Supporting student writing and other modes of learning and assessment: a staff guide




Academic writing in Higher Education (HE) is contested practice freighted with meaning, never more so than for widening participation students, still placed as ‘outsiders’ and often left feeling unwelcome and ‘un-voiced’. Ironically, as Molinari (2022) argues, universities were originally more diverse in form and content, not heavily ‘literate’ but oral, discursive and creative. As HE has become ostensibly more ‘open’ the system has become more normative, more formally rule-bound, more ‘written’ – and hence more exclusive. A recent example in the UK is the Office for Students’ attack on inclusive assessment, pushing instead for more emphasis on spelling, punctuation and grammar.


Alongside this tension, many in the Learning Development (LD) community feel that discipline academics do not see the ‘teaching’ of academic writing as part of their pedagogic and assessment repertoire, preferring to send students to LD ‘to be fixed’. However, academics and LDs engaged in discussion and free writing (Elbow 1998, 1999) on this topic at a LondonMet L&T Conference presented views that were more nuanced and sympathetic. There was a deep appreciation of the ‘real’ work that academic writing does with and for students; but also a sense that they did not know how to build writing into their practice(s). And so was born this staff Guide: a playful, creative and yet intensely practical guide for academic staff who want to empower their students to write – often, playfully, experimentally – on their way to ‘becoming’, and becoming academic. Presenting the Guide in the resource showcase allowed us to highlight the continuing centrality of writing. Lecturers and university staff can use it to engage students in ‘writing to learn’ rather than ‘learning to write’.

Author Biographies

Sandra Abegglen, University of Calgary

Sandra Abegglen (@sandra_abegglen) is a Researcher in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL) at the University of Calgary, Canada, where she explores online education, and learning and teaching in the design studio. She has published widely on emancipatory learning and teaching practice, creative and playful pedagogy, and remote education. Find her personal website at:

Tom Burns, London Metropolitan University

Tom Burns (@LevellerB) is a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Professional and Educational Development at London Metropolitan University, developing innovations with a special focus on praxes that ignite student curiosity, and develop power and voice. He is co-author of Teaching, Learning and Study Skills: A Guide for Tutors (2004) and Essential Study Skills: The Complete Guide to Success at University (5th Edition, 2022).

Sandra Sinfield, London Metropolitan University

Sandra Sinfield (@Danceswithcloud) is a Senior Lecturer in Education and Learning Development in the Centre for Professional and Educational Development at London Metropolitan University and one of the co-founders of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE). Sandra is interested in creativity as liberatory and holistic practice in Higher Education; she has developed theatre and film in unusual places, and inhabited SecondLife as a learning space.


Abegglen, S., Burns, T. & Sinfield, S., (2021). Supporting student writing and other modes of learning and assessment: A staff guide. PRISM.

Abegglen, S., Burns, T. & Sinfield, S. (2017). ‘Really free!’: Strategic interventions to foster students' academic writing skills. Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, 3(1), 251-255.

Elbow, P. (1999). Using the collage for collaborative writing. Composition Studies, 27(1), 7-14.

Elbow, P. (1998). Writing without teachers. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

French, A. (2020). Academic writing as identity-work in higher education: forming a ‘professional writing in higher education habitus’. Studies in Higher Education, 45(8), 1605-1617, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2019.1572735

Molinari, J. (2022). What makes writing academic: Rethinking theory for practice. London: Bloomsbury.

Park, G. (2013) ‘Writing is a way of knowing’: Writing and identity. ELT Journal, 67(3), 336–345,




How to Cite

Abegglen, S., Burns, T. and Sinfield, S. (2022) “Supporting student writing and other modes of learning and assessment: a staff guide”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (25). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi25.961.

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