Institutional Context

The aim of Personal Tutoring at Teesside University (as captured in its Code of Practice) is:

“To enhance the learning experience, well-being and achievement of Teesside University Students, helping to ensure that each student is known, valued and their respective needs recognised and supported.”

As captured in the Code’s objective, Personal Tutoring is about providing a consistent, equitable and structured approach for all students to pastoral, general academic and professional support assisting students with their transition into, and progression through, their studies.  This aligns to the UK Advising and Tutoring (UKAT) Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring which notes that personal tutoring supports students to achieve their academic and personal aspirations. It continues to describe it as:

“A purposeful personal relationship with their advisor/tutor enables students to become autonomous, confident learners and engaged members of society. This ongoing and collaborative relationship connects students deeply to their institution, supporting them through their course and beyond.”

The importance of the relational aspect of personal tutoring is reflected in the Code of Practice and the UKAT Professional Framework in which ‘relational’ is a core component.  Within this relational component there are a number of competencies including: developing relationships; inclusive and respectful communication; motivating, encouraging and supporting students; planning and engaging in successful interactions; promoting student understanding around the curriculum; facilitating problem solving, decision-making, planning and goal-setting and collaborating effectively with the wider campus services to the support students.

The relational aspects of personal tutoring are also captured within Teesside University’s Academic Enhancement Framework (AEF).  The AEF provides the structure through which Future Facing Learning, and other key strategic priorities, including Personal Tutoring, are embedded within academic practice ensuring students are provided with the skills and knowledge to thrive in complex and uncertain futures.

Personal Tutoring and drawing on learner analytics (to inform and shape conversations) are integral components of the AEF specifically through its Student Success theme:

  • We will work with students to adopt data driven approaches to supporting success.
  • Personal Tutoring enhances the performance, well-being and experience of our students, helping to ensure that each student is valued, and their respective needs recognised and supported.

Focussing on Personal Tutoring within the AEF the University recognises the importance of establishing and developing effective relationships between the Personal Tutor and the student in ensuring that students are supported to achieve their goals, aspirations and potential.  Personal Tutors focus on improving student performance and draw on learner analytics to provide a consistent and structured approach to pastoral, academic and professional support.  Students develop an effective and continuous dialogic relationship with their Personal Tutor throughout the duration of their studies focused on improving performance, wellbeing and experience.  Excellent practice involves highly effective mentoring resulting in demonstrable enhancements around student’s academic and professional performance, achievement and wellbeing.

Core Values of Personal Tutoring

In striving for excellence around personal tutoring effective approaches to mentoring is critical.  In terms of how we approach mentoring during our meetings with students it is useful consider the core values of an effective personal tutor.  Lochtie et al (2018) identify these as: high expectations; approachability; diplomacy; being non-judgemental; compassion; the ‘equal partner, not superior’ approach; authenticity and valuing students as individuals.” (2018, p. 33).

UKAT’s guide around the Core Values of Personal Tutoring identifies those values that underpin effective personal tutoring relationships to include:

  • Empathy – Personal tutors and advisors build relationships through empathetic listening and compassion for students, colleagues, and others. They respond to, and are accessible to, others in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach.
  • Inclusivity – Personal tutors and advisors embrace diversity and consider the needs and perspectives of all students with openness, acceptance, sensitivity and fairness
  • Collaboration – The relationship between the student and tutor/advisor is a dynamic collaboration which benefits both the student and the tutor. Through listening, questioning, and guiding, personal tutors and advisors support the student to author an authentic and desirable vision of their future self. In turn students support their personal tutor in their own reflective development for the benefit of future students.
  • Student-centred approach – The best interest of the student, identified by the student in collaboration with their tutor/advisor, is paramount in the personal tutoring/academic advising relationship. Personal tutors and advisors treat students with sensitivity and fairness, recognising the value of each individual student and appreciating their individual views and cultures
  • Developmental – Personal tutoring/academic advising is proactive and intentionally developmental. Students set their goals, work out how best to attain them, and then set other goals after achievement. Personal tutors and advisors motivate and encourage students to reflect on their abilities, recognize their potential, meet challenges, and develop plans for personal and academic development.

