#LTHEchat 158 ‘The Emerging Field of Learning Development’ with Dr Helen Webster @scholastic_rat and Dr Kim Shahabudin @kimshahabudin

This week’s discussion focusses on the emerging field of Learning Development in the context of significant changes in Higher Education (HE). These changes are being brought about by the Widening Participation agenda, increasing internationalisation, massification and marketisation of HE and drivers such as inclusivity, accessibility and student-centred teaching.

Because of these developments, the student body is more diverse than ever before, with concomitant concerns that it is also less prepared for university level study than before, and unease about access and attainment gaps.

Learning developers have a remit which is often called ‘study skills’ or ‘academic literacies’. They work with university students to help them make sense of and negotiate academic practices in HE and develop as successful, independent learners. What learning development is, is still the subject of lively debate: is it a profession, a community of practice, a discipline, a pedagogy, or a field? For many of us, at its most fundamental level, it’s our job.

Learning Developers may hold any one of a number of job titles (study adviser, academic skills coach, learning enhancement tutor etc); they may be embedded in schools and faculties, or located in central contexts such as student services, libraries, learning and teaching services or English for Academic purposes, or may have a Learning Development function as part of a wider role, such as subject lecturer. Their remit may include just academic writing, or wider ‘learning to learn’, and they can find themselves doing one-to-one tutorials, central workshops, embedded sessions, online resources or, like their Educational Development colleagues, working with academic colleagues to develop this aspect of the curriculum. Their backgrounds and expertise may be similarly diverse.

This week Helen and Kim lead us to consider what it might mean to teach study skills effectively and how staff in all learning, teaching and student support roles, as well as students themselves, might work with Learning Developers in this emerging field.


Dr Helen Webster is a Learning Developer and Head of the Writing Development Centre at Newcastle University. She works in a central, student-facing role across the institution, helping students at all levels and in all disciplines negotiate the complex conventions and practices of UK Higher Education, and reflect on their own study strategies to become successful independent learners.

She is interested in developing interprofessional models and approaches for this emerging profession, particularly around one-to-one work. A qualified teacher, National Teaching Fellow (2019), Senior Fellow of the HEA and Certified Leading Practitioner of Learning Development, she is also an executive steering group member for the Association of Learning Developers in Higher Education. She blogs at https://rattusscholasticus.wordpress.com

A photo of Dr Helen Webster

Dr Kim Shahabudin has been a learning developer since 2006, working with the Study Advice team at the University of Reading until June 2019, and more recently as a sessional tutor for Oxford University’s Dept of Continuing Education. She was a member of the LearnHigher CETL from 2006-2010, and has served on the steering group for the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education.

Kim’s research interests are in teaching student referencing practices, support for mature students, and mediating successful transitions to higher education. She also has an interest in developing models and defining values for the emerging learning development profession. She holds Senior Fellowship of the HEA and Certified Leading Practitioner of Learning Development status. In 2018, she was awarded a University Teaching Award by the University of Reading. She retains the title of the only learning developer to be portrayed on an exhibit in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

A photo of Dr Kim Shahabudin

The Wakelet, created the morning following the #LTHEchat, is available at https://wke.lt/w/s/d1jnzB

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1 Response to #LTHEchat 158 ‘The Emerging Field of Learning Development’ with Dr Helen Webster @scholastic_rat and Dr Kim Shahabudin @kimshahabudin

  1. Pingback: #LTHEChat on #LoveLD tonight! – rattus scholasticus

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