Academic Coaching at the University of Wolverhampton: reframing personal tutoring as a transformational aspect of Higher Education pedagogy.

James Jennings (University of Wolverhampton)

Tuesday, April 4, 2023 12:30 PM - 1:15 PM

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Session Outline

Personal tutoring literature has suggested the need for a cultural change in UK Higher Education (HE) practice (Stuart et al., 2019; Yale, 2020). This presentation will introduce participants to one HE provider's answer to this call with an approach that reframed personal tutoring through the pedagogical lens of care and mattering (Gravett et al., 2021). Challenging participants to reflect on their practice and the personal tutoring context at their institutions and how transformational personal tutoring practices can challenge the notion that personal tutoring is an overlooked and undervalued aspect of HE pedagogy (Stuart et al., 2019).

In 2018, the University of Wolverhampton (WLV) trialled a full-time professional coaching and mentoring role to deliver personal tutoring to first-year students. Since then, the Academic Coach (AC) role has grown significantly and is now integral to supporting WLV's local and unique student body (University of Wolverhampton, 2020). This whole cohort approach sees AC's support, on average, a cohort of 200 tutees. AC's act as the personal tutor during the first year of a student's studies before transitioning to academic personal tutors for their final years. As of 2023, over 30 AC's now support students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels across three teams, one for each Faculty. Each team is managed by a Senior AC, responsible for leading the strategic direction of the role and ensuring quality-assured personal tutoring practices.

This presentation, by a current Senior AC and WLV graduate, will explore the presenter's dissertation research into the AC role as part of their studies on the Masters in Student Engagement in Higher Education at the University of Winchester. Through an exploratory case study, the presenter utilised qualitative research methods to investigate the impact of the AC role on student transitions into Higher Education. Using semi-structured interviews with current WLV students and AC's, the study discovered how this context-specific approach to personal tutoring is transformative for students and staff.

Exploring the importance of care and genuine relationships as the foundations of transformative personal tutoring practices and providing insight into how the AC role facilitates this by addressing personal tutoring's power conundrum through a partnership with students. Furthermore, Bourdieu's (1986) theoretical concepts will be utilised to understand how the AC role facilitates student transformation through transferring social and cultural capital. Each topic will be supported with direct testimony from students and AC's to align with the dialogic nature of personal tutoring and the presenter's research design and philosophy.

Finally, this session will end with the presenter reflecting on their experiences and research, challenging the audience to do the same and how they can reframe personal tutoring as an aspect of HE pedagogy within their context and research.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
I1 - HE Provider mission, vision, values, and culture
R1 - Build advising and tutoring relationships through empathetic listening and compassion for students, and be accessible in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach
P2 - Appreciate students’ views and cultures, maintain a student-centred approach and mindset, and treat students with sensitivity and fairness