Learning Development in a Time of Disruption

This blog post shares my latest conference poster titled: Learning Development in a Time of Disruption. This poster presents the research I have undertaken for my Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PCAP). This full version of the poster is hosted on the National Teaching Repository and can be accessed below:

Poster for Learning Development in a Time of Disruption. The alternative audio and textual version of this poster is linked in the caption of this image.
You can Download the PDF copy, or read the Accessible Linear & Audio Version via this blog.


The Covid-19 Pandemic had (and continues to have) a significant, worldwide impact on Higher Education. This research project analysed a special issue of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education (JLDHE) to identify how third space professionals respond to this challenge.

The special issue of JLDHE contained 102 peer-reviewed reflections, identifying numerous challenges and responses to teaching in Covid-19. All reflections were analysed using structural, topic and thematic coding to identify common responses and challenges to pandemic teaching.

The findings of this study have identified a range of individual and shared challenges for both students and third space professionals. One of the core findings relates to the diversity of responses that have been designed to meet these challenges, with over 100 distinct pedagogic and technical solutions to pandemic teaching. From these, five core themes have emerged: emergency remote teaching; reflective practice and evaluation; pedagogy and technology support; collaboration and shared practice; and, course design for the long-term.

There are four core implications for future practice. Firstly, it is important to develop flexible policies and procedures to allow practice to develop in times of disruption. Secondly, rich educational research and case studies can support innovative and adaptive practices in times of disruption. Thirdly, university staff need support and training to ensure online pedagogies and technology are supported. Finally, reflective practice and evaluation are required to ensure continuous monitoring and improvement.

Keywords: Covid-19, Higher Education, pandemic, teaching, third space professionals

Teaching philosophy

The teaching philosophies of Learning Development

Introduction to Teaching Philosophy Statements

As part of undertaking my Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, I had to produce a Teaching Philosophy Statement. I’m drawn to the approach the University of San Diego (2023) takes to introduce the Teaching Philosophy Statement, which I think sets the tone well:

The life of a teacher is an extremely busy one. From early morning until long after dark, teachers dedicate the better part of their day to their students. Amid the lesson planning, the snack breaks, the recess duty, grading and the myriad other daily tasks, it can be easy to lose sight of the why of teaching. 

Why are you drawn to the classroom, and what is it about your love of teaching that makes it a fulfilling career? What’s the overarching philosophy that guides your teaching practice? Even on the busiest school days, every teacher should be able to explain their “why” by returning to their teaching philosophy.

(University of San Diego, 2023)

A Teaching Philosophy Statement is absolutely something all Higher Education practitioners can reflect upon. It is not just the realm of academics. A teaching philosophy statement sets out core beliefs about the purpose of teaching, it sets out an individual’s approach and justifies why this is their approach. I found it a thoroughly enjoyable activity!

Lee – why share your Teaching Philosophy Statement now?

This is a good question! After all, I’ve technically left Learning Development. But, I have two very good reasons for sharing this now.

  1. I want to call on Learning Developers to write their Teaching Philosophy Statements and share them. Do it now! This will provide a rich discussion about the teaching philosophy of Learning Development. It will reflect the diversity of the profession, and allow further discussion around the values established by ALDinHE and how they are applied in the profession.
  2. I must acknowledge my teaching philosophy is changing. I am now a Lecturer in Education Studies. I want to share my Teaching Philosophy Statement as it stood a year ago. I promise to re-visit this in another blog post and update my statement for my new context. It will provide an opportunity to reflect on any similarities and differences. I think this is an exciting way to continue reflecting on that transition from thirdspace professional towards academic.

This is why my post is titled the ‘teaching philosophies’ of Learning Development. I think we need to acknowledge these statements will be numerous and diverse – just like the profession. Learning Development is a profession I still very much care about. While I may now work as a Lecturer in Education Studies, a core part of my scholarship and research will be dedicated to Learning Development. It’s why I am still involved closely with ALDinHE – and am a member of LearnHigher and the JLDHE Editorial Board.

So! Here it is – my teaching philosophy from my time as a Learning Developer…

My Teaching Philosophy Statement (2022)

My aspirations

As a Learning Developer, I feel my aspirations are very driven by my profession. Hilsdon (2011:14) defines Learning Development as the “teaching, tutoring, research, design and production of learning materials, as well as involvement in staff development, policy-making and other consultative activities” in support of student academic success. However, I believe student success can never be built on dependency, so for me, effective Learning Development must also build student independence and self-efficacy. As much as I aspire to help students, my true goal is for students to become self-sufficient so they do not need me.

