The Centre for Learning and Teaching Associates Scheme: building a learning community for collaboration and impact


  • Susan Virginia Smith Leeds Beckett University
  • Ruth Pickford Leeds Beckett University
  • Georgi Sinclair Leeds Beckett University
  • Laura Ettenfield Leeds Beckett University



staff learning community, collaboration, qualitative research, learning development, impact


This paper presents the outcomes of a small research project that sought to explore the value of a Staff Associate scheme linked to the Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT) in a post-92 university. The Associates are a group of academic and professional service staff seconded from their Schools and services for one day a week, usually for a year, to work collaboratively with the core full time Centre for Learning and Teaching team on projects of interest which relate to learning development and align with the strategic aims of the university’s Education Plan. This paper reflects on the findings from narratives provided from autoethnographic Associate reflective diaries and survey responses that sought to explore the participants’ practice experiences, learning journeys, and perceptions of the value of their membership of the Associate scheme. The discussion is widened by the consideration of findings from the participants, which contributed to the iterative development and enhancement of the scheme. Findings showed a positive impact of the scheme on the Associate participants and their practice. They viewed the scheme as beneficial to their collaborative skills, the building of unusual synergies, and in the supporting of innovation and impact as cross-university learning developers. The paper concludes by drawing together themes from the research, lessons learnt, transferability of findings to other universities, and consideration of the requirements for a successful future scheme.

Author Biographies

Susan Virginia Smith, Leeds Beckett University

Professor Susan Smith is Deputy Director of the Centre for Learning & Teaching at Leeds Beckett University. She has responsibility for pedagogic research development and cross-university teaching and learning related academic practice projects. She has published many peer reviewed papers relating to relational approaches to student feedback, the student award gap and inclusive course design.

Ruth Pickford, Leeds Beckett University

Professor Ruth Pickford is Director of the Centre for Learning & Teaching at Leeds Beckett University and leads the University’s educational research, development, and enhancement. Her interests are the purposeful, coherent design of teaching, curricula and student support to maximise student success in higher education, and the implementation of integrated institutional strategies to develop the academic practices required to achieve this.

Georgi Sinclair, Leeds Beckett University

Georgi Sinclair is Head of Educational Development in the Centre for Learning and Teaching at Leeds Beckett University and is an HEA Principal Fellow. She has responsibility for the development of colleagues in all aspects of learning and teaching enhancement and is the Scheme Leader for the internal Advance HE accredited Fellowship Scheme. She has previously published on developing students' sense of belonging.

Laura Ettenfield, Leeds Beckett University

Dr Laura Ettenfield is the Academic Skills Development Manager at Leeds Beckett University. She manages the Skills for Learning team and oversees the service which offers an in-curriculum and open programme of academic skills workshops, online learning resources and International Student support. She also has an interest in pedagogic research and staff development and contributes to the cross-university Centre for Learning and Teaching team.


Baker, V.L. and Lattuca, L.R. (2010) ‘Developmental networks and learning: toward an interdisciplinary perspective on identity development during doctoral study’,, 35(7), pp. 807–827.

Beijaard, D., Verloop, N. and Vermunt, J.D. (2000) ‘Teachers’ perceptions of professional identity: an exploratory study from a personal knowledge perspective’, Teaching and Teacher Education, 16(7), pp. 749–764. doi:10.1016/S0742-051X(00)00023-8.

Bell, S. et al. (2006) ‘(PDF) The scholarship of teaching and learning: a university teacher learning community’s work in progress’, Practice and Evidence of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 1(1), pp. 3–12. Available at:’s_work_in_progress (Accessed: 10 May 2022).

Bovill, C. et al. (2016) ‘Addressing potential challenges in co-creating learning and teaching: overcoming resistance, navigating institutional norms and ensuring inclusivity in student–staff partnerships’, Higher Education, 71(2), pp. 195–208. doi:10.1007/S10734-015-9896-4/FIGURES/1.

Boyd, P. and Smith, C. (2014) ‘The contemporary academic: orientation towards research work and researcher identity of higher education lecturers in the health professions’,, 41(4), pp. 678–695. doi:10.1080/03075079.2014.943657.

Boyer, E.L. (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. 1st Ed, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 1st Ed. New Jersey: Jossey Bass.

Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2013) Successful Qualitative Research: a practical guide for beginners. London: SAGE.

Braun, V. et al. (2020) ‘The online survey as a qualitative research tool’,, 24(6), pp. 641–654. doi:10.1080/13645579.2020.1805550.

Ching, G.S. (2021) ‘Academic Identity and Communities of Practice: Narratives of Social Science Academics Career Decisions in Taiwan’, Taiwan Education Sciences, 11(388), pp. 1–17. doi:10.3390/educsci11080388.

Christie, M. et al. (2015) ‘Putting transformative learning theiory into practice’, Australian Journalf of Adult Learning, 55(1), pp. 9–30. Available at:

Clegg, S. (2008) ‘Academic identities under threat?’, British Educational Research Journal, 34(3), pp. 329–345. doi:10.1080/01411920701532269.

Cox, M.D. (2007) Faculty learning community: Program director’s handbook and facilitator’s handbook. 4th edn. Miami: Miami University.

