John Hilsdon

John Hilsdon


I have now left my full-time post at the University of Plymouth. I was formerly Associate Professor and Head of Learning Support and Wellbeing at Plymouth University, responsible for the Counselling, Learning Development and Disability Assist teams. I am also a National Teaching Fellow. My work over the last decade has contributed to the academic and professional evolution of Learning Development as a distinct field of practice in Higher Education. I helped set up the UK network of learning developers, LDHEN, in 2002, and was the first Chair of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (see I am also an editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education ( As one of the 15 coordinators for the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, ‘LearnHigher’, I developed learning materials for academic writing (the ‘WrAssE’ project), and on the themes of critical thinking and reflection. I am co-editor of 'Learning Development in Higher Education' (Palgrave Macmillan). In the last five years I have been delivered keynotes and presentations at the University of Oxford; Chiba University, Japan; Bournemouth; Brighton; De Montfort; Sheffield; Hereford; and the University of Houston, Texas. I completed a doctorate in education in 2018 examining the significance of Learning Development in HE.


University of Lancaster: BA (Hon’s) Politics (Econ. Minor) 2(i), 1978

Bolton Institute of HE: Cert. Ed F/HE, 1983

Lancashire Education Authority: RSA Dip TEFL, 1985

University of Lancaster: MA Language Studies (Educational Linguistics) (Distinction), 1990

Iron Mill Institute, Exeter: Advanced Diploma in Counselling, 2000

Plymouth University, Professional Doctorate in Education, 2018

Professional membership

National Teaching Fellow (2005)

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

Listowner, Learning Development in Higher Education Network JISCmail list

Chair of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) 2006 to 2011

Roles on external bodies

Editor of the Journal of Learning Development in HigherEducation (JLDHE)


Convenor of LDHEN (Learning Development in Higher EducationNetwork) 2003 - present


External Reviewer, Student Counselling Service, TrinityCollege, Dublin (2005)


Learning Area Co-ordinator for the LearnHigher Centre forExcellence in Teaching and Learning (2005 - 2010)


Chair of the LearnHigher Working Group (2011 - 2012)


JISC Developing Digital Literacies Programme, ALDinHEProject Manager 2011 - 2013

Teaching interests

Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

Critical thinking, reflection/reflexivity

Learning in social situations: role, identity and language

Discourse Analysis

Staff serving as external examiners

Certified Examiner for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) 1999 - 2005

External Examiner, University of Limerick Foundation Humanities Programme 2012 - 2014

Research interests

The relationship between 'classroom' language practices and learning outcomes

The role of 'learning development' work in UK HE

The development of skills and abilities for academic writing through awareness of discourse conventions, genre and functions of communication.

The relationship between aspects of the experience of being a student (e.g. in terms of identity and language) and academic success.

Grants & contracts

ILT Small Grants fund 2003/4 awarded to support the Student Assignment Project

Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (LearnHigher) 2005

National Teaching Fellowship Research/Study Grant 2005 - 2008

Learning Development 'Past Present Future' CETL funded research project 2006-8

Writing for Assignments E-library (WrAssE) CETL funded development project 2007

Widening Participation Access Fund: Peer Assisted Learning schemes in Nursing, Computing, and Social Work 2012 -13

HE STEM SW Academic Writing Skills Development Project 2011 -12

JISC Developing Digital Literacies, Professional Associations Strand 2011 - 2013

Plymouth University Strategic Investment Fund - Peer Assisted Learning (2012)

Higher Education Academy, Associate Project: Teaching for Critical Thinking (2013) 

Hilsdon, J. (2003) “Learning Development in Higher Education: A New Network” Paper delivered to SEDA conference, September 2003

Hilsdon J. (2004) “Learning Development in Higher Education Network: An Emerging Community of Practice?” Educational Developments 5.3, Birmingham: SEDA

Hilsdon J. (2004) “After the Session – Notemaking in Counselling and Psychotherapy” in Bolton, G., Howlett, S., Lago, C. & Wright, J. (Ed.s) “Writing Cures”, London: Brunner-Routledge

Hilsdon, J. (2004) “From ‘Fuzzy’ to ‘Functional’ – along the way to ‘Critical’: A First Year Journey in H.E.?” in ‘Dealing with Diversity’ proceedings of the 8th Pacific Rim Conference on the First Year Experience in Higher Education. Melbourne: Monash University

Abbey, C., Hilsdon, J. and Newcombe, M. (2004) “Student Assignment Project: An Online Resource for the Development of Students’ Academic Writing” paper presented to the ALT-C Conference, September 2004, Exeter: University of Exeter

Hilsdon, J. (2006) ‘Who Wrote This?’ in Bolton, G., Field, V. and Thompson, K. (Ed.s) Writing Works: A Resource Handbook; Workshops and Activities, London: Jessica Kingsley

