Dr Simon Lygo-Baker

Head of Department

Room no: 03 CE 00

Further information


I joined the University of Surrey from King’s College London towards the end of 2010. At King’s I was responsible for a series of academic programme initiatives, including working closely with colleagues developing learning in clinical environments and working with staff at the Royal Veterinary College. I initially completed a BA and MA in Political Science and then spent some years working in a local authority. In the late 1990s I returned to higher education to undertake a PGCEA and then a PhD at the Institute of Education considering the role of identity and values within higher education.

I initially worked on a series of European funded projects developing educational interventions for those considered as potentially socially excluded, such as refugees and asylum seekers, those in recovery from addiction and those excluded from education. It was a result of this work that I took a position at St George’s Hospital in London to develop educational opportunities with the Department of Addictive Behaviour. I then moved on to King’s College London before arriving at Surrey. In the past few years I have had the privilege of spending time working and teaching in the USA and hold a position at the University of Wisconsin at the School of Veterinary Medicine.

I have always had an interest in learning and particularly enjoy opportunities to collaborate with colleagues in the disciplines. It is through these initiatives that I have learned to adapt my own approaches which continue to evolve as I witness new ways of thinking across and beyond the university. It is a result of these experiences that I have increasingly put myself into areas of discomfort to see how I myself learn. In recent years that has resulted in working with a stand-up comedian (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHZyK05yM_8 ), experimenting with writing a blog (https://simonwordpressblog.wordpress.com/) and somehow enabling the Students' Union to persuade me to enter Strictly Come Surrey.


“Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself” Chinese Proverb.

I have a fascination for understanding how people learn and trying, through my own practice, to find effective ways to enable this to happen. I hope that my own teaching continually evolves and I have learned a great deal from colleagues over the years across a range of disciplines. I remain fascinated by the challenges that exist and trying to make connections with learners. I am constantly aware of the sound of my own voice and am constantly fighting the desire to allow it even greater emphasis in the learning environment. I have learned a great deal from both my own practice, talking to and observing others and reading new ideas that challenge my own approach. Key influences have been particular colleagues over the years, such as Sharon and Nick. However, I would also acknowledge that ideas drawn from authors such as Parker Palmer and Stephen Brookfield who have also been influential.
I have developed a range of different academic development programmes, both those designed to develop those across a range of disciplines, as well as those aimed at particular discreet groups (such as veterinarians and physiotherapists). I have also taught on a range of other undergraduate and postgraduate programmes as well as teaching in both Saudi Arabia and the United States. I am also an external examiner.

At Surrey I currently teach on:

Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching

MA in Higher Education

LAS1005 – Theories and Practice of Understanding

Research Interests

“The important thing is not to stop questioning” Albert Einstein.

My own research interests continue to evolve but mainly focus upon questions related to the values that underpin our actions and the different lenses through which these can be examined and understood. I have worked on a range of different European funded initiatives looking to examine how different socially excluded groups engage with educational opportunities. In recent years I have worked closely with colleagues in a range of clinical environments to understand the ways that people learn within such settings. I have undertaken research with colleagues at the SaIL Centre in London, looking at simulation learning, and also at the Medical and Veterinary Schools at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, looking at residents and interns as teachers in particular. I have worked as an evaluator on a range of educational initiatives, most recently looking at the introduction of a professional development portfolio for physiotherapists in a London NHS Trust.

I am currently part of the research team that has been funded by HEFCE to investigate Learning Gains (http://www.open.ac.uk/iet/main/node/1211). In addition with a colleague at the University of Suffolk I have a SEDA funded project examining excellence and digital learning. To expand my own understanding of technology I helped set up a partnership called the Teaching and Learning Conversations (https://tlcwebinars.wordpress.com/) a monthly webinar that encourages researchers to share their ideas and practice to a wider audience.

I see my own practice as a key area of my own research and therefore am constantly reflecting upon how to challenge and develop my own approach. I am subsequently interested in aspects of disjuncture in learning, causing situations of discomfort to enable change, learning from other sectors and challenging perceptions. I am always interested in collaborations that challenge my own assumptions and ideas.


Journal articles

  • Kinchin I, Heron M, Hosein A, Lygo-Baker S, Medland E, Morley D, Winstone N. (2018) 'Researcher-led academic development'. International Journal for Academic Development, 23 (4), pp. 339-354.


    In this study, members of a higher education department explore their research activity and how it influences their practice as academic developers in a research-led institution. Whilst the research activities of the team members appear diverse, they are all underpinned by a shared set of professional values to provide an anchor for these activities. Research-as-pedagogy and the relationship between the discourses of research and teaching are explored using Bernstein’s knowledge structures. The authors conclude that differences in research focus (horizontal discourse) provide dynamism across a department and that stability is provided through the underpinning core values inherent in the vertical discourse.

  • Jones A, Lygo-Baker SN, Markless S, Rienties B, Di Napoli R. (2016) 'Conceptualizing impact in academic development: finding a way through'. Higher Education Research and Development,


    This paper explores the notion of impact in the context of academic development programs and considers how it can be described and understood. We argue that impact has a range of meanings and academic development programs such as graduate certificates have a broad group of stakeholders and hence the impact is different for each group depending on how the program aims and objectives are defined and understood. In finding a way through the difficulties of evaluating impact in academic development we point to the importance of clearly conceptualizing the notion of impact, a careful identification of the assumptions underpinning any program and an understanding of who academic development will benefit and how. We suggest that impact in academic development cannot be understood without taking account of the range of possible impacts and the difficulty of attributing simple cause and effect to a complex environment.

