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Dr Laura Hills

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Lecturer
  • Learning and Teaching Innovation
  • Institute of Educational Technology
  • Academic Team
  • laura.hills

Professional biography

I am a Lecturer in Learning and Teaching Innovation – Academic, working in Academic Professional Development. I have been involved in supporting the professional development of central and regional academics and Associate Lecturer staff at the Open University for over ten years, with a particular focus on promoting and supporting engagement with action research, practitioner research and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

My current roles include leading on supporting the scholarly career development of academics. This is an approach to evidence-based teaching which is on a continuum between teaching, scholarship and research. I also support the Applaud professional recognition scheme, which enables Open University staff to gain HEA Fellowship. Both roles enable me to further develop my interest into the relationship between scholarship and the personal and professional development of individual academics. I am myself a Senior Fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and a Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA).

Research interests

My research interests stem primarily from my involvement in the Access programme and my previous experience of supporting Action Research and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. In both cases, there is an emphasis on the practical implications of research for supporting Open University students and staff.

On Access I am part of the curriculum team which investigated the role of language in assessment and whether it enables all students, irrespective of prior educational background, to understand both the purpose and practice of assessment. I have also become interested in the role of assessment in Open Online Courses and whether there are opportunities for authentic assessment within these learning environments.

My previous research was very much focussed on the impact of engagement in Action Research, Practitioner Research and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning on the individual academic and, ultimately, the institution.

Teaching interests

I am a co-Chair of Y032 People, Work and Society Access module, which is part of a programme designed to encourage widening participation into Higher Education. As an extension of this work I was one of a team of educators on Badged Open Course, Taking your First Steps into Higher Education and lead educator on a FutureLearning MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Get Started in Online Learning. On a personal level, I also tutor on a level 1 module (FHEQ level 4), Exploring Language and Cultures, which has given me an insight into the experiences of Open University students and of Associate Lecturer teaching staff, both of which are vital to my role in Academic Professional Development.   


Unfit for purpose? Rethinking the language of assessment for Widening Participation students (2017-05)
Butcher, John; McPherson, Elaine; Shelton, Isobel; Clarke, Anactoria; Hills, Laura and Hughes, Jonathan
Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 19(2) (pp. 27-46)
Assessment worlds colliding? Negotiating between discourses of assessment on an online open course (2016)
Hills, Laura and Hughes, Jonathan
Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning, 31(2) (pp. 108-115)
Combining reflective logs with electronic networks for professional development among distance education tutors (2005-11)
Macdonald, Janet and Hills, Laura
Distance Education, 26(3) (pp. 325-329)
Developing frameworks to promote scholarship as a means of supporting teaching quality and effectiveness: a case study from within and across institutions (2016-03)
Hills, Laura and Meakin, Deborah
In : First Research and Scholarship in College Higher Education Conference (24 June 2015, London ) (pp. 15-21)
Achieving and maintaining a symbiosis between institutional priorities, personal professional development and improving student learning (2013-08)
Hills, Laura and Swithenby, Stephen
In : Improving Student Learning Symposium 2012: Improving student learning through research and scholarship: 20 years of ISL (29-31 August 2012, Lund, Sweden) (pp. 177-189)
Creating allowable personal and professional identities: the impact of changing contexts on SoTL activities and structures (2012-05)
Hills, Laura and Swithenby, Stephen
In : ProPEL: Professional Practice, Education and Learning International Conference (9-11 May 2012, University of Stirling)
Practitioner research as experiential learning?: the case of COLMSCT (2010-05)
Hills, Laura and Swithenby, Steve
In : Seventh International Conference on Networked Learning (3-4 May 2010, Aalborg, Denmark) (pp. 877-885)
Criteria for effective development of academic staffthrough practitioner research (2009-05)
Swithenby, Stephen and Hills, Laura
In : SEDA Spring Learning Teaching & Assessment Conference 2009 (07-09 May 2009, Brighton)
Professional development and ICT: the teachers’ experience (2003)
McCormick, Robert; Leach, Jenny; Harison, David; Hills, Laura; Moon, Bob and Beevor, Rebecca
In : British Educational Research Association Annual Conference (11-13 September 2003, Edinburgh)