You can take a student to water, but will they drink and prosper? (Is it engaged students that Learning Development impact?)

2021 Conference » You can take a student to water, but will they drink and prosper? (Is it engaged students that Learning Development impact?)

Alison Loddick

Paper (30m)
11:30-12noon (Parallel session 2)

There is evidence that Learning Development tutorials impact student grades (Loddick and Coulson, 2020). However, this is thought to be due to engaged students asking for support. As a result, their grades are better rather than the impact of Learning Development. However, this is an untested hypothesis. This research paper examines this hypothesis, determining whether students who visit Learning Development for 1-to-1 support are more engaged, self-confident, feel they belong or worry about their ability. Furthermore, this paper explores whether accounting for engagement, Learning Development still makes a difference in terms of attainment or whether the link between engagement and attainment cannot be separated.

The findings come from a university-wide survey in early 2020, which included 292 undergraduate students at the University of Northampton. The survey examined the prevalence and usage of Learning Development. Additional questions from a study by Yorke (2016) were asked to ascertain students level of academic engagement, self-confidence and belonging. This data was then merged with the students’ academic assessment grades. The results compare those students who used Learning Development tutorials and drop-in with those that had not.

Unsurprising engaged students were more likely to seek Learning Development 1-to-1 support. This finding alone brings into discussion planning of future interventions. The research brings questions for academic service teams

  1. Do we care that it is the more engaged students that seek support?
  2. What are the barriers for students seeking support?
  3. How can we engage with the less engaged students?


Loddick, A. and Coulson, K. (2020) The impact of Learning Development tutorials on student attainment. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. 17. Available from doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi17.558 (Accessed: 4 November 2020).

Yorke, M. (2016) The development and initial use of a survey of student “belongingness”, engagement and self-confidence in UK higher education. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 41(1). Available from doi: 10.1080/02602938.2014.990415.