investigating how Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) can enhance higher education practice. He previously held roles in student pastoral support, learning development and widening participation/outreach at Leeds Beckett, the University of Bradford and the University of Cambridge respectively. In addition to his higher education experience/qualifications, Mark also holds teaching/assessment qualifications for secondary and further education.

An image of Mark Dawson.

Sue Beckingham @suebecks

Sue is a National Teaching Fellow, Principal Lecturer in Digital Analytics and Technologies in the Department of Computing at Sheffield Hallam University with a lead role in Learning Teaching and Assessment. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association, a Certified Management and Business Educator and a Visiting Fellow at Edge Hill University. 

An image of Sue Beckingham.


Q1. What student groupwork do you support and/or assess and what are the current challenges you face?

Q2. Has the pandemic changed the way that students work in groups – do these changes have long-term implications?

Q3. How do you expect student groupwork to change over the next few years and what does this mean for your role?

Q4. What technologies do your student groups use now and how do you support them with these?

Q5. What are the best ways to assess the student groups you are involved with that address inclusivity?

Q6. What is the best advice you can offer to staff who want to offer the most effective support to student groups as we (hopefully) make an effective transformation into the ‘new normal’?

https://wke.lt/w/s/g71EhC via Wakelet

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#LTHEchat 218: Expertise: A New Discourse for Learning & Teaching in Higher Education? Led by Dr Helen King, @drhelenking.

Photo of 5 yellow stars on a pink and blue background by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

The concept of excellence is ubiquitous within education and many other sectors. But what do we mean by it? What does it look like? And how can we support colleagues to develop it?

The word ‘excellence’ is derived from the Latin excellere (ex – ‘out, beyond’; celsus – ‘lofty’) meaning outstanding. For me as an educational developer with a passion for supporting colleagues in higher education to develop and improve their teaching, there are a number of difficulties with the concept of excellence. We don’t have a common understanding of what it actually is – excellence is measured through outputs such as student satisfaction and graduate outcomes, which tells us little about the characteristics of the inputs, the teachers who support the learning. By dictionary definition / derivation it is highly exclusive (not everybody can be outstanding or above average), and it feels like a point to be reached or a static road.

Expertise, on the other hand, has a deep and broad foundation of research, theory and literature. The characteristics of expertise have been researched in a wide range of professions including music, sport, business, surgery and education. This research explores the characteristics of the person in that field or profession, rather than simply the outcomes of their work. By derivation expertise is all about process, it’s a continual journey throughout one’s career: from the Latin expertus (past participle of experiri – ‘to try’: also the etymological origin of ‘experience’ and ‘experiment’) and thus is potentially available to all.

A simple synopsis of the literature includes three main aspects that characterise expertise (e.g. see Skovholdt 2016 for a useful summary): 1) high performance in one domain based on subject knowledge and skills developed through study and experience; 2) ways of thinking & practising: how experience and immersion in the field enables highly effective application of the knowledge & skills (including pattern recognition, approaches to problem-solving, and an automation of skills that exhibits as an effortless grace or ‘flow’); 3) professional learning and development, characterised as Deliberate Practice (Ericsson et al, 1993) or Progressive Problem-Solving (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993). This latter aspect is particularly important for distinguishing those with expertise from those who have just clocked up lots of experience. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, it makes permanent. If you just repeat one thing in the same way, you’ll become very good at doing that thing in that particularly way, and it can be very difficult to change. Rather than mindless repetition, Deliberate Practice is continuously mindful of specific areas that aren’t working so well, it focuses on these and, drawing on feedback, improves them. This idea of professional learning and development as a key aspect of expertise, is summarised neatly in Perkins’ (2008) suggestion that expertise is a process of proactive competence.

Drawing on several years of reading, thinking, research interviews with National Teaching Fellows (NTFs), writing (e.g. King, 2019) workshops and presentations, an Expertise Symposium which attracted over 500 registrants from over 20 different countries, and a forthcoming edited volume arising from the symposium contributions (King, 2022), I have developed a model which takes those three generic characteristics of expertise and conceptualises them for teaching in higher education (King, 2020).

Characteristics of Expertise for Teaching in Higher Education

1) Pedagogical Content Knowledge (Shulman, 1986): this is the interaction of knowledge and skills from the subject area with those of pedagogy / learning and teaching. We need to know our subject area and how best to support students to learn. Pedagogy is usually the main focus of development programmes for staff new to teaching in higher education, and we need to ensure that these programmes enable staff to make sense of the pedagogy within the context of their particular subject or profession.

2) Artistry of Teaching (Schön, 1982; Eisner, 2002). We might know what and how to teach, but teaching is rarely routine, highly effective application of our pedagogical content knowledge requires something else. As Schön says, “let us search, instead, for an epistemology of practice implicit in the artistic, intuitive processes which some practitioners bring to situations of uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value conflict.” Teaching is not like being in a note perfect string quartet, playing in front of a quiet, respectful audience in a well-managed auditorium. It is much more like being part of a jazz band playing the tunes we know but improvising, riffing off each other and the audience in a late night bar.

So the Artistry of Teaching includes those often intangible characteristics that we can recognise in teachers with expertise that are not exhibited in experienced non-experts. It is reflection-in-action, intuition, improvisation and performance, authenticity, rapport, care for students and their learning, and a curiosity about their learning experience and how it might be improved. There is also an element of humility in expertise, it is recognised that expertise is domain-specific and that we need to draw from others’ expertise to inform our practice.  These are the human aspects of expertise and often the ones most neglected when considering what support newer (and more experienced) teachers might need. Whilst they may emerge from experience, they can also be nurtured through mentoring and professional development.

The ways of thinking and practising of teachers in higher education has been little-researched and barely considered from an expertise perspective. What meaningful patterns do teachers with expertise perceive? What is their approach to problem-solving that is qualitatively different to that of novices? How is the automation of skills, the flow, developed and experienced by the teacher and their students?