  • Sporea RA, Lygo-Baker S. (2016) 'Summer Research Placements - State-of-the-Art Science by pre-University Students'. MRS Advances, Article number MRSF15-2327286.R1


    Summer research placements are an effective training and research tool. Over three years, our group has hosted nine pre-university students over periods of four to six weeks. Apart from student training and skills acquisition, the placements have produced several peer-reviewed technical publications. Our approach relies on careful pre-planning of activities, frequent student interaction, coupled with independent and group learning. We explore the advantages and disadvantages of this manner of running summer placements.

  • Lygo-Baker SN, Kokotailo PK, Young KM. (2015) 'Developing Confidence in Uncertainty: Conflicting Roles of Trainees as They Become Educators in Veterinary and Human Medicine'. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 43 (2), pp. 364-372.


    The important role of medical trainees (interns and residents) as teachers is increasingly recognized in veterinary and human medicine, but often is not supported through adult learning programs or other preparatory training methods. To develop appropriate teaching programs focused on effective clinical teaching, more understanding is needed about the support required for the trainee’s teaching role. Following discussion among faculty members from education and veterinary and pediatric medicine, an experienced external observer and expert in higher education observed 28 incoming and outgoing veterinary and pediatric trainees in multiple clinical teaching settings over 10 weeks. Using an interpretative approach to analyze the data, we identified five dynamics that could serve as the foundation for a new program to support clinical teaching: (1) Novice–Expert, recognizing transitions between roles; (2) Collaboration–Individuality, recognizing the power of peer learning; (3) Confidence–Uncertainty, regarding the confidence to act; (4) Role–Interdisciplinarity, recognizing the ability to maintain a discrete role and yet synthesize knowledge and cope with complexity; and (5) Socialization–Identity, taking on different selves. Trainees in veterinary and human medicine appeared to have similar needs for support in teaching and would benefit from a variety of strategies: faculty should provide written guidelines and practical teaching tips; set clear expectations; establish sustained support strategies, including contact with an impartial educator; identify physical spaces in which to discuss teaching; provide continuous feedback; and facilitate peer observation across medical and veterinary clinical environments.

  • Cavalli G, Hamerton I, Lygo-Baker S. (2015) 'What are we going to do about a problem like polymer chemistry? Develop new methods of delivery to improve understanding of a demanding interdisciplinary topic'. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 16 (2), pp. 293-301.


    Following collaboration between two chemistry lecturers and an academic developer an attempt was made to enhance the learning of students within a chemistry module through the adaptation of the delivery of content material. This paper reports a piece of practitioner led research which considered how effective the approach developed was upon the level of student understanding and the process through which this occurred. The module delivery was altered from an emphasis on the transmission of knowledge through a traditional lecture format, to rotating small group problem based sessions and the use of concept maps. Student feedback and higher grades achieved appear to demonstrate it was effective.

  • Rienties B, Giesbers B, Tempelaar D, Lygo-Baker S, Segers M, Gijselaers W. (2012) 'The role of scaffolding and motivation in CSCL'. Computers and Education, 59 (3), pp. 893-906.


    Recent findings from research into Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) have indicated that not all learners are able to successfully learn in online collaborative settings. Given that most online settings are characterised by minimal guidance, which require learners to be more autonomous and self-directed, CSCL may provide conditions more conducive to learners comfortable with greater autonomy. Using quasi-experimental research, this paper examines the impact of a redesign of an authentic CSCL environment, based upon principles of Problem-Based Learning, which aimed to provide a more explicit scaffolding of the learning phases for students. It was hypothesised that learners in a redesigned 'Optima' environment would reach higher levels of knowledge construction due to clearer scaffolding. Furthermore, it was expected that the redesign would produce a more equal spread in contributions to discourse for learners with different motivational profiles. In a quasi-experimental setting, 143 participants collaborated in an online setting aimed at enhancing their understanding of economics. Using a multi-method approach (Content Analysis, Social Network Analysis, measurement of Academic Motivation), the research results reveal the redesign triggered more equal levels of activity of autonomous and control-oriented learners, but also a decrease in input from the autonomous learners. The main conclusion from this study is that getting the balance between guidance and support right to facilitate both autonomous and control-oriented learners is a delicate complex issue. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Book chapters

  • Rienties BC, Giesbers B, Tempelaar DT, Lygo-Baker S. (2012) 'Redesigning teaching presence in order to enhance cognitive presence, a longitudinal analysis'. in Akyol Z, Garrison D (eds.) Educational Communities of Inquiry: Theoretical Framework, Research and Practice Hershey, PA : IGI Global , pp. 109-132.


    Recent findings from research into the Community of Inquiry theoretical framework indicate that teaching presence may encourage critical inquiry, integration of argumentation, and resolution of a task. Using quasi-experimental research, this chapter examines the impact of a redesign of a CMC environment, which by increased instructional design and organisation provided a more explicit scaffolding of the learning phases for learners. It was hypothesised that learners in a redesigned Optima environment would reach higher levels of cognitive presence due to clearer scaffolding. By comparing 4000 contributions to discourse using two content analyses schemes in a longitudinal perspective, the research results reveal that Optima participants contributed less to cognitive presence from the beginning of the course onwards, in particular to integration of argumentation. The main conclusion from this study is that getting the balance of teaching presence right to facilitate learners in the integration and resolution phase is a delicate and complex issue

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