Philosophical underpinning

The signature pedagogy of learning development is arguably academic literacies (Lea & Street, 1998; 2006). This approach acknowledges that writing, learning, and other academic practices are not isolated ‘skills’, but are complicated literacies situated within disciplinary discourses and power frameworks (Lea & Street, 1998). Acknowledging these complexities is vital for me to identify and confront what is not taught or is assumed – constituents of the null (Kazemi et al., 2020) and hidden curriculum (Hinchcliffe, 2020). As a Learning Developer, I work within the hidden curriculum to expose and challenge it. My role as a 3rd space professional (see: McIntosh & Nutt, 2022) is very much an enabler.

Teaching methods and assessment

The most established teaching method in learning development is the one-to-one appointment. As learning is both a complicated and individual process, such appointments allow students to engage in these complexities with full acknowledgement of what they already know and understand. As represented by Webster (2018), both students and Learning Developers bring knowledge to such appointments and operate with different levels of agency. Depending on the appointment, this can frame my role as mentor, listener, teacher, and coach. I often have to informally assess students to determine how to best support them, and which of those roles I might need to take.

The most significant challenge has been scaling Learning Development beyond appointments to help more students, and there are three approaches I have taken. Firstly, there is workshop-based instruction, which allows similar principles from appointments to be applied in a group situation, extending capacity. Second is the creation of self-support resources like University of Hull (2021) SkillsGuides. These allow students to access help at a time that is convenient. Finally, there is ‘integrated practice’ which involves directly teaching in timetabled sessions as part of the curriculum. Integrated practice is arguably the best and most inclusive way to increase access to Learning Development.

While I do not set or mark student work, I do have a role in assessment. One common task involves helping students prepare for an assessment set as part of their course. This can be as simple as demystifying the essay in an appointment or teaching a whole class the principles of public communication to help them write a wiki article. I also support students with formative feedback to help them develop their response to an assessment, or provide them summative feedback on a previously marked piece of work to help them develop further. For me, this is all about supporting student learning.

Inclusivity at the heart

Inclusivity is a core value of my practice. I have worked hard to promote inclusive practices, helping ensure students can be successful no matter their background, neurodiversity, or protected characteristics. This goes beyond legal obligation – it is simply the only ethical approach to teaching. Furthermore, I aspire to uphold the ALDinHE[1] (2018) Manifesto for Learning Development, which strives to increase participation in HE and legitimise different forms of student knowledge. As I work across all disciplines taught at Hull, I need to respect different approaches to knowledge too.

Looking to the future

For me, the PCAP is an opportunity to improve my teaching further. I now have over 10 years of experience working in HE, and I still have things to learn. I’m proud of my Senior Fellowship with the HEA and fully intend to work towards Principle Fellowship in the future. I’m also keen to maintain my professional accreditations with ALDinHE and Microsoft Education, as well as gain my accreditation with the Association of Learning Technology (ALT).

[1] Association of Learning Development in Higher Education – the professional body for learning developers

Writing your own Teaching Philosophy Statement

As I shared in my introduction, I’d love to see more Teaching Philosophy Statements shared from Learning Developers. If you want to know where to start, check out this guide: What Is a Teaching Philosophy? Examples and Prompts. Please share yours and pop the link in the comments section below.


ALDinHE (2018) Manifesto for Learning Development. Education, Association for Learning Development in Higher Education. Available online: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KJnC7e2l5xnA44FWsOxaKkKNx4SQKlX2/view [Accessed 19/04/2022].

Hilsdon, J. (2011) What is learning development?, in Hartley, P., Hilsdon, J., Keenan, C., Sinfield, S. & Verity, M. (eds), Learning development in higher education. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 13-27.

Hinchcliffe, T. (ed), (2020) The Hidden Curriculum of Higher Education. Advance HE.

Kazemi, S., Ashraf, H., Motallebzadeh, K. & Zeraatpishe, M. (2020) Development and validation of a null curriculum questionnaire focusing on 21st century skills using the Rasch model. Cogent Education, 7(1), 1736849.