3) Professional Learning and Development (King, 2019). In my experiences of helping people to articulate their professional development (for example in HEA Fellowship or NTF applications or simply their own professional development plans), there is a tendency to think about professional development as qualifications, training or other formal activities. This can be a barrier to engagement with professional development as we then feel that we don’t have the time to do it because it’s an additional activity on top of our actual teaching. In my research with 9 NTFs, their descriptions of how they developed their teaching were very much narratives of its enhancement over time. Only with prompting did they articulate how other activities (conferences, conversations with colleagues, literature, student feedback etc.) had informed that change. So I suggest that we should consider professional learning and development for teaching in higher education as a continual evolution of our teaching that is informed by evidence from a range of activities.

If excellence in higher education is mostly measured by outputs. Then this effectively ignores a critical feature that distinguishes those with expertise from those with experience: a commitment to professional learning. If higher education institutions are to achieve their missions of excellence in education, then they must also foster and enable a culture of professional learning for teaching that is integrated into everyday practice rather than being seen as an add-on that nobody has time for.

Whither expertise?

‘Expertise’ as an alternative or complement to ‘excellence’ might not sit well with everyone. The concept of ‘expert’ can be contentious. But by offering an alternative idea to excellence, I hope to provoke a more meaningful discourse about the characteristics of high quality teaching and how we might best support, develop, recognise and reward these within higher education.

Additional Information

For more information and a developing set of resources on expertise, visit my website at https://www.drhelenking.com


Bereiter, C. & M. Scardamalia (1993) Surpassing ourselves: an enquiry into the nature and implications of expertise. Open Court, Illinois

Eisner, E.W. (2002) From episteme to phronesis to artistry in the study and improvement of teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 375-385

Ericsson, K.A., R. Th. Krampe & C.Tesch-Romer (1993) The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psychological Review, Vol. 100(3), 363-406

King (2022)(Ed.) Developing the characteristics of expertise for teaching in higher education: practical ideas for professional learning. SEDA/Routledge

King, H. (2020) Future-ready Faculty: Developing the characteristics of expertise in teaching in higher education. Proceedings of the International Consortium for Educational Development conference, ICED2020

King, H. (2019) Continuing Professional Development: what do award-winning lecturers do? Educational Developments, 20.2, 1-4

Perkins, D. (2008) Beyond Understanding. In: R. Land, J.H.F.Meyer & J.Smith (Eds.) Threshold Concepts within the Disciplines. Sense Publishers, Rottersam

Schön, D. (1982) The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action. Routledge, London

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, Vo.15 No.2 4-31

Skovholt, T.M., M. Hanson, L. Jennings & T. Grier (2016) A Brief History of Expertise. In: Skovholt,T.M. &Jennings (Eds.) Master Therapists: Exploring Expertise in Therapy and Counseling, 10th Anniversary Edition. Oxford University Press.


Image of host Dr Helen King.

Dr Helen King NTF SFSEDA PFHEA is currently the Deputy Director of Academic Practice at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. Her career in educational development spans over two decades and has included leading roles in UK-wide learning and teaching enhancement projects and organisations, as an independent consultant collaborating with colleagues in the UK, USA and Australia, and institutional roles. She has broad interests across a range of learning, teaching and assessment themes but her particular passion is in supporting colleagues’ professional learning and development. Her current research is exploring the characteristics of expertise for teaching in higher education. She is proud to hold a Senior Fellowship of the Staff & Educational Development Association (SFSEDA), is a UK National Teaching Fellow (NTF), Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), and Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Queensland. In her non-work time she thoroughly enjoys trail running and Bluegrass banjo playing (not necessarily at the same time) both of which feed into her research and educational development interests in various ways!


Q1. What works for you, educational expertise or excellence? Or something else?

Q2. From your perspective, what are the ways of thinking and practising that differentiate educators with expertise? Please share your thinking 

Q3. What top tips or resources do you have to help improve confidence in teaching and/or supporting learning?

Q4. In what ways is it helpful to consider CPD as an evidence- informed evolution of educational practice?

Q5. What steps can institutions take to engender a culture of professional learning and the development of expertise for all?

Q6. What else can we do with this concept of educational expertise? Where might it take us? What further research might we do?

The Wakelet can be found at: https://wke.lt/w/s/30Cgjm

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#LTHEchat 217: Symbiotic versus Parasitic Aggregation–Good Practice for Social Media

Led by: Dr Linnea Soler @DrLinneaSoler & Dr Nathalie Tasler @drntasler

Image from Pixaby by Gerhard G

There’s often a thin line between aggregation and theft. Sending readers to savor the work of others at the sites where they publish — that’s one thing. Excerpting or paraphrasing at length, so the original sources doesn’t get the traffic or the revenue, that’s something else.

Keller (2011)–former executive editor of The New York Times

Bear with us! This is a topic we only recently encountered. There is not much guidance besides resources for journalists. So, after explaining the terminology, and why this topic matters in terms of digital impact, we are walking you through four good practice steps that are suggested for journalism. We would like to hear about your own experience, viewpoints, and how we can collaboratively turn this into good practice guidelines for social media.

Aggregation, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Jonathan Bailey, states that “If you use or link to other content, you are probably an aggregator, at least in some capacity” (Bailey, 2010) and then follows with ‘we are all aggregators’ (Bailey, 2015).  But there are different approaches to aggregation and, depending on how transparent the attribution is, these can be classified either as parasitic or symbiotic. We believe that transparency (Silverman, 2014) and how attribution is carried out seem to underpin these critical differences.