Hilsdon, J. (2006) ‘Re-Thinking Reflection’. Journal of Practice Teaching in Health and Social Work 6(1) pp 57-70

Hilsdon, J. (2007) ‘A Learning Renaissance?’ Times Higher Education Supplement 6th July 2007

Hilsdon, J. and Bitzer, E., (2007) ‘To Become an Asker of Questions’. South African Journal of Higher Education 21(8)

Hilsdon, J. (2007) What are academics looking for in students’ written work? The WrAssE Project. Liverpool Hope University, LearnHigher Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Research Symposium, June 2007

Hilsdon, J. (2007) Learning development: what is it, where has it come from and how does it fit into UK universities? Professional Development Seminar, Lancaster University, 10th July, 2007

Burkill, S., Carkett, R., Cotton, D., Franklyn-Stokes, A., Hilsdon, J., Rees, T., and Yorke, J., (2007), ‘How Will They Ever Learn’. Educational Developments 8.3, Birmingham: SEDA

Hilsdon, J. (2007) Learning Development – is it ‘normal’? Presentation at the 2007 Conference of the Association of Tertiary Learning Advisors of Aotearoa / New Zealand. Auckland: ATLAANZ

Hilsdon, J. and Magne, P. (2008) Another story: narrative function and structure in academic discourse as a “learning threshold”, Presentation at the Threshold Concepts Conference, Kingston Ontario June, 2008

Cash C. and Hilsdon J. (2008) Buried Treasures in a Virtual Community Chest, Society for Research into Higher Education Annual Conference 2008, 9-11 December, Liverpool, UK ONLINE:

Hilsdon, J. (2009) Editorial, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, Issue 1: February 2009 ONLINE:

Hilsdon, J. And Shrives L. (2009) ‘Teaching Enhancement and Student Success’. Educational Developments 10.3, SEDA

Hilsdon J. (2009) Introducing Students to Critical Thinking, Staff Seminar: University of Chiba, Japan

Hilsdon, J. (2010) ‘Reasons to be cheerful?’ Editorial, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, Issue 2: February 2010

Hilsdon, J. (2010). Real Live Learning. In G. Wisker et al (Eds.). Partnership: articles from the Learning and Teaching Conference, 2010 (pp. 8-13). Brighton: University of Brighton.

Hilsdon, J. (2011) ‘What is Learning Development?’ In Hartley, P., Hilsdon, J., Keenan, C., Sinfield, S. and Verity, M. (Ed.s) Learning Development in Higher Education, Palgrave Macmillan

Hilsdon, J. Keenan, C. and Sinfield, S. (2011) ‘Learning development: work in progress’, in Hartley, P., Hilsdon, J., Keenan, C., Sinfield, S. and Verity, M. (Ed.s) Learning Development in Higher Education, Palgrave Macmillan

Hagyard, A. and Hilsdon, J. (2011) ‘Learning Development as Engagement’ Editorial,Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, Issue 3: March 2011 ONLINE

Hagyard, A. and Hilsdon J. (2011) Becoming a Reviewer for an Academic Journal – workshop presented at the annual ALDinHE conference, Queen’s University, Belfast, April 2011

Hilsdon, J. (2011) Is ‘three’ really a magic number? Presentation at the European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing, University of Limerick, July 2011

Allison, J., Gentle, C. and Hilsdon, J. (2011) Towards excellence: experiencing as students 9th VC’s Teaching and Learning Conference 2011: Excellence in teaching, the student experience and pedagogic research University of Plymouth, July 2011

Hilsdon, J. (2011) A Model for Teaching Critical Thinking Workshop at the University of Leeds Summer School for Academic Skills Staff, July 2011

Hilsdon, J. (2011) Critical Thinking - a Framework for Feedback on Writing. HE STEM Writing Conference, University of Bath,September 2011

Hilsdon, J. (2011) Keeping it Real - the use of Triads for developing academiccommunication skills. Presentation for the Associationfor Academic Language and Learning, University of South Australia, November2011.

Day,T. and Hilsdon, J. (2012) DevelopingSkills for Writing in STEM disciplines Workshop at the ALDinHE conference,Leeds, April 2012.

