Reflecting on the role of the SEDA Blog in ‘Supporting and Leading Educational Change’

Rebecca Turner, Library and Academic Development, University of Plymouth

‘Supporting and Leading Educational Change’ is the tagline of the SEDA Blog which has provided a platform to discuss educational development practice since 2014.  Graham Gibbs kick started the SEDA Blog with his yearlong series ‘#53 Ideas Powerful Ideas All Teachers Should Know About’.  During this series, Graham, and invited colleagues, sought to provoke debate, explore practice, and where relevant, provide recommendations on agendas educational developers support colleagues in negotiating in their daily practice.

Following this auspicious start, the SEDA Blog became an established part of SEDA’s publishing activities, providing a space for higher educational professionals to share ideas, opinions, good practice and the outcomes of research that they think will be of relevance to the SEDA community.  In Summer 2021, as we began to realise we were all going to have to live with COVID for the foreseeable future, educational developers were still working hard to support colleagues to mitigate the on-going impacts of the pandemic.  Often all our energies were dedicated to developing others, but what about developing our own practice?  SEDA is a well-connected community; through the SEDA JISC list, online events and publications, SEDA continued to engage with members, stimulating discussion and reflection.  The SEDA Papers committee identified the SEDA Blog as a complementary, but potentially underused, forum through which to engage with the SEDA community and began publishing weekly posts to share innovations emerging from COVID, as well as providing a forum through which to further connect educational developers.  Working with, and developing, learning communities is at the heart of SEDA’s values; at this time the blog created a space through which SEDA could continue to fulfil its core mission as many of us carried on working remotely.

Since then, in my view, the SEDA Blog has gone from strength to strength, and now has a following of over 7,000 subscribers. HE professionals with an interest in teaching, learning, curriculum enhancement and student support, have given their time, ideas and expertise to the SEDA Blog. This has enabled us to feature posts on current agendas such as student and staff wellbeing, AI, decolonisation and academic careers. Blog articles have also prompted us to revisit ideas core to the practice of educational development, such as peer observation of teaching, inclusive practice (see recent posts on lecture capture, session design as examples) and curriculum change. Thoughtful pieces have also encouraged us to stop and think reflectively, such as this post on active listening. The blog has attracted writers from all areas of higher education, including established educational developers leading large teams within institutions, to those new to educational development work taking their first, tentative steps into publishing and writing about teaching and learning.  Each author places a spotlight on issues or challenges they may be working with and, by writing for the SEDA Blog, creates an opportunity for the wider community to engage in a discussion around the featured topic. For the 10-15 minutes people spend reading SEDA’s weekly Blog, they are giving themselves the time and space to reflect on their practice, often with a view to how they can support others to do so.

On a personal note, in writing this post (a first for me as usually it is me pestering others to write for SEDA rather than doing the writing myself) I am hugely grateful to those that have taken the time to share their experiences and write for the SEDA Blog.  I have had the privilege of taking inspiration in the topics featured on the SEDA JISC List, ‘trending on Twitter’ or that I have come across in my role supporting lecturers and curriculum enhancement at Plymouth.  Over 130 HE professionals have written more than 100 posts for the SEDA Blog, making it a lively and engaging space to support and for the community to engage with.  I am leaving the SEDA Blog in the stewardship of the Educational Developments Committee, with Dr Kerry Dobbins (University of Warwick) and Dr Emma Kennedy (University of Greenwich) taking over editing the SEDA Blog.  If you have ideas, practice or research to share with the Educational Development community, why not keep the conversation going and submit a blog to the new team.

Dr Becky Turner is an Associate Professor in Educational Development at the University of Plymouth, and a Principal Fellow of the HEA.  Alongside editing the SEDA Blog, Becky has also served as the Chair of SEDA Papers Committee since 2017.  At Plymouth, Becky works to support new and established lecturers, Associate Lecturers, and PhD students to enhance their teaching, learning and student support practices. Becky also undertakes research into a range of contemporary agendas relevant to promoting student success such as inclusive practice, curriculum change, first year transitions to higher education.


From a small seed…Scholarship and Research in Educational Development

Charles Buckley (University of Liverpool) and Jennie Winter (Plymouth Marjon)

It is a pleasure to write a blog in SEDA’s 30th Anniversary Year as we reflect on the work of the Scholarship and Research Committee and in particular, the success of the Small Grant Scheme which is back in full swing following a short break during the pandemic.

SEDA Small Grants
Writing the SEDA Special with Frances Deepwell to celebrate the success of the Small Grant Scheme to for the SEDA 20th Anniversary brings back fond memories. The Special features reflections from a number of successful winners and reflects the positive impact that the scheme can bring to colleagues and the wider educational development community. Since that time, the continued success of the Scheme has witnessed a wide range of successful grant holders completing and sharing through publication and SEDA Conferences on topics such as  ‘evaluating the role of dialogue in virtual teaching observations’, ‘Developing academics as coaches: Preparing the future-ready graduate’,  ‘International students who teach: A creative approach to supporting them and evaluating this provision’ and  ‘Academics and professional teaching recognition in middle and Northern Europe: a case study approach to understanding, and learning from, similarities and differences.’ Five more grants have been awarded for 2023.  We look forward to seeing the fruits of these seeds flourish to build on current research and scholarship through collaboration and dissemination next year, to further development of insights into educational development practice.

The new Scholarship and Research Committee
The Scholarship and Research Committee has grown to welcome three new members, Clare Kell, Arinola Adefila and Kay Sanderson and the new Co-Chairs, Jennie Winter and Charles Buckley, are looking forward to continuing to work with committee members and SEDA to promote research and scholarship focused on educational development practice.  We are already looking ahead to 2024; we are planning a series of events in the lead up to the call for applications opening as well as working closely with other SEDA Committees and the wider community to provide opportunities for developing communities of practice around Educational Development. This will include forging sustainable connections with like-minded groups and organisations in other ICED countries. In the next year we plan to revigorated the committee and revisit the idea of developing a web based resource to support educational development writing.