Cox, M.D. (2004) ‘Introduction to faculty learning communities’, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2004(97), pp. 5–23. doi:10.1002/TL.129.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E. and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1). doi:10.17169/FQS-12.1.1589.

Finlay, L. (2008) ‘Reflecting on “Reflective practice”’, Practice-based Professional Learning Paper 52, The Open University [Preprint]. Available at: (Accessed: 10 May 2022).

Holman Jones, S.L., Adams, T.E. and Ellis, C. (2013) Handbook of autoethnographyo Title. Routledge.

Hyman, J.B. (2010) ‘Exploring Social Capital and Civic Engagement to Create a Framework for Community Building’,, 6(4), pp. 196–202. doi:10.1207/S1532480XADS0604_6.

Jones-Devitt, S., Austen, L. and Parkin, H.J. (2017) ‘Integrative Reviewing for exploring complex phenomena’, Social Research Update [Preprint], (66). Available at:

Kezar, A. (2005) ‘Redesigning for Collaboration within Higher Education Institutions: An Exploration into the Developmental Process’, Research in Higher Education 2005 46:7, 46(7), pp. 831–860. doi:10.1007/S11162-004-6227-5.

Land, R. (2004) Educational Development: Discourse, Identity and Practice. Open University Press.

Larsen, M.A. and Tascón, C.I. (2018) ‘Social Capital in Higher Education Partnerships: A Case Study of the Canada–Cuba University Partnership’, Higher Education Policy 2018 33:1, 33(1), pp. 89–109. doi:10.1057/S41307-018-0100-1.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press.

Lave, J. (2004) ‘Situating learning in communities of practice.’, Perspectives on socially shared cognition., pp. 63–82. doi:10.1037/10096-003.

MacKenzie, J. et al. (2010) ‘From anxiety to empowerment: a Learning Community of University Teachers’,, 15(3), pp. 273–284. doi:10.1080/13562511003740825.

McCune, V. (2019) ‘Academic identities in contemporary higher education: sustaining identities that value teaching’,, 26(1), pp. 20–35. doi:10.1080/13562517.2019.1632826.

Mezirow, J. (2016) ‘Transformative Learning as Discourse’:,, 1(1), pp. 58–63. doi:10.1177/1541344603252172.

Mezirow, J. (Ed) (2000) Learning to Think like an Adult. Core Concepts of Transformation Theory. In Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Morgan, M. (2020) ‘Bridging the gap between secondary and tertiary education Findings from the Undergraduate Level 4 Pre-Arrival Academic Questionnaire (PAQ) A case study from a Post 1992 University’.

Pickford, R. (2018) ‘A Blueprint for Teaching Excellence’, Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 6(1), pp. 98–102. doi:10.14297/JPAAP.V6I1.299.

Pickford, R. (2018) ‘A holistic framework for developing excellent academic practice’, Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, 11(2). doi:10.21100/COMPASS.V11I2.933.

Putnam, R.D. (1993) ‘The prosperous community: Social capital and community life’, Americal Prospect, 4(13), pp. 35–42. Available at: 1993 Am Prospect.pdf.

Sampson, R.J. (2008) ‘What community supplies’, in DeFlippis, J. and Saegert, S. (eds) The Community Development Reader. New York: Routledge, pp. 163–173.

Schon, D.A. (1991) The Reflective Practitioner. Ashgate Publishing.

Seal, M. et al. (2021) Enabling Critical Pedagogy in Higher Education. Critical Publishing.

Smith, A. and Seal, M. (2021) ‘The Contested Terrain of Critical Pedagogy and Teaching Informal Education in Higher Education’, Education Sciences 2021, Vol. 11, Page 476, 11(9), p. 476. doi:10.3390/EDUCSCI11090476.

Smith, S.V. et al. (2021) ‘Developing the Inclusive Course Design Tool: a tool to support staff reflection on their inclusive practice’, Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, 14(1). doi:10.21100/COMPASS.V14I1.1115.

Sparkes, A. (2002) ‘Autoethnography: Self-indulgence or something more?’, in Ethnographically speaking: Autoethnography, literature, and aesthetics. Altamira Press, pp. 209–232.

Stanley, P. (2014) ‘Writing the PhD Journey(s): An Autoethnography of Zine-Writing, Angst, Embodiment, and Backpacker Travels’,, 44(2), pp. 143–168. doi:10.1177/0891241614528708.

Starr, L.J. (2010) ‘The Use of Autoethnography in Educational Research: Locating Who We Are in What We Do’, Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education, 3(1), pp. 1–9. Available at: (Accessed: 10 May 2022).

Whitchurch, C. (2008) ‘Shifting Identities, Blurring Boundaries: The Changing Roles of Professional Managers in Higher Education’, Research & Occasional Paper Series: CSHE.10.2008 [Preprint]. Available at: (Accessed: 10 May 2022).

Whitton, J., Parr, G. and Choate, J. (2021) ‘Developing the education research capability of education-focused academics: building skills, identities and communities’, [Preprint]. doi:10.1080/07294360.2021.1946016.




How to Cite

Smith, S. V., Pickford, R., Sinclair, G. and Ettenfield, L. (2023) “The Centre for Learning and Teaching Associates Scheme: building a learning community for collaboration and impact”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (27). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi27.900.




Similar Articles

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.