Laurillard, D. (2002) Rethinking university teaching: A conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies. London: Routledge.

Lea, M. & Street, B. (1998) Student writing in higher education: An academic literacies approach. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2), 157-172.

Lea, M. & Street, B. (2006) The “Academic Literacies” Model: Theory and Applications. Theory into Practice, 45, 368-377.

McIntosh, E. & Nutt, D. (eds) (2022) The Impact of the Integrated Practitioner in Higher Education: Studies in Third Space Professionalism. Oxon: Taylor & Francis.

University of Hull (2021) SkillsGuides. Available online: https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/SkillsGuides/ [Accessed 23/04/2021].

University of San Diego (2023) What is a Teaching Philosophy? Examples and Prompts. Available online: https://pce.sandiego.edu/teaching-philosophy-examples [Accessed 26/01/2023]

Webster, H. (2018) How to implement effective 1:1 tutorials, Association of Learning Development in Higher Education Annual Conference. University of Leicester, 26th – 28th March. Leicester: Association of Learning Development in Higher Education.

Header photo generated by DALL-E 2 AI

Cup of tea

Cup of TEA podcast: My doctoral research & transition to academia

I’m delighted to be this week’s guest on Cup of TEA – the Teaching Excellence Academy’s official podcast, exploring learning, teaching and assessment at the University of Hull.

Season 1 – Episode 3: Lee Fallin

This week we’re speaking to Lee Fallin from the School of Education. We talked about a range of topics including his research on learning spaces and also his recent transition from professional services to academia. Lee is really passionate about education and learning development and we think this comes across brilliantly in this really interesting chat. Lee has also kindly provided a list of related links to topics we discuss which can be found below.

Listen to the episode below:

Core links for the podcast episode:

Background links about the posdcast guest:

Have a Cup of TEA

My contribution aside, I highly recommend you check out the Cup of TEA podcast and bookmark it in your favourite app. In week 1, my colleague Kelly Dockerty and student Jess Gleisinger discussed PBL and authentic experiences, with week 2 showcasing Liz Wells and her transition from clinical practice to academia. Both are a great listen!

Using Artificial Intelligence to summerise emails: A use case for Open AI’s text-davinci-003

There have been some interesting discussions around the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – and the fear of how it will impact assessment in HE. I will reflect on this myself in time, but for now, I want to muse on a possible use case. I’ve been following an email thread on AI in higher education via a publically accessible JiscMail. One participant had acknowledged how sprawling the debate had become – and asked if ChatGPT could lend a hand. I decided to give this a go using OpenAI‘s text-davinci-003 model (and it should be noted that this post’s feature image was drawn by OpenAI’s DALL·E 2)!

First, I downloaded the content text from 30 publically accessible emails on this topic of ChatGPT. Secondly, I removed all personally identifiable information (i.e. names, emails, links, institutions) from the text. This was an ethical issue as while the email text is in the public domain via jiscmail.ac.uk, the tool I used is allowed to retain text to train the algorithm further. Thirdly, I split the text into two separate queries to fit within the 4,000 token limit on text-davinci-003 model. Finally, I took the two text-davinci-003 outputs and asked text-davinci-003 to summarise the discussion from each text sample and re-write it for a knowledgeable audience.

Artificial Intelligence summary of the discussion:

This email thread is discussing a variety of topics related to ChatGPT, a new technology, in higher education assessment. Ideas have been suggested to mitigate any short-term disruption to assessment this semester, such as informing teachers of the technology, revising current assessment regulations, teaching students about academic misconduct, incorporating the model into assessment design, encouraging the greater use of oral-based assessment, group project work, and classroom-based assessment, using browser lockdown capabilities, testing the model against a variety of tasks, and promoting assessment (re)design that requires the creation of multi-media artefacts. There has also been discussion about curating resources on the topic, as well as different types of assessment that could be used, such as handwritten assignments and orals, and the ethics of the technology, with suggestions to use Turnitin to cross-reference essay submissions and to teach students to question the production and consumption of their cultural landscape. Additionally, it has been suggested to have an event which focuses on the implications of GPT for educational development and developers, as well as a SIG on AI and Academic Development. It was also noted that OpenAI (the company behind ChatGPT) is likely to become an organisation within the Microsoft ‘empire’, and that there is software that can detect ChatGPT-generated text.

text-davinci-003 summary of academic development discussion

Evaluating text-davinci-003’s output

… and do you know what. It isn’t a bad summary. It has missed some of the nuance and detail – and obviously the weight of some arguments over others. Some of the more powerful arguments (that were buried in the thread) were lost. For me, the summary was much poorer for excluding some of the deeper ethical concerns, for example, OpenAI Used Kenyan Workers on Less Than $2 Per Hour .