Charles works at the University of Liverpool as a Senior Academic Developer supporting colleagues across the University with their scholarship and pedagogy. He is Editor of Developing Academic Practice, the University’s learning and teaching journal, the editorial board of Innovations in Education and Teaching International as well as the International Journal of Management and Applied Research. Charles is a Principal Fellow and National Teaching Fellow with Advance HE, Co Convenor for the TEAL Network and a member of the CATE-Net Committee. He is a Visiting Professor at the University of Bolton and Visiting Fellow at Northumbria University. His research interests are varied, including lecturer identities and engagement with CPD; grounded theory and the use of diagramming in research; visual representation in learning and teaching and writing anxiety amongst PhD students.

Dr Jennie Winter is Professor of Academic Development at Plymouth Marjon University. Jennie is a National Teaching Fellow and Principal Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. Jennie has numerous external roles including external examiner at several UK and European universities, co-chair of SEDA’s Research and Scholarship committee, and on editorial board membership for various pedagogic research journals. In these roles Jennie actively contributes to national debates about educational development in the UK and beyond.  You can find out more about her work at this link and contact her on

Twitter: @cbuckley007
LinkedIn: @drjenniewinter

Lecture capture: An inclusive and flexible safety net for all

Chiara Horlin, Barbora Hronska, & Emily Nordmann (corresponding author)
All affiliations School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Glasgow

The number of disabled and neurodivergent students progressing to higher education continues to grow with conservative estimates of an overall estimate of 17.3% for all UG and PG students (Office for Students, 2021). The recording of live lectures as a reasonable adjustment for those with specific learning difficulties (SpLDs) such as dyslexia, or deaf and hard-of-hearing students is relatively uncontroversial. However, mainstream provision of recordings to support diverse  needs continues to provoke disagreement (Robson et al., 2022).  The debate surrounding lecture capture often focuses on its putative impact on attendance (e.g., Edwards & Clinton, 2018; Nordmann et al., 2018). Yet in addition to there being no consistent evidence recordings negatively impact attendance, it is important not to conflate attendance with engagement.
In a new study, we explored the impact and usage of lecture recordings with a particular focus on disabled and neurodivergent students to provide insight into how lecture recordings help support engagement. The full write-up will be available in summer 2023 as a preprint, below, we summarise three main themes extracted using reflexive thematic analysis from open text responses to a mixed-method survey.

An Inclusive Tool for Learning 

Participants described how lecture recordings provide maximum access, adaptability and opportunity for learning by a) acting as a tool for consolidation and preparation, and/or b) permitting functional flexibility that could best serve individual needs. Over 40% reported using recordings to compliment and consolidate learning rather than replace attendance. Adapting pace by pausing, slowing down, speeding up and using captions was mentioned by 48% of participants and demonstrates how recordings were functionally adaptable to each individual.
I have auditory processing difficulties so have to pause often to be able to digest what was said or if i have become distracted, lectures are often too content dense to digest it in the live time.

A Flexible Safety Net 

Participants also identified that recordings served a broader purpose beyond the immediate learning context by providing a ‘safety net’ more holistically. Overwhelmingly, lecture recordings provided a degree of flexibility that allowed students to accommodate competing demands, adapt to unavoidable environmental circumstances, and prioritise the care and safety of themselves and others. Participants described factors relating to their disability or neurodivergence:
Lecture recordings to me means that having a bad day physically or mentally is not a death sentence; they are a reassurance that even if I’m too sick to go or if I struggle focusing in the lecture, I still have the same opportunity to learn the material on a better day.

But also highlighted the cost of living and the financial and time drain of commuting:
I have missed a few lectures recently as I commute to university and rely on public trains and subways, which have been running a reduced timetable due to strike action or closed for maintenance. Some days I also have only a 1 hour class, meaning I would spend more time travelling to and from university than I actually would in class, so usually on those days I will stay at home and watch the recordings to save money and time commuting.

Questioning Assumptions and Prototypes 

Finally, beyond surface descriptions of need for flexibility there was a strong sentiment of rejecting anachronistic learning environments and assumptions of what both learning, and learners, should look like.
It levels the playing field between able bodied/ neurotypical students and those who aren’t. Every student gains an advantage by having them available, but the most important thing is that those with disabilities are finally NOT at a disadvantage.
The majority of participants with disabilities who described access to recordings as being essential to their learning, also stated that it does not become their default, and physical attendance remains their first and motivating preference.
I do prefer the interaction, atmosphere and more active learning I gain from physically attending lectures, but sometimes it just isn’t possible 


Previous work looking at the efficacious use of lecture recordings targeted developing students as self-regulated learners (Nordmann et al., 2019). A common retort to requests to provide flexibility is that higher education should prepare students for the “real world”.  However, this “real world” necessarily involves significant self-regulation in managing competing demands such as illness, commuting costs and caring responsibilities alongside education and/or employment obligations.  Alongside concerted efforts to make HE accessible to more diverse groups of people, these challenges  will affect many more students than are formally registered with disability services. Providing lecture recordings for all students is one way in which higher education can implement the principle of multiple engagement advocated by Universal Design for Learning (Meyer et al., 2014). Research on lecture capture should move away from a preoccupation with attendance, and instead seek to explore engagement and the impact of different behaviours such as pausing or adjusting the speed of playback.

Chiara Horlin is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow and founder/leader of the Neurodiversity Network. Her research focuses on promoting inclusion of neurodivergent people within education and the workplace. 

Barbora Hronska is an undergraduate student in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow.  

Emily Nordmann is a Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of Education in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on staff and student approaches to lecture capture.


Edwards, M.R., Clinton, M.E. (2019). A study exploring the impact of lecture capture availability and lecture capture usage on student attendance and attainment. Higher Education, 77, 403–421.

Meyer, A., Rose, D. H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal Design for Learning, theory and practice (p. 234). Wakefield: CAST Professional Publishing. 

Nordmann, E., Kuepper-Tetzel, C. E., Robson, L., Phillipson, S., Lipan, G. I., & McGeorge, P. (2022). Lecture capture: Practical recommendations for students and instructors. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 8(3), 174–193.

