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Alison James is Professor of Learning and Teaching and Director of Academic Quality and Development and at the University. She is a National Teaching Fellow and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, with extensive experience as educational and staff developer, researcher and policy maker and teacher.
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. 
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 for and editing an international collection on play with Chrissi Nerantzi (MMU), due out with Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. In 2017 she and six colleagues 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 has oversight of a department concerned with all aspects of academic quality and learning and teaching development. In addition, her activities outside the institution comprise academic consultancy and advice and staff and educational development, with or without LEGO®.
Prof. James recently delivered her Inaugural Lecture Play: an essential partner in university learning. Watch it HERE.


Books (in progress)

  • The Power of Play in HE: creativity in tertiary learning. Co-editor with Chrissi Nerantzi, (MMU). Palgrave Macmillan. Forthcoming 2018.

Books (published)

  • James A, Brookfield S (2014) Engaging imagination: helping students become creative and reflective thinkers. Jossey Bass California
  • James, A, (2007) A Singular Vision. Dod Procter 1890-1972. Bristol. Sansom & Company.

Recent online publications

  • James A (2015) Innovative Pedagogical Practices: Innovating in the Creative Arts with LEGO. Commissioned by the Higher Education Academy. Available HERE.

Book chapters (published unless otherwise stated)

  • In progress: James A Moveable feasts: unusual learning in unexpected places in Reframing space for learning: Empowering Excellence and Innovation in University Teaching and Learning. Institute of Education.
  • In press: James A, Connecting research, inquiry and communities in the creative curriculum, chapter in Fung, D., Carnell, B., and Tong, V., (ed) Disciplinary Approaches to Connecting the Higher Education Curriculum. Due out late 2017/early 2018.
  • Bailey, N, James A, Medland E (2017) Messy and precise: peculiarities and parallels between the performing arts and higher education. Chapter in Pedagogical peculiarities: conversations at the edge of university teaching. Bloomsbury.

In print:

  • James, A (2017) Case study Transition as metaphor: how building with LEGO® helps students navigate teamworking for an external client in Transition: in, through and out of higher education Eds Matheson., R, Tangney., S, Sutcliffe., and Poole, N. Taylor & Francis.
  • James, A. (2016) invited chapter Play and 3D enquiry for stimulating creative learning" in Watts, L. and Blessinger, P. (Eds) Creative Learning: International Perspectives and Approaches in Higher Education. (Routledge)
  • James A and Brookfield S, (2016) The Serious Use of Play and Metaphor pp118-133, revised and updated chapter in Wang V (ed) Adult Education in the Digital Age. IGI Global. ISBN. 9781522509295
  • James, A. (2015) Learning in three dimensions: using LEGO SERIOUS PLAY for creative and critical reflection across time and space. in Lake, P and Layne, P. (Eds) Transgressing Boundaries. Global Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Vol 11. Pp275-294. ISBN. 978-3-319-10481-2. Switzerland. Springer.
  • James, A. and Brookfield, S. (2013) The serious use of play and metaphor: Legos and labyrinths. In the Special Issue of the International Journal of Adult and Vocational Education & Technology.
  • James, A. and Austerlitz, N. (2008) Reflections on emotional journeys: a new perspective for reading fashion students PPD statements. In Unspoken Interactions pp243-258. CLIP CETL.

