To embed, not to embed, how to embed


  • Ian Johnson University of Portsmouth



The embeddedness of learning development (LD) within the delivery of academic courses is emerging in my doctoral research as a key mediator of how the value of LD work is perceived by its stakeholders. Embedding might be best thought of as ‘epistemological alignment’ between learning developers and academic disciplines: that is, working with the lecturers longitudinally to co-design and co-deliver. Maldoni and Lear (2016) describe this model as ‘embedded, integrated and co-taught’. Learning developers may be embedded in other ways (e.g., physical location, operational or line management) but this does not necessarily equate to embedded provision; it could still operate in practice as a ‘bolt-on’ rather than an integrated element of students’ learning. In my research, embeddedness is discussed highly positively by learning developers across the UK, as well as other stakeholders, yet is grossly undersold in the terms through which universities publicly frame their LD provision on their websites. This mini-keynote, and the discussions that followed, explored practitioners’ experiences of embedding work at their higher education institutions to work towards a richer understanding of good practice.

The three discussion prompts were:

  1. To what extent is LD work embedded at your workplace?
  2. What benefits and challenges (including surprising ones) have you encountered around embedding?
  3. Based on your experiences, what good practice advice would you give about embedding LD work?

Author Biography

Ian Johnson, University of Portsmouth

Ian Johnson is a learning developer of seven years in Education and Sociology at University of Portsmouth. He established ALDinHE’s research community of practice in Spring 2020 and has coordinated and grown it since. Ian’s research interests include academic literacies, collaborative writing, feedback on assessments, and embedding of LD work. His doctoral thesis (in progress) spotlights how various stakeholders articulate the value of LD work. From the findings, Ian seeks to suggest how the LD profession can frame itself coherently and resonantly, and thus advocate for an understanding of the work which increases its credibility and sustainability within academia.


Maldoni, A. and Lear, E. (2016) ‘A decade of embedding: where are we now?’, Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 13(3), pp.1-22.

Murray, L. and Glass, B. (2011) ‘Learning development in higher education: community of practice or profession?’, in Hartley, P., Hilsdon, J., Keenan, C., Sinfield, S. and Verity, M. (eds) Learning development in higher education. Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 28-39.




How to Cite

Johnson, I. (2022) “To embed, not to embed, how to embed”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (25). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi25.966.

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