Nordmann, E., Calder, C., Bishop, P. et al. (2019). Turn up, tune in, don’t drop out: the relationship between lecture attendance, use of lecture recordings, and achievement at different levels of study. Higher Education, 77, 1065–1084.

Office for Students. (2021). Equality, diversity and student characteristics data. Retrieved from  

Robson, L., Gardner, B., & Dommett, E.J. (2022). The Post-Pandemic Lecture: Views from Academic Staff across the UK. Education Sciences, 12(2), 123.

Active learning: Taking time to reflect on theory

Dr Wendy Garnham, University of Sussex and Dr Isobel Gowers, Anglia Ruskin University

We are probably all aware of the increasing challenge in engaging students in their learning in Higher Education settings, certainly in the return to in-person teaching. Whilst the reasons for this are many and varied, the adoption of more active methods of delivering content to students is increasingly recognized as central to the process.

There has been lots of interest in how we can practically do active learning either through providing ideas for activities and methods (such as Oprandi and Betts, 2022) or by assessing the efficacy of active learning methodologies (with a good example being Freeman et al., 2014).

However, just running an activity for our students to engage in, is not always sufficient for the benefits of active learning to be accrued. That would make active learning more of a checklist consideration. Generally, as educational developers, we want to base our practice on evidence-based theory and frameworks that have been developed over time, drawing on relevant research and scholarly activity. We want to know why it is important, what frameworks might explain its apparent effectiveness, and how it might change us as teachers, as well as our students.

In our SEDA Focus book “Active Learning in Higher Education” we explore some of the deeper theoretical issues and considerations that underpin active learning methods. For example, active learning often has a playful element; Roy Hanney asks us to consider how that promotes agency and belonging, something that many students report finding difficult in the transition to Higher Education. How do active learning methods relate to Papert’s work on social-constructionist practice? Sarah Honeychurch provides some answers. And to what extent is active learning about providing transformative learning experiences? Christina Magkoufopoulou creates a framework for exploring this question further.

Getting students to “buy-in” to active learning involves establishing expectations about what is involved and why we do this. It relies on our ability to design active learning tasks effectively. Mary Jacob draws together a number of theoretical frameworks to develop a new unified model of how we might best design these. In addition, Sam Elkington discusses the impact of hybridisation of learning spaces on our ability to embrace student engagement in active tasks, which is another hot topic as some universities maintain an element of hybrid teaching in their post-pandemic practice.

As practitioners, we need to be able to model the learning process ourselves and ensure that we are as engaged in the process of learning as our students. All too often when we think about active learning, we focus on the transmission of knowledge to our students. As well as drawing on established theory in this publication, Tab Betts invites the reader to engage in a thought experiment of their own, moving out of their comfort zone, to re-imagine a different kind of university.

Through definitions of active learning, we know that students have a role in acquiring knowledge and skills, rather than simply passively receiving information from the lecturer. Students are required to participate, interact, and reflect on their learning. Paolo Oprandi talks about this in terms of not just changing what students know but changing what students can produce from what they know, an important but often overlooked distinction. The importance of this in developing a future workforce is highlighted by Nick Leney and Helen Winter in their discussion of active learning theory applied to professional clinical practice. Active learning is not just about what happens in the classroom but about how that experience prepares them better for the world of work.

Together this collection of contributions this book aims to help fill the gap in our understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of active learning. Drawing on the experience of academics, learning technologists, educational developers and professional clinical staff, we hope that this will spark further discussions and development of practice and theory moving forwards.

You can purchase a copy of Active Learning in Higher Education: theoretical considerations and perspectives, edited by Wendy Garnham & Isobel Gowers directed from Routledge as an ebook for £13.29 using this link here.

Dr Wendy Garnham is co-founder of the Active Learning Network, a Reader in Psychology and Director of Student Experience for the Central Foundation Years at University of Sussex.

Dr Isobel Gowers is Academic Lead for Active Inclusive Learning at Anglia Ruskin University and involved in the Active Learning Network both locally and globally.

@DrWGarnham, @Isobel_Gowers

Freeman, S., Eddy, S.L.,McDonough, M., Smith, M.K. Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H. and Wenderoth, M.P. (2014) Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. PNAS. 111 (3) 8410-8415 Oprandi, P. and Betts, T. (Eds) (2022) 100 Ideas for Active Learning, University of Sussex Library,

Lost in the fog: The bewildering language of assessment.

Dr Cathy Minett-Smith University of the West of England
Juliet Eve University of Brighton
Dr Sabine Hassler University of the West of England
Dr Laura Bennett University of the West of England

Lost in the fog: The bewildering language of assessment.

Image by Joe from pixaby

Have you ever been disorientated in a familiar landscape on a foggy day? Locational landmarks are obscured, distorting perceptions of distance creating confusion.  This is the analogy that our students explained to us when we started talking about the common, but often mysterious, language of assessment.  Common terms perpetuate from the learning outcome, through to the task and into the feedback with students never really being sure of their meaning.  Furthermore, familiarity did not equate to confidence. Thus we embarked on a quest with students to investigate whether common words could be ranked according to their level of mysteriousness.

Perhaps not surprisingly, verbs such as synthesize, critically evaluate, and analyse were high up the mysteriousness list with a high degree of correlation between staff and student rankings.  Use of these terms is context specific, there can be a lack of consistency between tutors’ explanations, creating confusion and anxiety for students.  Students described this as leading to a state of paralysis as they struggle to know how to start.   If we know that the words are inducing disorientation, can we create an infrastructure and resources to support dialogue with students to disperse the fog?  These questions prompted a successful application to the QAA for Collaborative Enhancement Project funding by the Universities of the West of England, Brighton, Greenwich and Hertfordshire.

Using data from a survey and focus groups, to extract key issues, we developed a toolkit for both staff and students to promote dialogue around the assessment and feedback journey. In line with current research on assessment and feedback literacy, we were keen to embed dialogue from the start.  Many of the “slippery” words and terms used across different disciplines, and contexts, require unpacking and discussion to be meaningful. The stages of the toolkit reflect the common points of that journey, namely: design, introduction of the assessment to students, support for students as they engage with the assessment, marking and feedback, and encouraging students to engage with and act on feedback.

The toolkit can be used by educational developers as the starting point for discussions with colleagues, as well as by marking teams to help them build activities into modules and teaching sessions. These can focus on the design of assessment tasks (e.g. requiring reflection from students on how they have used previous feedback), introducing assessment briefs and facilitating engagement with them (e.g. via the use of exemplars, peer assessments and opportunities for students to apply marking criteria to their own and others’ work). Importantly, the toolkit encourages dialogue, as both staff and students are invited to reflect on the same aspects but from their respective perspectives, using questions as prompts for deeper engagement.

Fog is a fact of life; we can’t prevent it as a weather phenomenon and we arguably can’t expect a learning journey to be free from moments when the way ahead is unclear or the finish line obscured.  What we can do is support students to focus on milestones and, through dialogue, build confidence to enable them to successfully navigate their way through.

Dr Cathy Minett-Smith is the Dean of Learning and Teaching in the College of Business and Law at the University of the West of England where she has responsibility for the strategic development of learning and teaching to enhance the student experience.  Cathy is a PFHEA and vice chair of the Chartered Association of Business Schools Learning and Teaching Committee.

Juliet Eve, PFHEA, is Head of the Learning and Teaching Hub at the University of Brighton where she heads up a team of academic developers. She is part of the education and student experience leadership team and in particular leads on assessment and feedback.

Dr Sabine Hassler is a Senior Lecturer in Law in the College of Business and Law at the University of the West of England. As the Law School’s Assessment Offences Adviser and Quality Assurance Lead, she is particularly interested in exploring and understanding assessment strategies and the processes behind assessment setting.

Dr Laura Bennett is an Associate Director of Academic Practice based in Library, Careers and Inclusivity at the University of the West of England.  She works on strategic learning, teaching and assessment projects across the University, with a particular focus on inclusivity and wellbeing.  Laura is a SFHEA and co-led the project with Cathy on behalf of the University of the West of England.

Laura Bennett (Twitter) @DrLauraB_HE
Juliet Eve (Twitter) @JulietEve

Reimagining SEDA Conferences and Events: Lessons learned in changing context

Dr Mary Fitzpatrick, SFSEDA, MCIPD, Head, Centre for Transformative Learning, University of Limerick
Prof Pam Parker NTF, PFHEA, SFSEDA,  Professor Educational Development, Department of Learning Enhancement and Development, City, University of London

Reimagining the traditional SEDA Spring and Autumn conferences was an opportunity afforded in recent years.  The traditional two-day conference with keynotes, multiple parallel sessions and networking opportunities was not possible and so a move online was required.  While operational and logistical challenges prevailed initially, a change in the way of working was something that resulted in an efficient, streamlined and accessible option for increased engagement with stakeholders particularly international colleagues (Rubringer et al 2020). 

In terms of structure, events are less intensive with sessions scheduled with breaks during the day and opportunities for keynotes in a variety of formats such as the traditional keynote, keynote debate, dual keynote; panel sessions with student and teacher representation, lightening talks and a maximum of two parallel sessions at any one time.

Whereas the traditional conference relied on a proposal submission and review process, the initial online events were reliant on the positive response from invited speakers to contribute to specific sessions where they could share their expertise on the conference theme.  Students from various institutions and contexts were invited to speak at panel sessions on pertinent issues related to the conference themes.  This has provided an opportunity to focus in depth on some key themes. The Spring Conference 2023, which will also be online, did return to a call for abstracts for both lightening talks and papers and there was a good response which will enable the conference to continue to offer opportunities for engaging discussions with colleagues. 

Bookings can be made here for the Spring 2023 conference, which will take place online on Friday the 19th May.

In future we will continue to offer two conference events annually.  One event each year will take place online to allow for increased accessibility and engagement with international speakers and audience. A second event will be a face-to-face community event with the overall focus on problem-solving workshops and sharing good practice. We recognise the value of colleagues being at the conference in person and the networking opportunities this offers but we also recognise the increased opportunity to engage with international colleagues as well. Therefore, offering the two modes for future conferences supports both of these.

The move to online has also enabled us to reimagine our one-day events and be more responsive. Previously these one-day events were all held in person however, in the future we plan to offer these also in both formats. The in-person events will focus on themes that colleagues are grappling with and would value the opportunity / space to discuss.  Here the focus will be on discussion and problem-solving.  The online events enable a much more proactive response to live situations and issues as they arrive as we saw with the response to AI and ChatGPT where colleagues needed to learn more quickly and have an opportunity to hear from those who are at the forefront of the activity.

We look forward to meeting colleagues at all future events.

Dr Mary Fitzpatrick is Head of the Centre for Transformative Learning at the University of Limerick.  She led the establishment of the Regional Teaching Excellence Award process across three institutions in the mid-west of Ireland in addition to an inter-institutional peer observation network.   She established a level 9 accredited programme on teaching, learning and scholarship within the University and has led a number of funded regional and national projects.    She contributes to the international context through her leadership and participation in thematic peer groups in the European Universities Association and is a Senior Fellow of SEDA  and co-chair of the Conference and Events Committee.  She is a chartered member of the CIPD.

Professor Pam Parker is the Director of the Learning Enhancement and Development Directorate at City, University of London. Pam has many years’ experience of staff development activities focused on supporting staff to provide high quality education using contemporary pedagogical approaches. Pam is the programme director for the PhD/MPhil Professional Education Programme and has over a number of years led the MA Academic Practice programme and Advance HE accredited CPD route for four categories of fellowship. Pam engages in a range of scholarly and research activity in areas such as staff development, assessment and curriculum. Pam is a National Teaching Fellow, an HEA Principal Fellow and a Senior Fellow of SEDA.