“Ethical aggregators try to find ways to build upon and add value to the works of others while supporting the original creator” (Bailey, 2015) So symbiotic aggregation helps add exposure to the original author through transparent attribution, thereby facilitating reader access to the original material. It also, through careful aggregation (curation), helps the readers access interesting and topical information. In doing this, symbiotic aggregators are helping to expand the footfall and digital impact for both the original author and for themselves.  However, parasitic aggregation results when there is no clear attributions to the original content – this muddies the water and confuses the audience as to where the material originated. It also cuts the link of digital impact metrics for the original author and shunts this impact to the parasite (Bailey, 2015 & Silverman, 2014)

What makes this topic so professionally relevant to us (and very likely to you)?: No matter what path you are on in HE, impact and esteem measures become more relevant for career progressions. Consider the following example: you share your work and a screenshot is taken, including your name, and this is shared more widely, without tagging; this could be considered to be referenced sharing, technically. However, you do not get the statistics from any of the subsequent engagement with your screen-shotted resource. So, the person who shares your work this way, will benefit from any likes, comments, retweets, quoted tweets but these activities will not show in your analytics. Therefore, you are cut out of the impact circle of your own work. A similar scraping approach happens if someone re-creates your tweets and shares these without tagging you as an author.

The short version:

We sought guidance on ethical sharing using social media in HE and came across Bailey’s (2015) four criteria that characterise fair sharing of content (see below).

Attribution: Strong, clear and with a link. Attribution should be front and center and in a way that doesn’t confuse the reader or block search engines.

Limited Use: Take only what you need, Thumbnails, headlines, intro paragraphs, etc. are usually adequate. Facebook, Google and others have set down standards in this area.

Added Value: Simply aggregating a bunch of content from various sources isn’t particularly useful. Aggregators should add value to the content whether through editorial selection, algorithms, commentary or a combination thereof. They should provide something that can’t be gleaned by just reading from the source.

Right of Refusal: Finally, even if you do everything the best you can, some will still not want to be included. An ethical aggregator removes those that don’t want to be included, even if there is no legal obligation for them to do so. There are exceptions to this rule though, in particular with aggregators that merely links or creators simply trying to avoid criticism.

(Bailey, 2015)

The Longer Version:

As we engaged with these four characteristics of symbiotic aggregation, and developed examples of each as we tussled with understanding them.


This is not always as straightforward as you might think. One of the most common example of parasitic aggregation that we have seen the is sharing of content without transparent links to its owner. In a ‘parasitic share’ we would simply copy and paste the URL of the webpost. On the other hand, the same material can be shared symbiotically. We share below a simulated example good practice of symbiotic aggregation where you can clearly see both the original author’s Twitter handle and the link to their original web post. This approach ensures that, if the author has access to the analytics of the website, they will at least be able to benefit from this amplified impact from from our sharing.

Most websites already have an option to ‘share through [offer of various social media icons]’ to facilitate ethical use. As authors we usually link this to our own Twitter accounts. Sharing media through these icons has several advantages: It saves the symbiotic aggregator effort and time in trying to source the author’s name on Twitter because the author will be automatically tagged in the shared resource. Furthermore, everyone gets the analytics for impact, not only the person who aggregates, but also the original author(s). This also benefits the audience because it helps the readers to link directly with the original author.

What happens if the author has a private Twitter account or is not on Twitter? In this case tagging is not possible. But then, because author does not utilise this form of impact tracking, we think it should be okay to share material as long as due diligence is shown with respect to attributing ownership. What do you think?

Example Tweet

Added Value–Example

Adding value can be a difficult aspect that caused a bit of debate amongst us, so we are keen to hear your opinions. We could argue that aggregation in itself is already creating value as it places potentially valuable and interesting resources in one place, and thus saves the audience potentially a lot of time ploughing through resources themselves. From the authors’ points of view it can create value–if the rules of symbiotic sharing are adhered to so that this symbiotic sharing provides more exposure potentially support networking.

We started a list of added value for both the audience and authors, alike, based on @erikasmith very helpful symbiotic aggregation of HE podcasts.

  • Saves time
  • Categorises the podcasts,
  • Easy access,
  • It is curated for easy navigation to topical HE podcasts,
  • Shareable
  • amplifies impact of author’s work

The curator here also includes the link to the original Twitter conversation:

This sharing of the original twitter link enables the audience (and authors) to engage with (other) authors and collaborators if they are interested. This is an excellent example of how the curator practices transparency as well as fostering community building; almost every suggested podcast has several comments below from other HE Twitter users. thereby growing the network.

The following two examples were more challenging to get our heads around, and we tried to share how we made sense of them. We would love to hear from you, if this is something to be included into the use of social media in HE--if so, how so? Here are our thoughts: 

Limited Use–Example

If you are familiar with WordPress, the re-blogging function is a very good example of limited use and automatically does this for you ensuring that you “Take only what you need” and that the original author is credited. WordPress allows anyone to re-blog (share someone else’s blogpost on your own blog) a blogpost from another author. However, only the first portion of the original post is accessible on the ‘re-bloggers’ website and the reader, should the wish to engage more fully with the post, is automatically taken to the original article by WordPress.

Right to Refusal–Examples

For us this was one of the trickiest aspects to engage with. Since in most publicly shared content, there seems to be an assumption of permission implied. If we curate sources or use content (all done ethically), and the author wants content removed, we can do this. For this to function, the author must be informed (i.e. by us tagged them in our resource). But is this feasible in all circumstances?

An implied Right to Refusal could also be found by inspecting an inbuilt Twitter mechanism. Look at your Twitter contacts to see if they have a little black lock icon next to their profile. If so, this means that their Tweets are intended to be seen by a limited audience–usually the retweet button is inactive. So, as for the case described before in the Attribution Example, if someone takes a screenshot of a tweet and shares it, either with or without tagging the originator, this would break the limited use rule as the originator clearly wanted to keep the tweet restricted to a particular audience.

These are our thoughts so far. What are your experiences? Do these rules make sense? Is there other good practice more suitable for the use of social media in HE? Do you have any hints and tips you can share with us?