Selected journal/press articles

  • James, A (2017) Why Play in HE Matters: The University of Winchester Play and Creativity Festival. In Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching Edition 15.
  • James, A. and Barton, G. (2017) LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, Threshold Concepts and Systems Thinking: Towards a Combined Methodology in PESTLHE ISSN 1750-8428 Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Vol 10 Special Issue: Threshold Concepts and Conceptual Difficulty. Eds. Land, R., Rattray, J. & Matthew, R.
  • James, A. (2015) "Call it anything you want, just don't call it the real world" blogpost for the Times Higher December 2015, online and print
  • James, A. (2015) Developing Leadership Through Play. Invited article for Developing Leaders Magazine http://www.iedp.com Print and online article.
  • James, A. (2013) Lego Serious Play. A three dimensional approach to learning development in the Journal for Learning Development In Higher Education. Issue 6, November 2013. ISSN:1759-667X
  • James, A .(2008). Reflections on emotional journeys: a new perspective for reading fashion students PPD statements. Art Design and Communication in Higher Education, Vol 6 No 3 2008. pp209-219. Intellect.
  • James, A. (2007). Reflection revisited: perceptions of reflective practice in fashion learning and teaching; Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education, vol 5 no 3 2007. pp179-196. Intellect.
  • James, A. (2005). Autobiography and Narrative in Personal Development Planning in the Creative Arts; Textual and Visual Interfaces in Art and Design Education, Vol. 3, No. 2 pp 103-118. Intellect.

Contribution to edited collections

  • Q-Art. Ed. S Rowles (2013) Art Crits: 20 Questions. A Pocket Guide.


  • Reviewer, Journal Learning Development in Higher Education
  • Editorial Board member SPARK, UAL learning and teaching journal
  • Peer reviewer
  • Joint editor (with Chrissi Nerantzi) special edition of Creative Academic magazine Exploring Play in HE available online at www.creativeacademic.uk
  • Contributor and (former) co-founder Creative Academic Magazine

Book reviews

  • James, A. (2016) A review of Learning with the Labyrinth by Jan Sellers and Bernard Moss (2016). For Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education. In press.
    A version of this review is also being published in the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.
  • James, A. 2005. Trauma and the Recapturing of Experience; a review of Lost in Translation by Eva Hoffman 1991. Autobiography Journal. vol. 13 pp 87-88. London. Minerva


Recent invited keynotes and workshops

  • Society of Cosmetic Scientists May 9 2017
  • University of Westminster June 5 2017
  • Anglia Ruskin June 27 2017
  • De Montfort University June 28 2017
  • HEA Conference, 4 July 2017
  • University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, September 13 2016
  • George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. September 15-16, 2016, workshop and keynote.
  • University of Maryland, September 19, 2016. Workshop.
  • University of Virginia, September 20, 2016
  • Keynote. Living out your Learning and Teaching Strategy; creatively, imaginatively, employably. Canterbury Christchurch University. June 2106
  • Keynote. Motivating and engaging your students to want to learn and develop. University of Birmingham. June 2016
  • Guest workshop for Writing PAD. DeMontfort University, Leicester, July 5, 2016.
  • Guest workshop. Engaging Imagination: helping students become creative and reflective thinkers with LEGO. Cambridge School of Art. June 2016
  • Keynote. Engaging students creatively and interactively. Aberystwyth University. September 2015
  • William Morris Gallery: co founded and hosted LEGO in HE day for UK wide participants. July 2015
  • Keynote. Engaging imagination. UAL Learning and Teaching Day. January 2015
  • Keynote. Playing the long game: creative approaches to achieving strategic vision. University of Bedfordshire, Luton. July 2015.
  • Keynote. Helping students become creative and reflective thinkers: what do we know? What do we need to know? At joint PedRIO and Centre for Recording Achievement conference at University of Plymouth, April 2015. Abridged version published in RAPPORT, CRA international online journal, Autumn 2015.
  • Keynote. Innovations in pedagogy. At Kingston University Festival of Learning and Teaching.January 2015
  • 2013-2015: diverse workshops for university and corporate sector using LEGO SERIOUS PLAY