@1PamParker @MMFitzp

Rubinger L, Gazendam A, Ekhtiari S, Nucci N, Payne A, Johal H, Khanduja V & Bhandari M (2020) Maximizing virtual meetings and conferences: a review of best practices International Orthopaedics 44:1461–1466

The importance of Peer Observation of Teaching to induction and teaching practice

Santanu Vasant

Peer Observation of Teaching (POT) are undertaken for developmental and sometimes performative reasons, offering an educator feedback on their teaching and their student’s learning, in a variety of modes including how online materials and tasks, building a holistic assessment of their practice. In higher education, the practice is often patchy.  In this short piece, I will explore some possible reasons for this and how the issue could be addressed.

Having recently observed new PGCert students, through micro-teaching activities, in their classrooms, workshops and recordings of their practice, I came to reflect on the observation of teaching or peer review, as a developmental process for both observer and observee. It could be part of induction for new academics and third-space professional staff involved in teaching and learning (such as educational developers, learning technologists, careers advisers, librarians etc), to enable them to better understand their new institution and aid a sense of belonging. This is an often hidden or unrecognised outcome.  We need to do more to acknowledge this, talking about both what the observer has learned, as well as what the observee gains from the process.

At the University of the Arts London (UAL), we have found that many careers staff, technicians and librarians also develop students and yet far too often don’t have a voice in curriculum design or teaching as also noted by Toro-Tronconis et al (2021). More needs to be done to consider therefore how we can make our practices of POT inclusive of staff of all groups, and sensitive to their individual contexts and roles.  Through observing staff, barriers between professional service and academic staff could be broken down. This happens informally at UAL but isn’t formalised yet. One solution to further enhance the practice of observation would be to reward collaborative curriculum design via departments bringing in third-space professionals and including observation as a mechanism to initialise collaboration, potentially creating a productive space for developing teaching and the support of student learning.  In my current role, staff whose teams undertake this have found it benefits them and sparks off conversations about how the professional service staff member could co-deliver with the academic on a topic, through discussions after the observed session.

In thinking about observation, Siddiqui et al (2007) offer twelve tips: 

1. Choose the observer carefully
2. Set aside time for peer observation
3. Clarify expectations
4. Familiarise yourself with the course
5. Select the instrument wisely
6. Include students
7. Be objective
8. Resist the urge to compare with your own teaching style
9. Do not intervene
10. Follow the general principles of feedback
11. Maintain confidentiality
12. Make it a learning experience

When I have undertaken observations, I have followed these tips throughout the process, mindful of ultimately making observation a useful learning experience. It is also insightful to see how students engage with the learning process (point 6 above). 

An enjoyable and insightful experience 

Being observed and observing others should be an enjoyable and insightful experience. It should also be a non-threatening and developmental one. This allows for a productive discussion around development and counters the sense of observation as a performative tool, which often senior leadership see it to be. We do this using the 12 tips above and by being aware that a person is involved, not just a process.

Bryne et al (2010) and the University of Edinburgh’s (2017) guidance shows how enjoyable and insightful the experience can be, as the following indicates:

  • Observers report enjoyable experiences, one participant saying “ethos of support rather than judgment. A better feel-good factor.” (Bryne et al, 2010, p223)
  • Observers reported insightful experiences – “it sounds silly but it’s the only time that I’ve actually had critical feedback to allow me to think this is something I need to go away and work on, usually it’s “that was fantastic‟, and so I go away feeling good, but that’s no use…” (ibid, p224).   
  • Observers reported using what they have learnt in their own teaching – “I’m constantly re-using tips, tricks, and methods I’ve observed other people using in my own teaching” and “watching other people teach allows me to become a student once again and reflect on my own teaching from the ‘other side” (University of Edinburgh, 2017, p6 and p8).  
  • Observers find it a privilege to be invited “I find it immensely valuable to be able to watch and observe how other people go about their teaching. It’s a privilege to be invited” (ibid, p10). 

As educational developers how can we foster a sense of enjoyment out of this process, and create a space that allows non-judgemental conversations to take place?  We may say this in our guidance but how is this experienced in practice?  Are these questions we need to ask of your POT practices, in order to build enjoyment into the process? Something to reflect on. 

Creating a culture of peer observation 

When I worked at the University of West London, I inherited an established peer observation of teaching scheme, which was mandatory for all staff teaching to be done at least once every 2 years, and was linked to the appraisal process, during this the POT was discussed. This frequency was important to help improve practice, but also training on how to observe was crucial.  Incorporating tips similar to those of Siddiqui et al (2007), supported a more holistic, developmental approach. This gives POT the same status as giving feedback to students after an assessment. 

Beyond the PGCert, I have spoken to staff over the years who say they have not been observed or observed anyone for years. There could be many reasons for this; people don’t have the time, and they may not have the agency to observe others.  In terms of not being able to see some of their colleagues teach (they have opted out of this) or colleagues not seeing the value of observation for development. It may also be that the staff are not confident in observing or being observed. Some staff may feel they are experts after years of working hard in a discipline, so what might an outsider know about this? 

These arguments are valid and well-rehearsed; we need to work hard to highlight the value of this process, perhaps engaging in discussions of past experiences, and discussing opportunities created via the Covid19 pandemic to develop and change practice – observing recorded lectures for example. I hope this short piece has given you some inspiration the next time you conduct peer observations.

Thank you to Dr Jenny Lawerence and Dr Rebecca Turner for their feedback and support in writing this piece.

Santanu Vasant is an Educational Developer at the University of the Arts London with over 16 years of experience in teaching and academic staff development and 5 in senior management roles. He specialises in the design of physical and virtual learning spaces. He has a BSc (Hons) in Multimedia Technology and Design and a Masters in Education from UCL’s Institute of Education. He is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

@santanuvasant (Twitter)


Byrne, J., Brown, H., and Challen, D. (2010) Peer development as an alternative to peer observation: a tool to enhance professional development, International Journal for Academic Development, 15:3, 215-228, DOI: 10.1080/1360144X.2010.497685

Hendry, G D and Oliver, G R., Seeing is Believing: The Benefits of Peer Observation, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 9(1), 2012. Available at:

Todd, Mark A., “Peer Observation as a Tool for Professional Development” (2017). Culminating Projects in English. 84. 

