The Value Vortex, or: whose side are we on?

Oscar O. van den Wijngaard (Maastricht University)

Monday, April 4, 2022 11:00 AM - 11:45 AM

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Session Outline

Personal tutoring (and academic advising) is increasingly seen as essential for student engagement and student success. In its many manifestations, personal tutoring is a way for universities to express and act on their concern for the personal and academic development of their students, and for many students, meeting with their PT or academic advisor may be the most personal interaction they have with the institution.

The most dedicated personal tutors and advisors are often those who are most passionate about the well-being and development of their students, and they engage with the role on the basis on profound implicit or explicit values. These values in turn will often revolve around how personal tutors see the purpose of education, and their perspectives on the personal growth and agency of students.

Quite likely, the more articulated these personal values for personal tutoring and advising become, the more they may clash with those of other stakeholders: students, institutions, or even predominant values in society (e.g., Smith, 2019;Van den Wijngaard, 2021). The many ambiguities surrounding the idea of ‘student success’ are a clear case in point: should it be understood in terms of retention and completion, of career trajectories post graduation, or as the attainment of personal goals, whatever these may be? Can personal tutors freely support students in their personal development, even if this bring them to, say, the decision to quit their studies, while the universities that employ them may look at personal tutoring as a means to retain students?

This tension between values is potentially problematic – for the individual PT or advisor, and for the role personal tutoring and advising play within higher education in general. The pressure on universities to produce more, employable graduates and be ‘caring’ at the same time only complicates the issue further.

In this Roundtable session, delegates will explore the "value vortex" of potential contradictions between their own personal values for personal tutoring and advising, and those of students, institutions, and other stakeholders. It is not very likely that a satisfactory reconciliation of values will be accomplished – but explicit acknowledgment and a thorough examination of the problem may serve as a critical first step towards the development of personal as well as institutional strategies for addressing the issue, and may help us as we reimagine personal tutoring.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C4 - Expected outcomes of academic advising and tutoring
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