Yet, for someone who is ‘time-poor’, such a summary presents an exciting way to engage with significant chunks of information in little time. This summary took about five minutes – including both my time editing the text and that of text-davinci-003. This cost around 20 USD cents ($0.20). The original text was computed to take 18 minutes to read – the refined output was 60 seconds. Paying 20 cents to save 17 minutes of reading… not a bad cost for some.

Caution is, however, needed. When I asked text-davinci-003 to summarise the above for a 3rd grader – it was quite off the mark!

ChatGPT is a new technology that can help teachers assess students. It can help teachers check if students are cheating and can help them create different types of assessments. It can also help teachers create projects and activities that involve creating multi-media artefacts. There are also some ethical considerations to think about when using this technology.

text-davinci-003 3rd grader summary of academic development discussion

At this point, it has over-simplified the discussion to the point it is incorrect. At no point was ChatGPT pitched as something to help assess students or help create multi-media artefacts.

It was quite right on the ethical mark, though. I took great care to only use public-domain information with no personal information in this experiment. But even then – I imagine some people would feel uncomfortable about this.

Artificial Intelligence summaries as an automated proccess

This was a manual process – but I wonder how far off an automated future could be. From anyone using Microsoft 365/Outlook for emails, you may have received Microsoft Viva briefings. Microsoft Viva emails to bring together data from across your Microsoft 365 account (including your email) to bring connection and insights. This all uses a form of Artificial Intelligence to provide things like helpful reminders on outstanding actions, advice on how to manage your time in the context of your diary and information it feels might be helpful. Given Microsoft are rumoured to want OpenAI’s technology further integrated into Windows and Microsoft 365 – perhaps email summaries (on this scale) would be a natural extension of Microsoft Viva.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments:

Journey into being a journal editor

Last year I had the great pleasure of joining the Editorial Board of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education (JLDHE). This started as a guest editor for the Special Edition, ALDinHE Conference Proceedings and Reflections. For this special issue I, alongside a team of other guest editors, had the opportunity to weave together the peer-reviewed conference abstract with community and author reflections. Based on my experience as a guest, I was excited to apply and interview for a permanent editor role. As you can safely guess from the title of this post – I was successful ?.

Become an editor

I’ve been an editor for a handful of months. I’m still early on in my journey, but have already found it very rewarding. It’s a fantastic opportunity to support and mentor new authors, alongside helping more established writers get their work into press. The biggest surprise, for me, has to be the dedication and generosity of our peer reviewers. I am often overwhelmed with the interest in review, and often find it challenging to choose who to allocate.

It was stupid of me to be surprised. After all, over the last couple of years, it had become clear to me that peer review was a form of community building. This particularly resonated for the Compendium of Innovative Practice where, as a reviewer, I had myself really felt part of something. This is something that I feel is very special about JLDHE. It is a community – an argument well established in Alicja’s contribution to the conference proceedings.

Teamwork = dream work

Perhaps the single most rewarding part of being on the Editorial Board is the opportunity to work with an amazing set of colleagues. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning from them all, and getting to know them more through our work. I have to give Gita Sedghi, who has been my mentor a HUGE shout out. Gita has been the one who has answered my 200-300 questions about the journal, editing and our journal system. (Thanks Gita!).

Our Editorial Board is a great team (yes – I’m biased). We meet monthly to ensure everything is on track for upcoming issues, and there is a lot of work to keep on top of between these meetings. I’ve found the pace and challenge really refreshing. As you can see above – it’s also a rewarding role ?.

The year ahead

Today drew to a close our Editorial Board Winter Residential – and so I write this post sat on a train back to Hull after what has been an intense couple of days working on journal strategy and plans. It’s got me really excited for the year ahead! I also got a chance to use the LEGO I had sat in my suitcase (a staple for any work trip away!).

