Can we talk about this?

Karen Kenny (University of Exeter)
Amy Mellows (University of Exeter)
Sonia Thakurdesai (University of Exeter)

Tuesday, April 5, 2022 12:30 PM - 1:15 PM

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Session Outline

The Can We Talk About This? project develops theatre-based dialogic structures which foster proactive prevention for addressing student and staff challenges. This session will support academic personal tutors in their role to enable student success and transitions.

The project use

nnovative theatre techniques to open up dialogue about challenges for staff and students which are not commonly addressed at university (with a focus on wellbeing and inclusion), and which have nuanced complexity. We aim to address gaps in training and resource overload, varied levels of Personal Tutor expertise/confidence, differing understandings of the nature of the role and identifying safeguarding responsibilities, navigating student barriers to accessing support and to unpack staff bias and privileges.

Working one-step-removed via fictionalised distance, fictional narrative and imagined characters enables self-reflection and increased awareness for those taking part. This practice is taken from Applied Theatre practitioner Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre theory and practice (1985) and uses theatre artist and educator Paulo Rohd’s ‘Activating scenes’ (1998).In addition we draw upon the practice of Paulo Freire (1993) and Bell Hooks (1994).

The workshops, developed and facilitated by Drama UG & alumni performers open up critical dialogue about areas of concern or complex challenge within Personal Tutor settings. Using innovative dialogic theatre techniques to facilitate conversations about how we approach situations with students in PT meetings and in our educational community here at Exeter.

Short scenarios, addressing common issues in tutoring, co-written by drama students, are presented to small audiences via Zoom. The audience is then asked for feedback on the interaction, and to suggest different ways to work with the ‘student’ in order to enhance the support offered. The actors then replay the scenario, amended to reflect the audience suggestions.

The sessions create a safe space for staff as audience participants, to unpack complex questions around the role, responsibility, and best practice of a personal tutor in wellbeing themed Tutee meeting scenarios. It will highlight and address boundary issues which may help tutors to manage their role in a way that supports their own wellbeing as well as that of their tutees.

We begin with a live forum theatre scene performed by graduate actors, that presents a complex scenario between a personal tutor and a tutee. Participants are invited to safely engage in conversation around the themes of privilege and marginalised students, unconscious bias, wellbeing and tutor best practice that arise from the performance. Participants then see their suggestions played back to them by the actors, and the dialogic safe space is reopened for participants to discuss the complex questions that arise around the best practice of a personal/academic tutor in these scenarios.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C1 - Core values of academic advising and tutoring
C2 - Theory relevant to academic advising and tutoring
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
C4 - Expected outcomes of academic advising and tutoring
C5 - How equitable and inclusive environments are created and maintained
R1 - Build advising and tutoring relationships through empathetic listening and compassion for students, and be accessible in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach
R2 - Communicate in an inclusive and respectful manner
R3 - Motivate, encourage, and support students to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and respect individuality
R4 - Plan and conduct successful advising and tutoring interactions
R5 - Promote student understanding of the logic and purpose of the curriculum
R6 - Facilitate problem solving, decision-making, meaning-making, planning, and goal setting
R7 - Collaborate effectively with campus services to provide support to students
P1 - Create and support environments that consider the needs and perspectives of students, and respect individual learners
P2 - Appreciate students’ views and cultures, maintain a student-centred approach and mindset, and treat students with sensitivity and fairness