Other selected conference papers, workshops and presentations

  • International Consortium of Educational Developers Conference. Stockholm. Constructing the changing world with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. June 2014
  • LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, threshold concepts and systems thinking. Workshop with Graham Barton at the Threshold Concepts in Practice. Durham University. July 2014
  • Keynote. PDP in 3D. Surrey University. September 2014.
  • Employability: which attributes matter? Pedagogic research seminar on joint research enquiry using Personal Construct Psychology, conducted by Alison James and Nick Reed, Director of the Centre for Personal Construct Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. LCF. May 2014.
  • LEGO SERIOUS PLAY as a methodology for creative educational development. 18th annual SEDA Conference on Creativity in Educational Development. Bristol. November 2013.
  • Keynote: HEA Historians Reflect seminar, University of Wolverhampton, February 6 2013
  • Invited speaker: "Because we’re worth it and On being digitally transformed; talk at UCL for the AHRC Digital Transformations event on using shared platforms for collaborative learning and guest blog post June 2012
  • Invited speaker: PPD and the Pod: University of the Creative Arts Learning Day, December 15th 2010.
  • Maps Membership and Mazes. Workshop at Centre for Recording Achievement Conference PDP in a leaner, meaner world. Birmingham, November 22nd /23rd 2010
  • HEEG Conference, University of Chichester, October 26th 2010 : Employability and Enterprise. PPD Coach workshop.
  • iPED (Inquiring Pedagogies) International pedagogic research conference, hosted by the University of Coventry. Paper presented: Maps Membership and Mazes, examining student identity and self construction in reflective practice, from the perspective of Communities of Practice theory. Sept 15th 16th 2010
  • CLTAD Enhancing Curricula conference. Workshop on using my online visual thinking tool, PPD Coach, as a resource to stimulate student examination of identity and self construction as part of personal and professional development. April 10th-13th Berlin 2010.
  • Labels and Lies. Presentation on archives and autobiographical narratives through clothing at the CETLD conference Collecting Experiences, at the V&A, April 2009, with Clare Lomas and Katharine Baird.
  • Labels Lies and Luxury. Presentation at LCF Research Seminar Series on Luxury, May 2008, with Clare Lomas and Katharine Baird
  • Framing the future with "Legs 11". Workshop on research into reflective practice using video diaries and inflatable spaces, given at LDHEN Conference, University of Bournemouth, April 2009
  • Framing the future with "Legs 11". Paper on the above research given at the Learning to Be Professional conference, University of Surrey, March 31st - April 1st 2009. 

Miscellaneous 2003-2007

  • Lectures on Dod Procter to accompany exhibition launch: Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance, September 17th 2007. Djanogly Art Gallery Nottingham, December 4th 2007.
  • December 2007. ‘Feeling the Impact. Investigating the emotions in reflective PPD statements’. Unspoken Interactions Symposium. CLIP CETL. London College of Fashion.
  • November 2007. ‘Living, Learning, Painting. Dod Procter: A Singular Vision?‘ Biography Art and Education Conference. University of Southampton.
  • July 2007. ‘An empathic understanding. Dod Procter 1890-1972.’ Empathy in Auto/Biography. XVI Auto/biography Summer Conference. Trinity College, Dublin.
  • March 2007. ‘Life, Work, Art. The cultural resonance of Dod Procter’. Social History Society Conference. University of Exeter.
  • November 2006. Invited Keynote: ‘Pedagogic Research at the London College of Fashion’. Nordic Workshop. The Swedish School of Textiles, Boras.
  • October 2006. ‘Is it all about me? Researching and Evaluating
    Personal Development Planning and e-Portfolios.’ International residential seminar at the Oxford Belfry, hosted by the Centre for Recording Achievement.
  • September 2006. Reshaping Reflexivity. LCF Centenary Conference
    New Directions in Fashion Research
  • December 2005, 'Detecting Dod 2', Life and Times Conference of the BSA Auto/Biography Study Group, Institute of Education, London
  • July 2005, 'Detecting Dod;, paper delivered at BSA Auto/biography Study Group Summer Conference, Institute of Education, London
  • December 2004, 'Overegging the Pudding?', Sex and Identity Conference of the BSA Auto/Biography Study Group, Institute of Education, London
  • December 2003, 'Autobiography and PDP', Christmas Conference of the BSA Auto/Biography Study Group, Institute of Education, London
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