Lightning Talks

Patricia Perlman-Dee (Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester)
Jean Assender (University of Birmingham)
Wendy Leadbeater (Aston Univeristy)
Eve Whitehurst (University of Birmingham)
Nienke Alberts (University of Bristol)

Wednesday, April 6, 2022 10:00 AM - 10:45 AM

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Session Outline

Evaluate and implement a tutor/supervisor buddy system

Patricia Perlman-Dee (Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester)

"Being a tutor or supervisor is incredibly rewarding, but also a huge responsibility. With tutors often working with a smaller group of students or even individual students, there is limited opportunity of creating a community to which the supervisor or tutor feel a sense of belonging. It is also not helped by the fact that the problems/academic exercises/projects worked on are often of different nature and subject matters.

This Lightning Talk will explain how a supervisor buddy system was created and put in place for tutors across three separate courses in a Post-Graduate program at Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) at University of Manchester. The buddy system did not focus on subject expertise or academic interests, but solely focused on tutors supporting each other in the role as a tutor, creating a community of tutors.

This talk will evaluate and analyse the benefits and possible drawbacks of a buddy system. An example of a benefit is; calibration of marking, whilst a possible drawback is “over familiarity”. The audience will take away the implementation tools and evaluation criteria of how to set up a buddy system for tutors in their own organisation and thereby creating an inclusive community with a clear identity for the supervisor/tutor.

Students’ perceptions of Personal Academic Tutoring and its effect on student engagement- an enhancement project

Jean Assender, Eve Whitehurst (University of Birmingham) Wendy Leadbeater (Aston University)

This session will present our recent research exploring from the students’ perceptive what makes for a good, engaging personal academic tutor (PAT), and whether this is perceived differently according to factors such as gender, ethnicity, or prior experience. Whilst most research stresses the positive effects of PAT- student interactions, we also know that poor tutoring experiences can be worse than no tutor at all (Yale, 2020), leading to student disengagement. Thus the nature and quality (rather than just quantity) of student-tutor interactions, appears to be particularly important. Our research is seeking to hear students’ perception of their tutor interactions and particularly whether first meetings early on in their arrival at University are critical to establishing a good rapport with their PAT, enhancing student engagement in the personal tutoring relationship and in developing a sense of belonging to the school and University. Using this information, we will explore how we can enhance the staff student tutoring relationship and improve PATs awareness of student experiences and expectations through personal tutor training and continued PAT support. The session will focus on student perceptions of personal tutoring and will encourage discussion of the findings and as to how this might impact our practice and the training we provide to Personal Academic Tutors.

Forced fun – questioning the role of personal tutors in community development

Nienke Alberts (University of Bristol)

"Feeling part of a community and having a sense of belonging at university impact on student outcomes, such as retention, progression, and success [1, 2]. In this presentation I consider the role of personal tutoring in the formation of learning communities, and question whether personal tutors are best placed to support the formation of peer relationships.

I will present longitudinal qualitative and quantitative data on the formation of student communities at the University of Bristol and how these communities change over time. Data come from a larger longitudinal research project, in which I follow 55 undergraduate students through their degree at Bristol. In this presentation I will draw on data collected at three points; in the first few weeks of starting their degree, in the second term in the first year, and in the first term of their final year. Data were collected through in-person and online focus groups and a survey. Data were analysed using thematic and statistical analysis.

Students felt there was a clear need for more community development and for more opportunities to facilitate the formation of peer relationships, as many students report feeling anonymous and can feel isolated within their programme.

Analysis showed that personal tutoring currently only has a small effect on the formation of learning communities, because tutorial groups at Bristol involve just a small group of individuals that meet infrequently. Currently, the main value of personal tutoring in community building is in the reinforcement of relationships that students have built in other contexts. Students themselves felt that their school or department was better placed to facilitate community development through teaching methods and events, because within schools there was a possibility of more frequent interaction and with a wider group of students. Unless personal tutoring is organised in a radically different way, it may be more fruitful to focus community building by strengthening university societies and a learning environment that allows for interaction and collaboration with peers.

There was one exception to these findings; one way personal tutors can contribute to community formation and sense of belonging is through vertical tutorials, where a personal tutor has a tutorial with their tutees in all years simultaneously. Vertical tutorials were important in making students feel part of a community within their degree programme. Students appreciated such tutorials because it allowed students to make links with students in different years and gain more information about their course.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
I1 - HE Provider mission, vision, values, and culture
I5 - The characteristics, needs, and experiences of major and emerging student populations
R4 - Plan and conduct successful advising and tutoring interactions
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