Alison James is Acting Director of Academic Quality and Development and Head of Learning and Teaching at the University of Winchester. She is former Associate Dean Learning & Teaching at the London College of Fashion and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK. Much of her higher education career has focused on working with creative arts staff and students and in May 2014 Alison was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in the UK. Since 2016, however, she has moved into multidisciplinary higher education and continues to fulfil a variety of roles across all levels and many subjects – as educational and staff developer, researcher and policy maker and teacher. Her trademark is creative and interactive approaches to pedagogy with a high level of staff and student involvement and plenty of humour to go with. She believes that ‘edutainment’ does not have to be a dirty word, and that you can have fun while learning, without dumbing down subjects, or shying away from the difficulties that may arise when tackling challenging material or tough encounters. Connection, involvement, enjoyment and inclusion are the four touchstones of her work with staff and students.
A substantial field of activity for her has been creative and alternative approaches to reflective practice and personal and professional development. In particular she has explored how students address questions of identity, self construction and personal learning narrative through these educational practices. These interests informed her MA thesis on Auto/biography and Personal Development Planning in the Creative Arts and her doctoral study of the life and art of Dod Procter, only the second woman to become a Royal Academician in the UK. While preparing her doctorate she wrote the first monograph on Procter, A Singular Vision (2007) and then brought these interests into her next project which was creating a visual online resource for PPD – PPD Coach which nurtured playful exploration of identity, values, emotions and drivers alongside evaluations of skill acquisition, knowledge and progress.
A fascination with alternative and creative approaches to PPD led her to experiment with LEGO® as a research tool and then to become an accredited facilitator of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® in 2013. She uses this methodology extensively within and outside HE to enable people to reflect on and explore matters important to them. Topics have included sustainability, evaluation, Erasmus partnerships, team identity, strategy and direction, handling change, overcoming stuckness, threshold concepts, relationships, widening participation and countless others.
She has presented widely on all of the above subjects and published in books, journals, magazines and edited collections. In 2013 she received an excellent teaching award from the University of the Arts London for her work with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY and student learning. Her current research interest is in play in higher education and she is writing an international collection on play with Chrissi Nerantzi, due out with Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. In 2017 she and six team members won a Team Award for Innovative and Outstanding Practice at the University of Winchester for their five day Play and Creativity Festival.
In her present role at the University of Winchester Alison is involved in all aspects of academic quality and learning and teaching development.