I’m really looking forward to developing in my role further. I’m also happy for the opportunity to take on more responsibility, and start to focus on different aspects of the journal’s work. Stay tuned! I really look forward to share more about this journey over the coming year.

Get involved!

I hope this post is encouraging for anyone who is thinking about getting more involved in journals – especially JLDHE. I recommend peer-review as a great place to start getting involved (it’s where I started!). It helps you contribute to a journal – and get a feel as to what is within it’s scope. JLDHE is always looking for more reviewers, so watch the LDHEN and SEDA JiscMail networks for future calls to review!

Five extremely diverse LEGO (toy) MiniFigures are standing in front of a white house with red framed windows.

Whose job is widening participation anyway?

Widening Participation is an important topic, and something cemented into Higher Education Policy through Access and Participation Agreements. Yesterday I had the great pleasure of attending the University of Hull’s inaugural Widening Participation conference. The main theme and question of the conference asked: ‘whose job is Widening Participation anyway?’.

Widening Participation is something I am passionate about. It is about ensuring someone’s circumstances do not impact their ability to enrol at a University and be successful. The end result should see more students enrolling from under-represented groups. This includes, for example, care leavers, low participation postcodes, disabled students, mature students, and some ethnicities. For social justice – it is an absolute no-brainer. While the crisis around student fees and the option for Universities to raise them from £6k to £9k has been disastrous for some, one good consequence was the requirement for institutions charging over the basic fee (£6k) to have an Access and Participation Plan.

All providers that are required to have an Access and Participation Plan need to ensure their plan addresses several key points. The plan needs to show how a Higher Education provider will raise participation from under-represented groups. The plan had to include their ambition for change, the plans for that change and what targets have been set. It also needs to be clear how that plan will be delivered and what investment it will take. While £9k fees will off-put some prospective students (even though the repayments are more affordable than the old scheme). One good outcome, however, was the absolute requirement to address access for any provided charging a higher rate.

Widening Participation: My journey to university

It is fair to say that Widening Participation is something that is personal to me. Technically, my own background would have been widening participation. While the postcode I lived in had high rates of participation, no one else in my family had ever gone to University – no one could ‘sell it to me’ or tell me what it is like. My mum was also severely disabled and out of work. While my dad did work as a manager, he had worked his way through the ranks to get there – though at this point he no longer lived in the family home. I was fortunate that my school raised those university aspirations, and my teachers helped me understand the importance of a degree and the experience of studying for it.

It’s also fair to say I’ve gone beyond that base expectation. My postgraduate certificates, my job in higher education and my doctorate — they are all things that people from my background did not do (certainly at the time I started out).

To return to the question – whose widening participation is it? For me, in my experience, it was MY widening participation. Obviously, the question is broader than personal experience – but I wanted to reflect on this for one reason. If I had anything less than an absolute commitment to widening participation, I would be pulling the drawbridge up to prevent people like me from having the same success. Here is where the situation can be insidious. Imagine if I were from a privileged background and did not fight to widen participation in Higher Education. Well… I’d be working to pull that drawbridge up to stop people not like me from being successful. On that reflection – it is appropriate to fully answer the question:

Whose Widening Participation is it?


That is because access and participation is fundamentally an issue of equality, diversity and inclusion.

Social justice requires progress in this area. The right to Higher Education should not be based on where someone is born, or what needs they have. It should be based on ensuring everyone can reach their potential. As such – everyone working in Higher Education has a duty to Widening Participation, no matter what their own background is.

And if we fail? Well. Not only are we not widening participation, but we are not being equal, inclusive and supportive of diversity.

Serious games for learning, collaboration and knowledge exchange

This somehow failed to publish in May – but better late than never eh?

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending a Flood Resilience Workshop designed to help inform best practices in flood recovery. One of the distinctive parts of this session was that the substantive part of it was based around a board game. The Flood Recovery Game was built to facilitate dialogue with flood recovery stakeholders. With representatives from the Environment Agency, major insurers, Fire and Rescue, academics and more — it definitely delivered.

The Flood Recovery Game is a ‘serious game’ – serious as it is a learning and debate tool. There were several modes of play, all getting players to consider different scenarios and how they would deploy scarce resources. Money, emergency services, volunteers, council workers and recovery workers could be deployed to address the scenario. As the game developed, those resources became more scarce — and were deployed in different forms.

The games begin!

For the entire morning, we worked through The Flood Recovery Game in groups. The game started off with in quite an idealistic response. Resources were fairly unlimited — and you could deploy what you wanted. It reminded me a bit of those card games where all players pitch a response to a given scenario. The winner is chosen by the rest of the table, voting on their preferred response. The game starts to ramp up difficulty where resources become ‘spent’ and you start to earn random resources back. At this point it’s important to collaborate, especially when you have an uneven hand. At one point, I had lots of money and workers – but no council workers or emergency services, I just had to support the plans of others – but to their success!

I think my favourite modes of play came later in the game. At that stage, resources become finite and you don’t get them back (even at random)! At these end stages of the game, you get to role play one of the key stakeholders – the council, business, insurers, flood groups, NGOs, emergency workers and others. This is played on the second side of the board (see below) and gave much more opportunity for bartering resources.

The Flood Recovery Board Game. The game is based on cards that are played in response to flood scenarios.
The Flood Recovery Game

Reflecting on the game

I really enjoyed working with the others on my table. I was along to bring an ‘educational perspective’ – I’m still not 100% sure what that meant — but my geographical background and experience with local political really helped me get stuck in. I even won the first part of the game (?). Collaborating with a student, an academic, a representative from Fire and Rescue and an insurer made for really interesting dialogue. Some of the participants noted that it was an excellent conversation starter and wanted to try it outside the Humberside region (we’re not bad for flood awareness apparently!).

One of the more useful aspects of this game was the opportunity to identify gaps – and perhaps, opportunities (see below). For example, our group identified a potential to leverage Fire and Rescue data to help Insurance Companies priorities their response to vulnerable customers. With some legal consideration or consent – that data could make all the difference in a disaster. There is even potential for that idea to leave the session — and there is an example of how the session also worked as a form of knowledge exchange. It allowed academic knowledge to breach the walls of the university to a place it could impact people, business and government.

Flip chart paper pads to identify gaps in flood response
GAP! Identifying gaps

Games in my practice

Developing games like this take a lot of time – and money too! Fancy printed boxes, boards and game cards don’t come cheap. For this reason, I’ve never had the inclination to develop something like these, even though I’ve always believed them to be pedagogically effective (considering teaching at this point). The quality of the discussion from playing the Flood Recovery Game, however, has made me consider their potential for teaching critical thinking. I’ve seen many structured approaches for debate, teamwork and so in from a business context — there is clearly educational potential too. I’d certainly like to see a criticality game – may provide an alternative approach to just another workshop.

Children's hands - togetherness and friendship

World Children’s Day: What my little one’s think

Today is World Children’s Day – designed to promote international togetherness and awareness among children worldwide to focus on improving children’s welfare.

The theme for this year is inclusion for every child, calling on children to stand up for a more inclusive world. As a father of three adoptive children, my little ones that have experienced some of the hurt and harm that World Children’s Day hopes to highlight and stop. I’ve asked them for their thoughts.

The three-year-old



To be fair, this one isn’t very well and didn’t want to engage. That’s okay – because the issue is about empowering children to have a voice. On this occasion – they’re saying no, and we can respect that.

The five-year-old

I don’t really know about this. But I think we’ve learned about this. It was before the weekend.

Listening is respect. If we say something, grown ups should always listen. But if daddy says something, we should do that straight away.

For children’s health. If children don’t eat, they won’t grow.


It’s good to see this topic has been engaged with before. It was very cute for them to pick up on listening and respect.

It’s funny they mentioned listening to us as daddies, as that doesn’t work in practice. Suffice it to say – they certainly feel like they can represent their voice when asked to do something. It is interesting to reflect on that, though isn’t it – the impression that a grown-up is listened to without question, but maybe not the child. Obviously – they often need to listen without question for their safety – but sometimes their voice is essential. It’s a hard balance, and I can only hope I empower them to have that voice safely.

Totally not surprised to see health represented via food – it’s their obsession.

The six-year-old

Well. I think it is a really special day as – it might be about – like – how people believe in children.

Children can – Well. Grown-ups protect children. Need to make sure they have food, and are warm, and are safe, and make sure we brush our teeth, and have shoes on outside, and make sure we don’t have nits.