Thank you @cristinacost for sharing these two papers on strategic communication:

  1. Habermas on Strategic and Communicative Action on JSTOR
  2. Communicative versus Strategic Rationality: Habermas Theory of Communicative Action and the Social Brain https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3666968/

Thank you @chrissinerantzi for sharing the following resources

  1. Use of social media metrics in research evaluation ‘narrow’ https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/use-social-media-metrics-research-evaluation-narrow via @timeshighered
  2. Carrigan, M., Jordan, K. Platforms and Institutions in the Post-Pandemic University: a Case Study of Social Media and the Impact Agenda. Postdigit Sci Educ (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-021-00269-x

And thank you @FiDaisyG for sharing your explorations of commenalist drogons (seriously you need to look this up!) and providing us with a word for one of the main issues we wanted to explain: a symbiosis in which only one party benefits but not the other (although no harm is done to the other)=commenalism. And also for sharing about epiphytes Epiphytes | Ancient Tree Forum

Digital Scholarship

One of the best brief descriptions we have found online is from University of Washington Library services, and then of course we highly recommend Martin Wellers book The Digital Scholar

We also developed two infographics for you

the image  lists the downsides of parasitic, and upside of symbiotic aggregation as mentioned above
this one lists the downsides of parasitic, and upside of symbiotic aggregation as mentioned above
This is a graphic representation of the four characteristics of ethical aggregation discussed above
This one is a graphic representation of the four characteristics of ethical aggregation discussed above

Bailey, J. (2015) A Brief Guide to Ethical Aggregation – Plagiarism Today @plagiarismtoday

Bailey, J. (2010) Are Aggregators Really the Problem? Plagiarism Today (@plagiarismtoday)

Keller, B. (2011) Postscript: Aggregation Aggro The New York Times

Silverman, C. (2014) The best ways for publishers to build credibility through transparency American Press Institute

Additional reading

Foxton, W. (2013) Parasite journalism: is aggregation as bad as plagiarism? The New Statesman

Silverman, C. (2013) Chapter 4- Practice ethical curation and attribution American Press Institute

Hosts for this week’s LTHEchat:

Dr Linnea Soler

Dr Nathalie Tasler

3/12/2020 Glasgow University School of Chemistry for The Moon Dr Linnea Soler
Dr Nathalie Tasler

Dr Linnea Soler is a Senior Lecturer in Organic Chemistry (Learning, Teaching & Scholarship track) at the University of Glasgow, where SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching & Learning) plays an important role and underpins both her teaching practice and the development of L&T resources. She has both independent and collaborative SoTL projects, with colleagues in Chemistry and from Engineering, Life Sciences, Social Sciences, and the Arts.

Her interests include the creation of chemistry education resources, often in partnership with final year chemistry undergraduate project students, for use in HE and in secondary school environments. She firmly believes in power of fun and in and the power of technology to make learning more engaging, interactive, and powerful. The need to support student transition into HE and to help foster a sense of belonging is factored into resource design. Linnea is enthralled with Heritage Science chemistry and with the use of technology and creative multimedia approaches to enhance the learning, assessment, and feedback in chemistry labs as well as the need to create fresh new approaches to lab learning.   

Dr Nathalie Tasler* is a lecturer in Academic and Digital Development (ADD) at the University of Glasgow. Her background is Erziehungswissenschaften (Sciences of Education) and Doctorate in Education. She leads the University’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Network and has a strong background in Creative Learning and Teaching. Nathalie has been involved in various roles in the education sector for over 25 years, initially, in museums and culture education and, for the last 15 years, predominantly in Higher Education. 

Nathalie is the SoTL curator for the National Teaching Repository. She sits on the membership committee for the International SoTL Society. She is also a mentor for the ALT ELESIG scholar scheme. 
She is a founding editor for the open access SoTL journal “oSoTL” and also hosts SoTLcast, a podcast around all things SoTL (available on all major platforms including Spotify).
If you are interested in resources for and her thoughts on everything related to learning and teaching in higher education you can follow her blog here: Adventures in Academic Development – Faculty Development, Hochschuldidaktik, Play and Creativity in Higher Education, SoTL (acdevadventures.blog) . Nathalie also is a mentor organizing teams for the weekly community-driven twitterchat on themes related to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education #LTHEchat, to which you are invited to participate.More details about her work history are on LinkedIn and if you like poetry you can find some of her creative writing work here.


Q1 How do you make use of your social media analytics for your career development?

Q2  How is digital scholarship recognised in your institution?

Q3 Has your content been shared without informing (tagging) you? (This is what we call “parasitic aggregation”). How did you feel about it?

Q4 What is the benefit of symbiotic aggregation (attributing and tagging the original creator) for both the author and the aggregator?

Q5  Do you have any hints/tips to help us all become better symbiotic aggregators?

Q6 Should we adapt Bailey’s framework for use in academic practice on social media?

Wakelet: https://wke.lt/w/s/OrmTDQ

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#LTHEchat 216 Breaking boundaries: career progression and education focussed roles. Led by David Walker @drdjwalker and Susan Smith @SmithySusanA

Photo of two one way signs by Brendan Church on Unsplash

The UK HE sector continues to increase its reliance on teaching-focused roles with HESA data reporting 32% of overall academic staff employed on teaching-focused contracts in 2019/20 (HESA, 2021). However, in contrast to established teaching and research career paths, a common sector approach to promotion for those in what might more broadly be termed ‘education focused’ roles (encapsulating the diversity of nomenclature used across the sector) have not yet emerged, with considerable variation in practice identified across institutional role descriptors, promotion criteria and provision of developmental support.

A particular challenge noted is the requirement to demonstrate scholarship activity, a common feature of promotion criteria for those on education-focussed tracks (Smith & Walker, 2021). This challenge stems from the lack of a shared sectoral definition of scholarship and its outputs resulting in diverse interpretation and ongoing debate centred around differences between scholarship, the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and pedagogic research.

In this chat we invite colleagues to share their own experiences and practices from their own institutions, to help develop a shared understanding of what constitutes ‘scholarship’ and to consider practical steps that might be taken to aid those on these pathways in the planning and advancement of their own scholarship activity.


HESA. 2021b, January. Who’s Studying in HE? https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/students/whos-in-he#provider.