Hilsdon,J (2012) (Plenary Chair): 9th ALDinHE Conference: LearningDevelopment in a digital age: emerging literacies and learning spaces.University of Leeds 2-4 April 2012

Hilsdon,J (2012) (Panel Member): Between academic and digital cultures: thechallenge for students, Supporting Academic Practice in a Digital Age May17th 2012, University of Exeter

Hilsdon, J. et al (2012) Interventions and boundaries in Learning Development spaces: Editorial, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education Issue 4 March 2012 ONLINE

Hilsdon, J. (2012) We encourage each other! Experiences of a Virtual Writing Retreat (VWR) Tertiary Writing Network Colloquium: Tūtakitanga: Confluence and Convergence, 28-30 November 2012, at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Hilsdon, J. (2013) Interpreting Personal Development Planning (PDP): a policy and professional practice story of Higher Education in the UK. Research in Post-Compulsory Education Volume 17, 4. p.483-495

Hilsdon J et al (2013) Learning Development 10 years on Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education No 5 (2013)[]=194&path[]=134

Beetham, H., Dawson, J. and Hilsdon, J. (2013) Writing in the digital university, 10th ALDinHE Conference: Celebrating Learning Development, Plymouth University, March 2013

Hilsdon J (2013) The Point of Learning Development Journal of Pedagogic Development Volume 3 Issue 2

Hilsdon, J. (2013) Critical thinking: What is the question? Higher Education Academy, New to Teaching resources:  

Hilsdon, J. (2014) Peer Learning for Change in Higher Education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International Volume 51, Issue 3, 2014 Pages 244-254 

Reports & invited lectures

Hilsdon J. (2007) Learning development: what is it, where has it come from and how does it fit into UK universities? July 2007, Lancaster University

Hilsdon J. (2008) Making Sense Of University: A ‘Learning Development’ Perspective, Research Seminar at the Oxford Learning Institute, University of Oxford 16th October, 2008

Hilsdon, J. (2009) Critical Thinking - What was the question again? Seminar at the Learning and Professional Development Research Unit. Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, 2nd December 2009

Hilsdon, J. (2010) Real Live Learning Keynote address at Partnership: 2010 Learning and Teaching Conference, Friday 9th July at Falmer Campus, University of Brighton

Hilsdon, J. (2011) The evolution of a Learning Development in Higher Education Network – the UK context Keynote address at the Student Learning Development Network of Ireland, January 21st 2011, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

Hilsdon, J. (2011) Producing, not just consuming! Keynote address at “Learning Development Partnerships and Student Learning” conference: De Montfort University, May, 2011 ) 

Hilsdon, J. (2012) Writing for Assignments: the WrAssE Project, Sheffield Hallam University, July 2012

Hilsdon, J. (2013) Peer Learning for Change Keynote presentation at ‘Time to Question Tradition!’ Second Annual Conference of the Peer-Led Team Learning Conference, May 30-June 1, 2013, University of Houston-Downtown, Houston, Texas

Hilsdon,J. (2013) Integrity and Identity - the Academic and the Student. A LearningDevelopment perspective on good academic practice. Higher Education AcademyWorkshop: Academic integrity and student development: exploring dimensions forimproving practice 21 November 2013, University of Leicester Conference Centre,Leicester, UK.

Hilsdon, J. (2014) “Write, review and publish with us!” – a workshopwith the JLDHE editors. 11th ALDinHE Conference: Learning Development Spacesand Places, April 2014, Huddersfield University. 

Hilsdon, J. (2014) Presence is Everything: Giving Feedback to Writers Online: An International and Virtual Conference, 26th June 2014, Oxford Brookes University

Hilsdon, J. (2014) Can LD tell us about HE? Why is it assumed to be well placed to do this? IHC / EdD Postgraduate Research Conference, 28th June 2014, Plymouth University.

Hilsdon, J. (2014) Evaluating the Impact of Academic Language and Learning Interventions. Keynote talks for the AALL Regional Symposia: Victoria University, Melbourne November 2014; and University of South Australia, Adelaide, December 2014.

Hilsdon, J. (2015) Assessing the Impact of the Work of Learning Specialists. Keynote talk to the Learning Specialists Association of Canada, Guelph, Ontario, May 2015.

Hilsdon, J. and Mayer, M. (2015) An exploration of the potential of learning development to demystify student learning Celebrate Learning event, Bournemouth University, May 2015. 

Additional information

Member of the University of Plymouth’s Teaching Learning and Quality Committee

Coordinator, Royal Literary Fellowship, University of Plymouth, 2005 - present

External Reviewer, Student Counselling Service, Trinity College, Dublin (2005)  

Certified Examiner for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) 1999 – 2005 

Reviewer for SEDA Journal ‘Innovations in Education and Teaching International’ 2006 - present 



1. Link to the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE)

2. Link to the Archives of LDHEN@JISCMAIL.AC.UK learning development in higher education network

3. Link to Learning Gateway at Plymouth University

4. Link to report on Reflective Workbooks

5. Link to Writing for Assignments E-Library (WrAssE):

6. Critical thinking: What is the question? Higher Education Academy, New to Teaching resources: