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Q&A with Helen Spittle, Director of Education Support

1 October 2021

What does your role with the LT Academy involve? 

I’m the Director of Education Support, meaning I lead the Cardiff Learning and Teaching Academy (LT Academy) to make sure it’s providing the right kind of support for schools to enhance the learning and teaching experience of our students.  

In practical terms, this means running the day-to-day operation of the LT Academy and working with Academic Partners and the Pro Vice Chancellor for Education and Student Experience to plan and deliver change projects around the Education and Students Sub-strategy. The LT Academy delivers Continuing Professional Development (CPD),  and enhancement support for staff involved in learning and teaching, so the recent mandate from University Executive Board (UEB) to put the student experience at the heart of the University’s work is an exciting opportunity to further develop our partnership approach with the University community.  

What did you do before working for the LT Academy?

During the lockdown period, I worked with the LT Academy to manage the Digital Education Programme, which is where we developed our agile partnership approach to delivering change. Prior to that, I spent over a decade working as School Manager in the School of Geography and Planning. 

Describe a project you’ve enjoyed working on with the LT Academy 

In 20/21, we received HEFCW funding to address the student experience during the pandemic, which resulted in us launching our new student feedback mechanism, Cardiff Pulse. We were able to work with staff to provide student engagement support at a school level and bought in an external company- Explorance– to deliver Cardiff Pulse.  

Pulse asked students questions about their university experience each month. We would then analyse these results at a school and university level and provide feedback to students on how we were responding to their concerns. The pilot of Cardiff Pulse took place from March – June 21 and was very successful, receiving the highest response numbers a student survey has ever had at Cardiff University. Subsequently, it will be returning in October 2021 and at key points throughout the academic year 21/22. 

It was great that this project showed us that student engagement happens most effectively at school level, with our students identifying with the learning community within their school. This provides a good model as to where things could go in the future to deliver the Education and Students sub-strategy. 

What are you looking forward to working on with the LT Academy? 

We recently renamed to the Cardiff Learning and Teaching Academy (previously CESI) as we want to better reflect the work that goes on in our specialist teams, which has changed considerably over the last year. I’m currently speaking with our Directors of Learning and Teaching and trying to gauge their schools’ awareness and perception of the LT Academy. I want to find out what is working well and what other things we could be doing to fully understand exactly what schools need from us.  

Thinking bigger than this, UEB’s recent mandate means that the student experience needs to be at the heart of what we do, and we must show clearly how any university projects will improve that experience. As we develop plans and business cases around the sub-strategy, we would like to work in a similar way to the DE Programme of summer 2020; by bringing together Academic and Professional Service Leads from schools to work partnership with LT Academy staff, and students. There is a huge opportunity for us to invest back into learning and teaching and student experience at the University and to join up the efforts in schools with the work of the LT Academy.  

Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself? 

As I mentioned in my last ‘Meet the team’ profile, I live on a smallholding and this year, we’ve been making cider which will be ready by Christmas!  

I’ve also just started being a School Governor at Chepstow School and it’s interesting to see similar issues and conversations that we’re having in Higher Education from a secondary school’s perspective. For example, how the approach to determining A-Level grades within schools has been managed, and how this has impacted on the pupils.