Smith, S., & Walker, D. (2021). Scholarship and academic capitals: The boundaried nature of education-focused career tracks. Teaching in Higher Education, 0(0), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2021.1965570


Image of host Dr David Walker

Dr David Walker PFHEA @drdjwalker (Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education & Students – University of Brighton). David is the Associate PVC (Education & Students at the University of Brighton where he has strategic leadership for the development and implementation of policy and practice to ensure learning and teaching excellence, facilitating positive outcomes for students, and ensuring the delivery of outstanding support to academic staff across the university to advance learning and teaching excellence and innovation. David is a senior leader in digital education, a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Editor of the Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice (JPAAP), a member of the SEDA Conference and Events Committee and an external examiner/advisor for several leading UK HEIs.

Image of host Dr Sandra Smith

Dr Susan Smith PFHEA @SmithySusanA (Associate Dean, Education & Students – University of Sussex Business School). Susan leads the education portfolio at the University of Sussex Business School. She is a Principal Fellow of Advance HE, trustee of UK Advising and Tutoring (UK AT), member of the ICAEW Academic and Education Community Advisory Board, and member of the Future Talent Council Curriculum Innovation Advisory Board.

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#LTHEchat 215 Developing Being, Belonging, Becoming to Support Student Success. Led by Dr Harriet Dunbar-Morris, @HE_Harriet.

Image courtesy of University of Portsmouth, shows a member of staff supporting students.

Having reached the end of last academic year, which could be described as tumultuous to say the least, the focus of universities up and down the country has since been on the support that students need in preparation for the start of the new academic year.

It is the experience of ‘freshers’ that is often under the spotlight, not least in the media, in the first semester, and there is knowledge out there to guide our approach. Meehan and Howells (2018)[1] evaluated first-year students’ transition into university and found that the values of ‘being, belonging and becoming’ were important. Their work showed that three things matter to students: the academic staff they work with; the nature of their academic study; and the feeling of belonging. These are even more important when we are providing teaching in a blended format, which is why at Portsmouth we have developed a ‘Blended and Connected’ approach[2], a mix of online – synchronous and asynchronous – and face-to-face learning; but note that all important ‘Connected’ in the name of our approach. Moreover, whilst as a sector we need to consider what new students, many of whom have had a rather disrupted education at school or college in the last year, need, we must also not forget current students. It has been necessary to prepare for our second-year university students too, who need a different level of support for progression and transition than would be required in normal circumstances, as they experienced a first year unlike ever before. Then there are our third-year students who are preparing for a transition to work or further study in a changed world.

So ensuring students feel a sense of belonging and connection makes a difference to their experience of higher education. This was key to our approach to delivering learning and teaching during the pandemic, and it is at the heart of our offer for 2021-22. We have looked at research, but also modelled our own response on an evidence-based, data-driven approach in which the student voice is absolutely central. We have developed an approach which sees the value of students in active collaboration to change the institution. For example, our Student Experience Committee, which includes staff (drawn from academic and professional services teams) and student representation, has been refocused to act as a research group[3]. It is through this committee that our Being, Belonging, Becoming group emerged. This group has worked to ensure that we planned, around students, the learning, teaching and student experience for 2021-22. It has brought together academic and professional services staff and the Students’ Union in a joint endeavour to plan, in an integrated way, the progression, pre-arrival, induction and transitions of our students and applicants.

What sorts of things did we plan: a variety of events, online and face-to-face, over Welcome Month; access to Welcome Ambassadors and peer-support; early access to online modules to provide an introduction to learning in higher education, studying online, resilience and wellbeing, and academic integrity; continued use of a template in our Virtual Learning Environment; and a key role for Personal Tutors – more on that in a moment.

Image courtesy of University of Portsmouth, shows a Welcome Ambassador

What we have endeavoured to do is to help our students to help themselves: we give them opportunities to develop as students, develop skills and attributes, and provide support to help them make the most of all that we offer. Our students are well and truly placed in the driving seat of their journey.

The Student Experience Committee had also overseen the development of the new Personal Tutoring and Development Framework by a staff-student working group, and, as part of that, the development of an example Personal Tutoring Curriculum[4].

Given the central role and relationship that personal tutors have with students, they are key to ensuring students feel a sense of Belonging, and they also have a role in developing Being and Becoming. As Thomas (2012) summarises:

“personal tutors can improve student retention and success in the following ways:

  • enabling students to develop a relationship with an academic member of staff in their discipline or programme area and feeling more connected
  • helping staff get to know students
  •  providing students with reassurance, guidance and feedback about their academic studies in particular.” (Thomas, 2012, p 43)[5]

The example, spiral, Personal Tutoring Curriculum supports tutors on undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses, in each year and for a variety of session types (individual, group, online or face-to-face) to cover some key themes, several of which support connectedness and student success. For example, at Portsmouth, among the key themes that we outlined and expected students to have exposure to in our Framework, and which are drawn from Lochtie et al (2018, pp 124–127)[6], I would highlight:

  • getting to know you;
  • getting connected;
  • enhancing your future.

One of the changes we made in our Framework and which is supported by our Personal Tutoring Curriculum was to encourage students to see tutoring differently from how it might have been experienced at school or college – to engage with personal tutoring even if they were not having issues. Our approach is more developmental and provides students with the tools to help themselves; which is at the centre of our approach at Portsmouth: ‘My personal tutor has been fantastic and really helped me grow not only academically but personally as well.’ (Student, NSS 2020). We therefore included solution-focused coaching (Lochtie et al, 2018, pp 136–152) as an element of the personal tutoring curriculum when it is appropriate.

So, having highlighted some of the things we have put in place at Portsmouth to develop Being, Belonging, Becoming to support Student Success, it is over to you. How can you support Student Success in your institution? What role does Being, Belonging, Becoming have in your offer; and are they ‘Connected’?


[1] Catherine Meehan & Kristy Howells (2018) ‘What really matters to freshers?’: evaluation of first year student experience of transition into university, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 42:7, 893-907

[2] https://sites.google.com/port.ac.uk/preparingforteachingonline/principles-of-blended-learning

[3] Dunbar-Morris, H. Using a committee as a student staff partnership research group to implement data-driven, research-informed practical applications to benefit the student experience. Journal of Academic Development and Education (accepted for publication).

[4] https://personaltutoring.port.ac.uk/developing-your-tutees

[5] Thomas, L (2012) Building student engagement and belonging in higher education at a time of change: final report from the What works? Student retention & success programme. London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

[6] Lochtie, D, McIntosh, E, Stork, A and Walker, B W (2018) Effective Personal Tutoring in Higher Education. St Albans: Critical Publishing.


Dr Harriet Dunbar-Morris PFHEA @HE_Harriet is Dean of Learning and Teaching and Reader in Higher Education at the University of Portsmouth. In August 2021 she was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by AdvanceHE.


Q1 Think back to your own start to higher education. What helped you feel a sense of belonging and connection at your institution?

Q2 Think about what else universities and their staff, both academic and professional services, do. What do you understand by developing students’ Being and Becoming (as well as Belonging)?

Q3 What activities has your institution provided for the Covid-impacted student generation to develop their Being, Belonging and Becoming? Think of specific examples related for example to pre-arrival, induction and transition from year to year and to work or further study.

Q4 What is the role of the Personal Tutor in supporting connectedness and student success?

Q5 If your institution were to design a Personal Tutoring Curriculum what themes and/or activities would be central to it?

Q6 How do you enable students to help themselves?

Find the Wakelet at https://wke.lt/w/s/1qK1dz

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#LTHEchat 214: Lifelong Learning – Instilling the Desire to Continue to Learn. Led by Matt Cornock @mattcornock & Sandra Huskinson @FieryRed1

Photo by designer 491 Canva Pro

Last year we ran a #LTHEchat on learning design and how we think about planning and designing activities for learning. The final question on how we can ‘design in’ ways to support learners how to learn was an area worthy of further exploration. This is particularly the case as new ways of teaching and learning have developed further as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, including fully online programmes, hybrid and hyflex pedagogy, and a focus on small group face-to-face teaching. For many students, these ways of learning are new, not just for first year undergraduates, but also for returning students who have not had on-campus exposure to typical ways of learning in disciplines due to a variety of restrictions. 

This #LTHEchat will provide space to discuss ways of learning in subject areas, but also focus on how these ways of learning extend beyond the curriculum and formal learning programmes. Empowering students to continue learning after they have graduated is an important part of higher education, influenced by both policy and economic drivers, but also providing opportunities for innovation in programme design. Active Learning pedagogy, situated learning, critical thinking and reflective practice all contribute to enabling students to identify and address learning needs throughout their professional careers. These professional learning needs can be addressed through formal programmes, such as online degrees taken alongside work, or informal, ad hoc learning, from simply watching videos to completing self-study open access short courses. However, we would argue that for students to navigate, build and take ownership of their own personal learning environment, that intersects both formal and informal settings, requires deliberate approaches to be embedded within curriculum and programme design. 

We hope this discussion will provide reflection on current practice and spark interest in the interplay between ways of learning in higher education and professional learning. 

Further reading

Coldham, S., Armsby, P. and Flynn, S. (2021) ‘Learning For, At and Through Work’, in Pokorny, H. and Warren, D. (eds.) Enhancing Teaching Practice in Higher Education. 2nd Ed. London: Sage.

Kirschner, P.A. and Hendrick, C. (2020) ‘The culture of learning’, in How Learning Happens. Abingdon: Routledge.

Wheeler, S. (2019) Digital Learning in Organisations. London: Kogan Page.


Image of Matt Cornock

Matt Cornock, MEng MA SCMALT @mattcornock | http://mattcornock.co.uk Matt has worked for over 15 years in both higher education and professional learning sectors, supporting colleagues in technology-enhanced learning and leading learning design for professional development programmes. He is a senior leader in digital education and is a Senior Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology. He has led the implementation and evaluation of learning technologies and innovation in learning and teaching both at department and institutional level. Matt’s independent research interests focus on learning design, online education and professional learning

Image of Sandra Huskinson

Sandra Huskinson Ba(Hons) MSc @fieryred1 Sandra is an educational consultant. She has a background in multimedia design studying a Bretton Hall College, University of Leeds and University of Nottingham. She has held a variety of roles including medical artist, design manager and works as a freelance elearning and multimedia consultancy for a variety of organisations.


Q1. Think back to your own education. What examples can you provide of when you were motivated to learn beyond the curriculum?

Q2. What teaching activities are typical in your subject? Think about what makes these distinct to your discipline, e.g. specific approaches you use in your subject.

Q3. How do you enable students to learn from those teaching activities? Think about support you have in place for learning how to learn.

Q4. How do you embed opportunities for students to reflect and develop their approach to learning as part of curriculum design?

Q5. What ways do you enable students to identify their own learning needs and set learning goals?

Q6. How might you design in to programmes the opportunities for students to go beyond the curriculum and to address personal learning goals?

Find the Wakelet at: https://wke.lt/w/s/U8gQ-g

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#LTHEchat 213: Belonging – does it matter in the student experience? Led by Jenny Crow @JennnCrow

Photo by Caio from Pexels

Within the UK, the next weeks bring the start of a new academic year, which can bring up a mixture of thoughts and feelings for both staff and students. The start of a new year can also be a time to reflect or potentially introduce new things. Araújo et al (2014) talks about “academic, social and cultural adjustments” students undertake when starting at University. The start of the 2021/22 academic year also brings additional challenges. Many students will be adjusting and re-adjusting due to a wide range of learning experiences impacted by the pandemic.

