Holistic education

June 20, 2013

Should “study skills” be taught? Graham Gibbs has his reservations, arguing that the best way to “improve” students is to do so through a better understanding of the nature of knowledge within specific disciplines (“Self-reflective improvement”, Teaching intelligence, 30 May).

We agree that a purely functional approach to study skills devoid of context is not enough. The term “learning development” has gained currency in recent years as a more holistic way to support students in mastering the literacies, discourse and practice of academic study.

The Association for Learning Development in Higher Education, through its annual conference, peer-reviewed journal, working groups and online forums, not only shares and evaluates models of good practice but also aims to conceptualise and professionalise the work of learning development.

In acknowledging the transformative power of education for individuals and society, learning developers are not dogmatic about the best approach to supporting students. We help to embed academic skills into the curriculum, articulate and model academic conventions, offer programmes of one-to-one support and peer mentoring, but also recognise that a timely, targeted “study skills” intervention delivered by an impartial and experienced outsider might on occasion be just the ticket to re-engage and energise a particular cohort of students.

Gibbs’ reflection on the nature of “study skills” adds to the debate already being held on a daily basis within the learning development community. Readers are invited to visit our website to find out more about our work, read our online journal, browse our LearnHigher resources, join as members and participate with more than 700 others in our growing online discussion list.

David Bowers
Secretary of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education
University Campus Suffolk

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