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WIHEA Seminar Series

The Academy invites key external professionals from the Higher Education Sector to share insights into a range of high profile learning and teaching topics through a presentation and discussion.
Please see below for past WIHEA seminars.

Past Seminars

One size doesn't fit all - learning beyond the labels

Dr Julie Hulme

Higher education is changing. Increasingly, there is a focus on growing class sizes, while at the same time, there is a need to teach diverse students in a way that is inclusive and accounts for their different needs. In this session, we reflected on different approaches to individual differences in the university classroom. Julie outlined her own research into the hotly debated concept of learning styles, and then moved on to consider different psychological approaches to understanding difference and implications for teaching practice.

Dr Julie Hulme is a Reader in Psychology at Keele University, and a National Teaching Fellow. In her research, she applies psychology to learning, teaching and assessment; she is frequently cited on the topic of learning styles (of which she is critical), and also interested in student transitions and teacher innovations. She started her academic journey as a mature student, which helped her to recognise the importance of skills and confidence for successful university study. As a teacher, her early experiences have shaped her values, and she strives to create engaging learning opportunities which help all students to achieve their highest aspirations. Julie ensures that she uses inclusive and interactive approaches to learning and teaching, taking into account individual differences in student learning. You can find out more about Julie's work here: and follow her on Twitter @JulieH_Psyc.

Critical reflection on organisational practice at a UK University through scholarship of teaching and learning: Measuring Impact

Paul Taylor

Presented by Professor Paul Taylor, Professor of Chemical Education & Director of Student Education, University of Leeds

Internationally, the "Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL)” concept is becoming increasingly prominent. Drawing on Vince & Reynolds' framework for 'Organising Reflective Practice' (2010), we explored how SoTL can provide a language for critical reflection at institutional level, including 'Organising Reflection', 'Public Reflection' and 'Productive Reflection’. Brief critical accounts were given of how the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE) is “organising reflection” across the University of Leeds and how collaborative writing groups can support “public reflection”. Support networks for colleagues engaged in teaching scholarship were also discussed.

"Productive reflection" in our context encourages us to see all the participants in our University as potentially productive agents and to seek to understand their meaningful impact on the world beyond their institution. Undergraduate research is a distinctive feature of both Leeds and Warwick Universities, among others. Yet there is little evidence of the “meaningful” impact of such activities. The final part of the paper presented new research that starts to explore how “high impact experiences” such as undergraduate research affect the world beyond the University and solicited suggestions from participants on developing these ideas.

Professor Paul Taylor is the Pro Dean for Student Education in the Mathematics and Physical Sciences Faculty at the University of Leeds. Paul’s main pedagogic activities concern undergraduate research, in particular opportunities for undergraduates to disseminate their findings through undergraduate journals and conferences. Paul is proud to be part of the team that will host the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) in Leeds in 2020.

Paul is also exploring ways of bringing research to a wide audience through on-line digital learning and has a long-standing interest in student engagement and partnership working. Paul’s scientific research interests are in cancer research, including new therapies and new models of cancer stem cells.

The Future shape of Educational Excellence Prof Kay

Presented by Professor Janice Kay, CBE, Provost at the University of Exeter on 1 November 2017.

Prior to her role as Provost, Professor Kay spent 10 years as Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Education during which time the University consistently achieved top 10 nationally in the National Student Survey and she has recently been appointed the Deputy Chair of the TEF Panel.

Following refreshments with the WIHEA Fellows, the seminar which attracted a large number of staff and students, considered educational excellence in this new political era. Janice spoke about the future role of TEF and subject level TEF and how these exercises will shape the thinking of students and higher education institutions about excellence in education. The seminar also explored the importance of students as participants in their own learning in the context of increased marketisation.

A video of the seminar will be available here shortly.

To view Janice's biography please click here.

Widening participation: student journeys, building lives


Presented by Professor Shân Wareing, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education and Student Experience at London South Bank University (LSBU) and a Professor of Teaching in Higher Education on 06 June 2017.

Professor Shân Wareing has responsibility for learning enhancement across London South Bank University, the Centre for Research Informed Teaching and the LSBU Education Framework, and for Student Services and Employability, digitally enhanced learning, quality assurance and enhancement, and work based learning. She joined LSBU in May 2015 from Bucks New University where she was Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning and Teaching, overseeing the 2014 Research Excellence Framework submission and leading University preparations for Research Degree Awarding Powers.

She holds degrees in English Language and Literature from Oxford University, in linguistics, gender and education from Strathclyde University, and in Higher Education Studies from the Institute of Education, London University. She taught English for Academic Purposes in Japan and was a visiting professor in linguistics at Michigan State University, USA.

She is a past Co-Chair of the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA), was a member of the 2014 English Subject Benchmark Review Group, is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Fellow of the Leadership Foundation and a National Teaching Fellow.

Professor Shan Wareing shared her interest in and many years experience of creating HE opportunities and positive outcomes for widening participation students. Shan is an outstanding speaker with a critical view of Higher Education that is most inspiring, her recent critical letter to the newly appointed Chair of the Office For Students on WonkHE illustrates her strong commitment to students and society, instead of mere metrics.

A video of the presentation is available here

Threshold Concepts & Troublesome Knowledge: A Transformative Approach to Learningprofessor-ray-land.jpg

Presented by Prof Ray Land Director of The Centre for Academic Practice, Durham University Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Prof Ray Land has been a higher education consultant for OECD and the European Commission, and has recently been involved in EC projects in Europe and Latin America. He is currently advisor to the Norwegian TRANSark project on architectural education and has published widely in the field of educational research, including works on educational development, learning technology and quality enhancement. He is best known for his Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge theory with Jan Meyer. A recent edited book, Threshold Concepts in Practice (Sense 2016), is the fourth in a tetralogy on this theme. His latest publications with G
eorge Gordon have been Enhancing Quality in Higher Education: International Perspectives (Routledge 2013) and Teaching Excellence Initiatives: modalities and operational factors (HEA 2015). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

The ‘threshold concepts’ approach to student learning advocates the idea that certain concepts or practices can act in the manner of a portal, through which a changed perspective opens up for the learner. The latter enters new conceptual terrain, which permits previously inaccessible ways of thinking and practising."

This session provided an outline of the thresholds approach followed by an exploration of its implications for curriculum design and academic practice both in a research-led context and in an environment where issues of learning gain and student satisfaction with their learning experience are increasingly prevalent.

Further information on the theory is available at:

A video of the session is available here.

Leading Educational Change: Learning from other HEI’ssue

Presented by Prof Sue Rigby
Deputy Vice Chancellor for Student Development, University of Lincoln
Wednesday, 2nd November 2016

Until recently, Prof Rigby was Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching) at the University of Edinburgh where she led teaching innovation. Since then, Prof Rigby has moved to the University of Lincoln where she has become Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Student Development) and a member of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Panel. Prof Rigby also chairs the national programme of projects looking into ‘Learning Gain’.

Professor Sue Rigby spoke of her long standing experience of working in different universities and leading educational change in a range of different ways.

At a time of exceptionally rapid change in the university sector, innovation, excellence, enhancement and development of teaching and learning are under discussion almost daily. Especially in a research intensive environment engaging cross institutional enhancement can be challenging and yet there is so much to gain for both students and staff. This presentation explored; what approaches are effective when aiming for more than individual excellence in the classroom, how cross-institutional change can take place and what can we learnt from other institutions in terms of innovation and excellence in learning and teaching?"

A video of the session is available here.