Rovai (2004) found that low sense of belonging could lead to students dropping out especially in a blended and online context, this could be relevant to this year, as many students will be in this situation of taking some learning on-campus and some online. In 2019, 5 institutions launched the Developing Sense of Belonging in online distance learning toolkit, although the toolkit was aimed at online distance learning the principles can be translated to other students. One of the first things the toolkit asks viewers to do is try and consider what their students are feeling and what it is like from their perspective. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs framework (1943) was initially posed as a theory of motivation. Later in 2013, a meme was then shared on the BBC website that included Maslow’s framework plus an added addition. Whether the addition in this case is in the correct place could be up for debate.

Image source BBC, 2013

The author of the meme might not have discovered Milhein (2012) which had already applied Maslow’s framework to an online learning context and had included internet access in the first level (Physiological). The author later shared the importance of staff involvement in creating an environment of belonging and acceptance through communication, collaborative activities and feedback. However, without the initial levels of Physiological and Safety being met first then belonging was more challenging, consequently Wi-Fi is important to belonging!

Finally, not all students are the same and therefore experience different levels of belonging. Booker (2016) shares the importance of considering that some students can feel a lack of belonging that could be linked to ethnicity and gender. Singh (2020) gives some practical tips, such as creating a culture with lack of judgement, sharing of videos and explaining of local language terms – all of which can assist students from different backgrounds to feel like they belong.

In this week’s #LTHE tweet chat we are going to explore what belonging means and how it is put into practice in a learning context.


Araújo , N. et al., 2014. Belonging in the first year: A creative discipline cohort case study. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 5(2), pp. 21-31.

Booker, K., 2016. Connection and Commitment: How Sense of Belonging and Classroom Community Influence Degree Persistence for African American Undergraduate Women. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 28(2), pp. 219-229.

Maslow, A. H., 1943. A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review.

Milheim, K. L., 2012. Towards a Better Experience: Examining Student Needs in the Online Classroom through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Model. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 8(2), p. 159.

Rovai, A. P. & Jordan, H., 2004. Blended Learning and Sense of Community: A Comparative Analysis with Traditional and Fully Online Graduate Courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 5(2).

Singh, G., 2020. Supporting black, asian minority ethnic (BAME) students during the COVID-19 crisis. Shades of Noir.

This Week’s Host: Jenny Crow

Jenny Crow (@jennncrow) is the Digital Education Team Manager in the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow. Her role involves leading a small team in the College of MVLS, who build content for fully online MSc programmes as well as providing digital education support for staff and students involved in these programmes. Additionally, Jenny is undertaking a part-time PhD at the University of Glasgow. Her topic is analysing sense of belonging for online distance students and whether technology can impact sense of belonging. Her research projects include virtual tours, virtual graduations, virtual worlds and virtual students (robots). Jenny has over a decade of experience in digital education / learning technology and is a proud CMALT holder. Jenny is passionate about creating an excellent student experience and introducing strategies so to encourage all students to be part of the University. Jenny enjoys outdoor sports, travelling and drinking nice coffee.

Jenny Crow - dressed in white and blue, with right hand raised. Standing againts a blue, purple and pink background.
Jenny Crow


Q1. What does sense of belonging mean to you?

Q2. How do you enable sense of belonging within your students?

Q3. How do you support your students at a distance?

Q4. Has COVID-19 changed the way you approach belonging?

Q5. How do you evaluate sense of belonging?

Q6. How does digital technology influence sense of belonging?   

Find the Wakelet at: https://wke.lt/w/s/Ohp50K

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#LTHEchat 212 Adapting to the New Normal: Hybrid, Hyflex &Dual Mode teaching and Learning. Led by Danielle Hinton @hintondm & Rachelle O’Brien @rachelleeobrien

Image captured from Thingllink showing a lecture theatre and students joining remotely

All of us teaching and supporting learning have experienced 18 months like no other. We’ve experienced an emergency online pivot followed by many of us being required to deliver fully online, whether that was real time – synchronous, flexible – asynchronous or a combination of both. It’s been such a steep learning curve for the whole community, in all our various roles (student, teacher, researcher, educational / academic development, digital, careers, library, English Language support and more). Coming to the start of the new academic year in the UK, many of us potentially need to design and deliver small and large(r) group real-time, synchronous face-to-face and online sessions.

There are three main labels that are used in the literature and the wider educational community to define and make sense of this new world – Hyflex, Hybrid and Dual Mode. You and your institution may use these (perhaps with slightly different meanings) or a variety of other terms. We’ve distilled their main characteristics as follows:

  • Attendance Options: “students [have] the option of attending sessions in the classroom, participating online, or doing both. Students can change their mode of attendance weekly or by topic, according to need or preference.” – a Northern Illinois University definition who use the term Hyflex. The University of Hong Kong uses the term Dual Mode. 
  • Attendance Both Online and In-Person: “Students have some learning online and also attend in-person synchronous classes. Online learning may be synchronous or asynchronous. (Online may be called remote learning or extended campus(” – Sue Beckingham defines this as Hybrid.
  • Attendance Defined by the University – Need and Location: There may be two distinct portions of a student cohort. Students that are on-campus will attend in-person unless there is a need to join online (isolating due to Covid, other illness, accessibility). Students off- campus for any reason (especially those based overseas or in the workplace) will access the same session remotely online. Some Universities define this as Hybrid.

Stephen Brookfield in his book “Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher” proposes four lenses to help support critical reflection around teaching and supporting learning: (1) autobiographical, (2) students’ eyes, (3) colleagues’ experiences, and (4) scholarly literature (2017) . It’s important that we turn to these as many of us now enter this new phase of simultaneous teaching in-person and online.

Autobiographical Lens

We’ve all had experiences, recent and in the past as learners. What helped engage you as a learner? What are the values, beliefs, knowledge (including tacit) and skills that we are bringing with us? What signature pedagogies (techniques and activities) are important to us and our discipline and how can we continue them (Shulman, 2005)? For us – active, authentic and social learning and assessment is vitally important. What about you?