Toro-Tronconis, M., Voce, J., Alexandra, J., Vasant, S., Frutos-Perez, M. (2021). Using Behaviour Change as a Critical Frame of Reference to Understand the Adoption of Learning Design Methodologies in Higher Education.World Journal of Education.

University of Edinburgh (2017) Peer Observation of Teaching. Online. Available: Accessed 27th March 2022.  

Zarrin S, S., Jonas-Dwyer, D and Sandra E. Carr, S.E. (2007) Twelve tips for peer observation of teaching, Medical Teacher, 29:4, 297-300, DOI 

Is online and digital learning really as accessible and inclusive as we’d like to think?

Adrian J. Wallbank, Lecturer in Educational Development, Oxford Centre for Academic Enhancement and Development, Oxford Brookes University

There can be no doubt that the acceleration of online and digital learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many benefits in terms of flexibility, timetabling and even sustainability, but is it really as accessible and inclusive as we like to think? Many institutions certainly seem to think so. The University of Surrey’s Education Strategy (2018-2022), for instance, aims to increase the ‘accessibility’ of learning materials through recordings and digital provision – an aim which ‘helps to provide a more inclusive learning environment…which is responsive to diverse learning preferences’ (p.2). Similarly, the University of Leeds sees digital education as key to pedagogic ‘transformation’ and as playing ‘a leading role in the strategic aim of growing our provision of accessible, inclusive and inspirational digital education opportunities for all’ (p. 5). Such statements are typical, and are often encapsulated, reinforced and perpetuated through the labelling of online platforms, Apps or software as ‘assistive’, ‘enabled’ or ‘enhanced’. However, the assumption that online or digital learning fosters accessibility and inclusion is not as unproblematic as it is made out, especially as it pertains to individuals with neurodiverse conditions such as dyslexia.
One of the main issues individuals with dyslexia struggle with is cognitive overload as a result of impaired and limited working memory. Working memory is a little like a computer’s RAM – have too many applications or browsers open and either the computer or the bandwidth (or both), will fail.  Additionally, however, as recent research has revealed, such individuals have strengths in holistic thinking, joining the dots, and have brains optimised for search and exploration rather than detail (Taylor and Vestergaard, 2022) Consequently, whilst these individuals may be quick, holistic thinkers, the trade-off is that they are easily distracted and cognitively overwhelmed. This is where online and digital learning can become problematic. Simply put, online platforms and digital technologies can be too slow, too unreliable, present too many distractions, and place barriers upon the ability of the working memory (which is often impaired) to engage in instantaneous, holistic, ‘big picture’ thinking. Problems often occur in relation to multitasking or when there are simultaneous cognitive demands that slow the brain’s ability to make connections. Typical triggers can be hopping from one login to another – often on different devices (e.g. Mentimeter), unnecessary prompts to create accounts, moving transcripts in recordings, (sometimes with incorrect or misleading notation), switching of individuals in meetings without being able to see the class as a whole (e.g. Zoom / Teams classes or recordings), the movement of the video sections at the bottom of the recording (Panopto), having multiple tabs open or having to switch between tabs as part of a session (unless you have multiple screens, once one tab is open, the others disappear, so a holistic, ‘big picture view is lost), update, email or social media notifications, chat occurring simultaneously with other inputs, multiple navigation tools, and in particular, the inability to instantaneously see the ‘big picture’ and make connections in mind mapping or collaborative online tools (e.g. Padlet, Miro Board) or panes that move around as others contribute. Often, the dyslexic individual is frustrated and overwhelmed by trying to make sense of these cognitive burdens whilst simultaneously trying to make or understand connections between the disparate elements when such connections may not even exist – a version of what has been termed the ‘paradox of dyslexia’ (Shaywitz, 1996). Recent research has suggested that up to 94% of students have moderate or considerable difficulty with online learning (Peper et al, 2021) – imagine what it must be like for students with the so-called ‘disability’ that is dyslexia.

We are repeatedly told that online / digital technologies render the learning experience ‘enhanced’, ‘assisted’, ‘enabled’, ‘accessible’ and thus ‘inclusive’. It certainly can be, but teaching staff, I would argue, need to scaffold and manage online learning far more explicitly and carefully than in traditional face-to-face scenarios if we are to incorporate such technologies in a way that is inclusive. We are encouraged to believe that good teaching is good teaching, irrespective of the platform, and that learning is effective when it is active, collaborative, dialogic, and dependent upon fostering an effective ‘teaching presence’ (e.g. Anderson et al, 2001, Laurillard, 2002 Pearson 2016). This is certainly true, but little attention has been paid to the need to reduce or manage the additional cognitive burdens encountered by students with SpLDS when utilising learning technologies or online platforms.  Arguably, this is not just important as it constitutes a ‘reasonable adjustment’ under the Equality Act (2010), but part and parcel of making teaching inclusive and as a ‘route to excellence’ (Layer)). Whilst progress has certainly been made, weeding out or at least managing / scaffolding  the ‘clunkiness’ of online platforms and digital learning technologies (or making such technologies more intuitive) is crucial if the deployment of such technologies is to be truly inclusive and accessible. 

Adrian Wallbank is Lecturer in Educational Development at the Oxford Centre for Academic Enhancement and Development, Oxford Brookes University, where he leads the General Teaching Associates course, teaches across the EXPLORE staff development programme, leads on assessment for the core IDEAS Inclusive Curriculum Development model, and convenes the Brookes International HE Reading Group. 

Adrian has research and teaching interests in academic writing, dyslexia and inclusion, neurodiversity, transition pedagogies, Universal Design for Learning, one-to-one pedagogies, and the philosophy of Higher Education. As a successful academic with dyslexia, Adrian is passionate about inclusion and works tirelessly to help enable both students and staff to achieve their full academic and professional potential. Adrian is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and is currently working on two new books relating to academic writing, assessment and inclusion, and Foundation Year pedagogies. 

Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, D.R. & Archer, W. (2001), ‘Assessing Teaching Presence in a Computer Conferencing Context’. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, (5)2. Available from:  from
Laurillard, D., (2002), Rethinking University Teaching. A Conversational Framework for the Effective use of Learning Technologies. London: Routledge.
Layer, G. Department for Education, (2017), Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a route to Excellence. Available from: GOV.UK.
Pearson. (2016), Teaching Presence White Paper. Available from:
Peper, Erik, Wilson, Vietta, Martin, Marc, Rosegard, Erik and Harvey, Richard. (2021). ‘Avoid Zoom Fatigue, Be Present and Learn’. NeuroRegulation, 8, pp.47-56.
Shaywitz, Sally, E., (1996) ‘Dyslexia’, Scientific American, 275:5. Available at:
Taylor, Helen, and Vestergaard, Martin David, (2022) ‘Developmental Dyslexia: Disorder or Specialisation in Exploration?’, Frontiers in Psychology, 13, pp.1-19.
University of Leeds, (2021), ‘Digital Education Service Strategy’. Available from:
University of Surrey, (2018), ‘Education Strategy 2018-2022’. Available from: 

How are universities increasing student responses to national student surveys?

Donna Hurford – Educational Developer at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) Centre for Teaching and Learning, and thanks to members of the SEDA mail-list for their contributions.

The University of Southern Denmark is looking for ways to incentivise student responsiveness to a national student survey on their university education. This led me to asking SEDA members for their experiences with the high-status National Student Survey (NSS), which is managed by the Office for Students (OfS) and implemented by Ipsos. Through the NSS, students provide their UK universities with feedback on the quality of their courses and provision for learning. Considering its significance for course quality, student satisfaction and recruitment it is unsurprising that all UK universities participate in the NSS. However as NSS responses for courses are publicly available, it is both high-status and high stakes. For guidance on supporting student participation and avoiding inappropriate influence universities can turn to the annually updated NSS Good Practice Guide 2023. But how does this guidance get put into practice? Thanks to members of the SEDA mail-list for the following insights.

  1. Clear communication
    The NSS Good Practice Guide includes advice on communication time-lines, how to differentiate email content and how lecturers can refer to the survey without inappropriately influencing student responses. The importance of planning and implementing a clear institutional communication strategy for the students and staff about the NSS is fundamental. One example of actioning such a strategy is an institution-wide communications ‘toolkit’ available to all lecturers, which reiterates what is and is not permissible.
  2. Student Ambassadors
    A Canadian university seeking to incentivise student responses to their National Survey of Student Experience, an equivalent of the NSS, has a group of student volunteer ambassadors who visit classes reminding students why the survey matters from the student perspective. The student ambassadors are also excellent at generating different suggestions for student engagement.
  3. Individual or altruistic incentives
    Aside from the individual monetary or token incentives for completing the survey, at one institution they combine friendly inter-departmental competition for the highest response rates with donating to charities nominated by the Student Union. The higher education institution provides each department with a donation fund of around £2000 – £3000, some departments supplement their fund. When a department’s survey responses reach a threshold, a nominated charity receives a particular amount from the departmental donation fund. By publishing departmental response rates, staff and student representatives are incentivised to collaborate on increasing their department’s response rate and in turn making higher donations to their charity. The students respond well to the philanthropic motivation and the friendly competition.
  4. ‘You Said We Did’
    When institutions act on student feedback, it is vital that the message gets across to students and staff that theirs is a listening and receptive institution. In this way institutions build feedback and action cultures, which encourage students and staff to contribute constructive feedback and in turn to recognise and appreciate changes. Institutions are sharing the NSS informed changes in creative ways, from posting relevant ‘You Said We Did’ screen savers on library computers to distributing ‘You Said We Did’ printed coasters on tables in communal areas to positioning roll-ups where their ‘You Said We Did’ messages matter most. In this way, institutional changes are shared via diverse media and target relevant contexts.

    To summarise, follow the NSS Good Practice Guide or a national equivalent, implement a communication strategy, get staff and students onboard, look for ways to incentivise student responses through friendly competition and philanthropic donations. And probably most importantly collaborate at institutional and departmental levels on cultivating a feedback and action culture where student and staff voices are listened to and acted upon.

Donna Hurford works as an educational developer at the University of Southern Denmark where she provides courses and consultancy for lecturers and leaders on a wide range of teaching, learning and assessment issues. She specialises in inclusive education with a focus on addressing bias. Donna recently co-wrote ‘Bias-aware Teaching, Learning and Assessment’, a professional development book for higher education leaders and lecturers on developing awareness of bias and strategies for pre-empting and mitigating their effects in university practices.


Staff as students; exploring identity and behaviour

Averil Robertson, University of Bedfordshire

In early December last year, I posed a question to the SEDA list:
“A colleague and I have become intrigued at the behaviour of our colleagues taking our PgCertHE. We’re thinking of enquiring further into this – I’m struggling a bit with the literature search, so is anyone aware of research in this area that we could look at?”

This clearly struck a chord with many of you! In addition to a number of helpful pointers to the literature (which I’ve listed below), anecdotes came flooding in. It seems many of you running similar courses have noticed (endured?) behaviours in your colleagues that closely mirror those of the students they complain about, often apparently oblivious to the fact that they’re doing so.