To be effective in delivering personal tutoring tutors must be:

  • Authentic – personal tutors are accessible and non-judgemental; open and accepting of their students, their aspirations, and their circumstances. They nurture and challenge their students to develop their own identity, seek their own solutions and take charge of their own future
  • Evidence-informed – practices of personal tutors are informed by research, scholarship and reflective practice in the field of personal tutoring, academic advising and student success.
  • Committed – to students, colleagues, their institutions, and their profession through reflective practice informed by scholarship, life-long learning, and professional development. They are dedicated in striving for excellence in all aspects of student success.

Effective Mentoring Relationships

The core values explored above are fundamental in ensuring our practices around Personal Tutoring are effective.  The success of Personal Tutoring relies on the development of that relationship and the effectiveness of mentoring underpinned by the core values.  Evidence from the What Works? Student Retention and Success Programme showed that “personal tutors can improve student retention and success in the following ways: 

  • enabling students to develop a relationship with an academic member of staff in their discipline or programme area and feeling more connected
  • helping staff get to know students
  • providing students with reassurance, guidance and feedback about their academic studies in particular.”

Thomas (2012 p.43).

Improving student retention and success is paramount; returning to Personal Tutoring at Teesside University it sees highly effective mentoring resulting in demonstrable enhancements around student’s academic and professional performance, achievement and wellbeing.  To help achieve this, a solution focussed approach to mentoring can help students to find solutions to the challenges they are presented with.  It is important to focus on the solution and not the problem to help the students keep sight of what can be done and is possible and what does work for them.  Lochtie et al describes the solution-focussed approach as:

“trying to make greater progress with the student by focusing on where they want to get to and understanding what skills and knowledge they need to get there, rather than spending excessing amounts of time exploring the problem or issue they may be facing.” (2018, p 137).

Lochtie et al acknowledge two different approaches to helping students solve their problems, problem-focussed approach and solution-focussed approach, and recognise that both can work but, “the solution-focussed approach enables students to develop self-efficacy, self-reliance and improved independent learning.” (2018, p. 137).  They identify key characteristics of using a solution-focused approach with students:

  • Positive change can occur: solution-focussed approach works on the assumption that positive change can occur with students.
  • Clear goals and self-directed action: work with students to define their goals, they must be self-directed and take responsibility to achieve goals outside of personal tutoring interactions.
  • Develop solutions and focus on the future; not dwelling on problems within the past or present: listen to issues/problems, be empathetic and build a rapport but quickly move conversations to exploring future goals, past successes and the skills, knowledge and ability that they do have.
  • Students’ experience, expertise and resources: personal tutor is an enabler and facilitator, students are likely to already have the answers and ability and the personal tutor helps them realise that.
  • Reframe the students’ perspective and help them to notice positives: a distant possibility may be a near possibility, a weakness and strength and a problem an opportunity.

Please Share your Practices around Personal Tutoring

There are many colleagues across the University that have a vast amount of experience and knowledge around personal tutoring and also mentoring more broadly.  I would like to surface all the good practice that is happening around personal tutoring particularly in light of Covid-19 and our move to supporting students remotely.  Please email me, n.poppitt@tees.ac.uk, with any suggestions you have to enhance our practices around personal tutoring and what you are finding is working particularly well in our move to supporting student remotely, (thank you to colleagues who have already shared their good practices).  I look forward to hearing from you.

References

Lochtie, D., McIntosh, E., Stork, A., & Walker, B. (2018). Effective Personal Tutoring in Higher Education. St. Albans: Critical Publishing.

Thomas, L (July 2012) Building student engagement and belonging in higher education at a time of change: final report from the What works? Student retention & success programme. London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Sources of Information

Teesside University Personal Tutoring Code of Practice can be accessed here: https://www.tees.ac.uk/docs/DocRepo/Quality%20framework/Personal%20Tutoring%20Code%20of%20Practice.pdf

The University’s Academic Enhancement Framework can be accessed here: https://unity3.tees.ac.uk/departments/058/SD2017/SitePages/Academic%20Enhancement%20Framework.aspx

The UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring can be accessed here: https://www.ukat.uk/professional-development/professional-framework-for-advising-and-tutoring/

UKAT Core Values of Personal Tutoring can be accessed here: https://www.ukat.uk/professional-development/core-values-of-personal-tutoring-and-academic-advising/

 

 

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