Student Lens
Let’s not forget to look at this educational challenge through the lens of the student. Our learners 

  • have had nearly two years of interrupted schooling and / or life transitioning into and through to HE / FE at whatever level
  • they don’t know what their learning environment will look like (how do I…). 
  • they’d like to know that they are important and known, especially where they may become one of hundreds
  • they need support transitioning into disciplines (or parts thereof) with its own language, way of reading, listening, thinking and writing. 
  • are going to be on an emotional rollercoaster ride as they navigate all of the above and the next phase of the pandemic
  • especially international, mature and differently abled and may need more tailored support.

Colleague and Scholarly Literature Lenses

Let’s not forget that some US, Australian and Hong Kong institutions and UK innovators have been at this for a while. We have many pandemic experiences both individually and institutionally to draw on. Finally we have  a rich body of scholarly knowledge, research and practice built up over the last 20 years around online and distance learning that will help us towards success in the coming year. Raes et al (2020) writes:

“It is stated that this type of learning environment requires radical shifts in the teachers’ pedagogical methods in order to accommodate to the new technology (Cain 2015; Ramsey, Evans and Levy 2016). More specific, Weitze (2015) provided an adequate description of the influence technology has:

“Although technologies are physical tools and not theoretical thinking tools or concepts, they change not only the way we carry out a task, but also the way we think about the task” (McLuhan 1964; Hasse and Storgaard Brok 2015 as found in Weitze 2015, p. 1). The synchronous hybrid learning environment requires a new kind of setup that highly influence the pedagogic and learning design (Weitze, Ørngreen and Levinsen 2013), and thus demands other methods of teaching and different activating learning activities (Bower et al. 2015). This means that the teacher or trainer has to adapt his/her teaching approach, but simultaneously has to maintain comparable learning standards (Grant and Cheon 2007; Lightner and Lighnter-Laws 2016)”. 

So, how can we draw on the wisdom of the community and the lessons in the literature and practice around online, blended and distance learning to help those that teach and support learning to survive and thrive in this new normal? 

Join us on Wednesday 15th September on

  • Twitter (8pm BST and thereafter) for our traditional #LTHEchat.
  • Padlet (all day) for an #LTHEchatFringe discussion. Designed to cater for those that don’t have Twitter accounts or who can only participate in normal work hours. Go to https://padlet.com/hefi1/e6t48ua86n0ivy66 

References and Further Reading

Hybrid / HyFlex and Dual Mode references and resources 

General References

  • Brookfield, S.D., (2017) Becoming a critically reflective teacher. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Gurung, R.A., Chick, N.L. and Haynie, A., (2009) Exploring signature pedagogies: Approaches to teaching disciplinary habits of mind. Stylus Publishing, LLC..
  • Raes, A., Detienne, L., Windey, I. and Depaepe, F., (2020) A systematic literature review on synchronous hybrid learning: Gaps identified. Learning Environments Research, 23(3), pp.269-290. https://t.co/wUI5nf1Jbd?amp=1 
  • Shulman, L.S., (2005) Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134(3), pp.52-59. https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/0011526054622015 

Chat Hosts

Danielle Hinton – Educational Developer, Higher Education Futures institute (HEFi), University of Birmingham) @hintondm

I provide support for the enhancement of teaching and learning practice, promote innovation in the curriculum, and facilitate the career-long professional development of Birmingham academics and professional staff in regards to teaching and supporting learning. I am particularly interested in active learning (including enquiry and problem based learning), the emotions of learning and teaching, enhancement of learning through technologies, distance learning and serious play in Higher Education. I am a Senior Fellow of the HEA and am currently working on the design and delivery of a fully online PGCHE programme.

Rachelle O’Brien – Senior Digital Learning Designer in the Durham Centre for Academic Development (DCAD) @rachelleeobrien

As a Senior Digital Learning Designer in DCAD, myself and my colleagues (Candace and Mark) provide specialist pedagogic advice and work with academics to design engaging and inclusive learning. Operating at the level of the programme or whole department we work to ensure an active, blended and consistent learner experience across modules and programmes. We also provide development opportunities around the design of innovative learning activities within a module, programme or at an activity level. 
I have worked in education for over 10 years, and have particular interests in digital education, play and games. Recently this interest has led me to develop and deliver multiple Escape Rooms for use in education across the sector both nationally and internationally. I am a recent graduate of the MSc in Digital Education from University of Edinburgh, a Certified member of the Association for Learning Technologists and is a Senior Fellow of the HEA.

Midlands Academic Practice network @MidAcPracUK
The Midland Academic Practice (MAP) Network is a peer run practice enhancement group with members from Higher Education institutions right across the Midlands (UK) region from Northampton to Lincoln. Members usually have an academic development remit in their role. Meetings run 2-3 times per year either online or in person and include a CPD development opportunity offered by the ‘host’ organisation.  There are also some ad-hoc events in between and chance to build relationships and contacts with other members.

#LTHEchat Questions

Question 1. What does synchronous teaching of in-person and online students look like for you and your institution?
– What terminology, pedagogies and technology are or will be used?
– Will you be supported?
– What size cohort or groups and sessions are you expecting?

Question 2. Learners who are making the transition into and through Higher / Further Education have faced two wildly disrupted years. How might we support these learners generally and in this new & different way of learning?

Question 3. Designing for active learning. How can we can adapt our teaching approaches & maintain comparable learning standards, especially in large #DualMode #HyFlex #Hybrid classes. What approaches, techniques and activities have worked, or not worked for you?

Question 4. Thinking about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (#EDI). How can we support student belonging, being seen, heard and included and associated emotions of learning in synchronous (in-person and online) teaching and supporting learning?

Question 5. What strategies and guidance should we consider when planning for the first synchronous (in-person and online session) teaching and supporting learning session? Be sure to mention your particular context.

Question 6. We’re all in this together. #DualMode #HyFlex #Hybrid might feel completely new, or you may have a lot of experience with it. Please make a recommendation or key consideration to bare in mind over the next year (pedagogical, technical or administrative wise).

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