Mental health is also about children. Like when a child is talking, and someone else wants to talk, they need to wait until they stop talking.

Also. Like if I was a teenager, but you said don’t go too far – then I did and got lost. Someone could take me. If people did that they would be in trouble with the police.


Children’s safety was forefront here – which perhaps represents how we’ve had to introduce some ideas of parental roles (in contrast to their previous life experience).

It was funny to see that represented in teenage reflections too. We’re a long way off that age – but it’s important to also reflect on maintaining that respect and care for older children too.

International Men's Day display from the University of Hull Library

International Men’s Day

I was asked by the University’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Team to write something for International Men’s Day. I’d like to share this here too:

If you had spoken to me about the importance of International Men’s Day a few years ago, I would have probably scowled or rolled my eyes. For years I had never felt the need for a dedicated day to raise the profile of men’s issues. As a man, I had never felt underrepresented, and I never felt society set up barriers for me. Even as a gay man, I’ve experienced little discrimination – though I accept that it is far from the norm. With the power of hindsight, I readily admit my disdain for International Men’s Day was based on both ignorance and my privileged and unproblematic upbringing. Here I reflect on its importance.

I had a strong role model in my own father, someone who not only portrayed the strength people associate with men, but an openness and willingness to talk about anything. We discussed how we felt; I was encouraged to do what made me happy (masculine or not), and it was okay to show weakness. I was never shouted at as a child and never experienced any violence. When, as an adult, I introduced my father to my boyfriend, my father showed me nothing but love and acceptance.

This is not the case for everyone.

I have volunteered in local politics and knocked on doors all over the city. I have volunteered as a governor at five schools and am now Chair of governors at two of them. I am a trustee of a local charity that provides grants to local organisations. I am also a Lecturer in Education, supporting the next generation of practitioners to support children, young people and families. All these experiences have affirmed the need for an International Men’s Day.

Too many children and teenagers have missing or toxic men in their lives. This is not a problem as long as male role models can be provided elsewhere. Celebrities and sports personalities only go so far. For me, the real problem is that nurseries, primary schools, care providers and other similar professions struggle to recruit men. This makes it challenging to provide young boys and men with positive and consistent male role models where they do not exist at home.

Role models

I know the importance of role models all too well, though my problem is somewhat reversed as my daughter has two dads and no mother. My husband and I have found the other women in her life are crucial to help her understand and shape her gender identity. We are fortunate to have a fantastic support network, and I can see why they say it takes a village to raise children. While my daughter is fortunate to be surrounded by so many people who love her, I worry for all the boys that don’t have similar networks of support men to help them.

I am also concerned about the toxic views of masculinity that prevent men from talking about their health and wellbeing. From self-harm and suicide to missed cancer diagnoses from not seeking help – there are severe issues with men’s health and wellbeing. As a school governor, I feel like we’re on the brink of a tsunami, with more and more young boys struggling with their wellbeing and mental health. A crisis is coming if change does not happen soon.

For me, International Men’s Day is about facing these challenges and working towards creating a better world for everyone. As a father, a lecturer, a trustee, a school governor and a citizen, I feel it is essential to embody and promote the values of International Men’s Day. It’s important to be an ally. It’s important to challenge discrimination wherever we see it. And it’s essential to weed out and challenge toxic masculinity wherever it may lie.

Official video: Helping Men and Boys

The start of my academic career – one month in!

It’s now over a month since I left my ‘thirdspace‘ role working as a Learning Developer for the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull to start my academic career. Being a Learning Developer, however, was a job I loved in a profession I adored. I had amazing colleagues, and we were so close we were like a family. I am happy to admit it was hard to walk away from all of that, but now that I am a month in, I am convinced it has been a great move.

The lead-in to my academic career in education

There was a time I would have thought I’d end up in a geography department. Yet – I’ve come to realise the School of Education has fit like a glove. I’ve done a Doctorate in Education; worked as a Learning Developer; worked as an Education, Research and Policy Co-ordinator; volunteered as a school governor, am currently the chair of governors at two schools; adopted three children with my husband, and am a trustee of a local community charity. How could I not see education as where I was meant to be?

More than anything, I am so thankful for working on a recent visit day with a local college. Speaking to those prospective students affirmed to me that I was in the right place and had the right experience to share. Everything I have worked towards led me down this career trajectory. Funnily enough, it was one of my new colleagues made this connection for me. I am, indeed, in the right place!