Comments included:

  • You are not alone! We have been variously irritated, amused and in despair over this since the inception of our PG Cert!
  • One interesting thing I noticed is how quickly [the students] started to ask the question: When do we get our marks back?!  
  • my word – were you in our office on Wednesday???  We were having EXACTLY the same sort of conversation!! 
  • Definitely have staff complaining about lateness and a lot are late themselves.  They also seem genuinely astounded I can’t run modules more than I already do to suit their work preferences.  Getting some to realise the work involved in an M-level award is also interesting given we are a solely PG institution!
  • I have a new programme leader this year for our PGCert equivalent programme – she is tearing her hair out as she’s not experienced this before.  She’s a very experienced academic from one of our faculties and can’t believe the student behaviour she’s experiencing!
  • As soon as I read your post it took me back to my first day as a student on my own teacher training course. The tutor was standing at the front of the class explaining how things were going to work. I was on the back row with my new-found recalcitrant friends. When the tutor announced that there would be an 80% attendance requirement on the course, I noticed my immediate neighbour scribbling furiously in her diary. What are you doing? I whispered. She replied: I’m just crossing off the days when I won’t be coming.
  • My favourite is the one who turned up at quarter past the hour, dramatically put his bags on the table and interrupted the peer who was speaking with a long rant about students turning up late for his lectures. It turned into a bonding exercise for the rest of the group who were all a bit annoyed at being there but decided they didn’t want to be him.
  • I remember a staff member having their employment terminated on the basis of repeated plagiarism. Which adds a slightly different inter-organisational aspect.
  • One of the conversations I used to really enjoy on the PgCert I ran was when participants questioned the assessment regime. Because I was anti-grading, I managed to revalidate the course without grades. Naturally, this pleased those who didn’t feel that they needed to be motivated by grades (and displeased others, of course). But the interesting bit of that conversation was when I said, well, let’s transfer this conversation to your undergraduates. Pretty universally, the consensus was that undergraduates do need to be graded. Even many of those who weren’t motivated by grades themselves didn’t seem to want to have that conversation with their own students. Some just said that grades were the system. But why not challenge the system?

We’re hoping that we will be able to gather more such examples and anecdotes from our SEDA colleagues, which would form an appendix to a future journal article; the plan is to make this appendix open source so it can be updated on an ongoing basis and used by others.

On a more serious note; the question is of course related to identity, and many of you had useful comments to make, and suggestions as to the direction our research might take.

Themes included the necessity to make the PgCert a welcoming space and supporting staff to see themselves as part of a community with their instructors and each other. In their current unit, ‘Communicating with Professional and Academic Communities’, our students will be exploring the topic of Communities of Practice, so this fits nicely. Linked to this was the question of whether they actually wanted to be there or had been told that they ‘had’ to take the course – for most of them it’s the latter (though they do seem to be enjoying it so far!).  One respondent made the observation that it’s often the situation rather than the motivation that causes the behaviour, which is an interesting point.

The importance of reflective practice came up repeatedly. All our activities and assignments involve discussion and a critical evaluation of practice in one form or another. I plan to use one of the synchronous sessions in my unit to run an informal focus group around the topic of identity, one of the themes of the unit, which I anticipate will provoke a lively discussion – our students have multiple identities as academic staff, as students, and as practitioners.

Some of you mentioned the psychology underpinning identity and transitions. ‘The emotion of learning and teaching’ (see below) was recommended as a resource that could be used to help both our students and us to understand motivations and behaviours, and to adapt our courses and support accordingly. I was particularly taken with the idea of ‘expert to novice’ mentioned by one person, and think this would resonate with our students, most of whom are health practitioners.

Several of you suggested looking at the literature around Students as Partners, co-creation etc., and I’ll be following that up. I was already planning to do a paired observation, which one of you thought would be a useful activity, and will be giving them plenty of opportunities to get feedback on their topics and the form of their submission as they develop them (they have wide scope in the format they can use).

Some of you pointed to your own work in this area. For example, Stephen May (Royal Veterinary College) not only told me about his own experiences with patchwork assignments (which we also use), but also shared some quotes from his research in this area:

“The fact that the patches were formative and not graded may have led to deeper reflection, as assessed reflective work can lead to less personal critical reflections. However, this led to many instances where participants’ requests for a mark for formative patches had to be declined by the tutors.“ Silva-Fletcher, A., May, H., Magnier, K.M. and May, S.A., 2014.

“Receiving formative feedback which was part of the ‘teaching’ or ‘developmental’ activity of the PGCertVetEd was hard for some participants who frequently requested a summative grade together with the formative feedback.” Silva-Fletcher, A. and May, S.A., 2015

Nice to see also that the discussion has had an impact already and has inspired others on the list to follow it up; “We are already planning to develop a resource based on the responses you are getting!”

The collective wisdom has supplied us with many ideas as to the direction of our study and we will be applying for ethical approval in time for beginning our research early next year. We will also likely be sending out a call for interview participants, to find out about experiences elsewhere, so stay tuned ….

Averil Robertson is Teaching Excellence Lead in the Academy for Learning and Teaching Excellence at the University of Bedfordshire, where she teaches on the PgDip in Academic Practice (with Apprenticeship) and on the PgCertHE. She also leads the University’s Experiential Portfolio Route to Advance HE recognition. She has previously worked as Academic Services Manager for the University Library at Anglia Ruskin University and as an Academic Liaison Librarian for the University of Bedfordshire, as well as in various library posts in the UK and in Hong Kong.



Adams, R. (2011). Exploring dual professional identities, the role of the nurse tutor in higher education in the UK: role complexity and tensions. Journal of advanced nursing, 67(4), 884-892.

Henry, G., Osborne, E. and Salzberger-Wittenberg, I. (2003). The emotional experience of learning and teaching. Routledge.

Mobilio, M. H., Brydges, R., Patel, P., Glatt, D., & Carol-Anne, E. M. (2020). Struggles with autonomy: Exploring the dual identities of surgeons and learners in the operating room. The American Journal of Surgery, 219(2), 233-239.

Orr, K., & Simmons, R. (2010). Dual identities: the in‐service teacher trainee experience in the English further education sector. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 62(1), 75-88.

Silva-Fletcher, A., May, H., Magnier, K.M. and May, S.A. (2014). Teacher development: a patchwork-text approach to enhancing critical reflection in veterinary and para-veterinary educators. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 41(2), pp.146-154.

Silva-Fletcher, A. and May, S.A. (2015). Developing teachers in veterinary education REDU. Revista de Docencia Universitaria, 13(3), pp.33-52.

White, E. (2014). Being a teacher and a teacher educator–developing a new identity? Professional development in education, 40(3), 436-449.