Teaching as an academic

The teaching has been everything I could have hoped. The master’s content is mostly pre-defined, and we’re delivering set content. This is great, as it ensures students get consistent provision, but our workshops provide enough flexibility to ensure we leave a mark and adapt to our students’ needs. The dissertation module has also been restructured, and it has given me some opportunities to get involved. I’ve covered some lectures for a colleague and have helped to develop the sessions around literature reviews. Alongside the level 7 content, I’ve been fortunate to be part of one of the new level 6 modules. As it is new, nothing is written – and it gives real freedom to write and teach content in the direction we like.

I’m yet to miss the materials I’ve previously delivered for the Skills Team – but given the modules I’m focused on, it’s been very similar content to what I’ve done before. I’ve also been able to retain support for the Postgraduate Training Scheme (PGTS), and I am still teaching on Modern Researcher 2. It’s been nice to keep something a little familiar and be able to continue this small piece.

One of the prime differences to this context of teaching from the Skills Team is that I am part of the team setting/marking the assessment. As such, when I give students assessment advice, I can do so in confidence – knowing it will link to the expectations of the course team.

I’m still awaiting my module allocations for trimester 2, and I look forward to seeing what that will bring. All in good time…


Although students are at the heart of everything we do and permeate academic practice, it feels wrong not to draw specific attention to this. I’m really beginning to get to know some of the students, what motivates them and what their research interests are. As I’ve mentioned, we have a very international cohort, which has provided me with excellent opportunities to learn more about different educational systems. I’m so impressed with the passion and drive these students have, and I can’t wait to see what they do.

There is also some level of nerves. What will those mid-module reviews reveal? How will the summative module evaluation questionnaires reveal? At assessment – how will the students do? There are only some small nerves here, but I think this is important. It helps me keep student interest at the forefront of my mind.

Scholarly practice

Ironically, even though I have ‘left’ Learning Development, I’ve had more time for Learning Development scholarship this last few weeks than I have done in years. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve not got time to burn, but I have some scholarship time in my workload. That’s never happened explicitly before. I’ve been able to get a funding bid in with some colleagues, write a short journal article (brief communication) and serve as a guest editor of JLDHE, taking four articles through to completion. There is much more on the cards, and I have a book chapter to write for January, which I am looking forward to! Right now, however, my focus has to be the PCAP – and finishing my research project which focuses on analysing the Compendium of Innovative Practice: Learning Development in a Time of Disruption. More on that another time ?

All this scholarship fits in so well with my new role – and I look forward to seeing how it can impact student learning in my modules and programmes. I’ve also joined JLDHE as a permanent editor, and as I teach on the level 6 and level 7 research and dissertation modules, it’s a great fit with my teaching practice too. I’m learning a lot more about research and peer review as every week goes by – and great learning to pass on to my students.

Key reflections on my academic journey so far

The Wilberforce Building - the home of two academic departments including the School of Education -- and my office!
The Wilberforce Building – My new on-campus home!

As I have reflected upon over several of my previous blogs, this role is giving me the thing I wanted more than anything – the ability to scaffold learning and develop meaningful relationships with students. I’m now in my seventh week of teaching, which means I’ve seen some of my students for over 14 hours of contact time. We’ve got to know each other, connect and work on contemporary educational debates. I can’t wait to see what they focus on in their assessments. Marking and feedback will also be something I enjoy – yet another part of the academic cycle I’ve long been excluded from in my previous role.

Dr Lee Fallin holding a spider plant.
New plant for the office!

So far, I’ve blogged about:

  • One of my early reflections focused on teaching my first workshops. I focused on those initial connections with students, and the joy of my allocated modules.
  • Next up, I was able to think about some of the contractual changes and broader opportunities/responsibilities associated with my first (official) week as a lecturer.
  • For week 2, I focused on re-engaging with assessment & feedback. I was intentional in calling this ‘re-engagement’ as I have done assessment and feedback before – it has just been some time!
  • Finally, my last post drew attention to Personal Supervision and to what extent it was new or not.

As you can tell from the introduction, this was a huge move for me. Leaving a workplace and career after ten years was a risk, but it is something that is paying off very well.