Empowering under-represented voices: exploring the intersection between reverse mentoring and effective academic personal tutoring

Rachael O'Connor (University of Leeds)

Monday, April 3, 2023 12:30 PM - 1:15 PM

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Session Outline

This presentation focuses on initial reflections from a student co-designed staff/student reverse mentoring project, spanning 20 disciplines within a Russell Group university. Some of the themes drawn on include belonging, community, authenticity and workload to name a few. The project ‘Exploring academic personal tutoring in partnership with under-represented students’ involves: (i) students mentoring staff about their lived experiences as students who self-identify as under-represented; and (ii) staff and students collaborating to propose developments to personal tutoring, stemming from reverse mentoring experiences.

This builds on the presenter’s pilot project, one of the first HE reverse mentoring schemes to be qualitatively analysed from an EDI perspective (O’Connor, 2022). This project was co-designed with 15 students from 12 different disciplines who self-identify as underrepresented and participated in by a wider group of students (mentors) and staff (mentees) (n=38).

Reverse mentoring is about authentic staff/student partnerships which dismantle norms that serve as barriers, most significantly for under-represented students, clearly linked to authentic and inclusive personal tutoring. Reverse mentoring also has potential to catalyse cultural change. Here, cultural change focuses on development of personal tutoring institutionally.

The presentation will interest colleagues looking to develop their practice or influence others working with underrepresented students in personal tutoring. The sessions aims to encourage attendees to consider reverse mentoring for its potential dismantling of traditional hierarchies in staff/student relationships and what this could mean for achieving authentic and consistent personal tutoring on a wider scale. Project design will be outlined so attendees can consider how they might trial their own schemes to support development of more authentic and compassionate staff/student relationships in personal tutoring.

Reverse mentoring in HE is a relatively under-researched area (Cain, et al, 2022; Raymond, et al, 2021; Petersen and Ramsay, 2021). This is the first study to consider its connections with personal tutoring, co-designed with students who identify as under-represented. The development of impactful personal tutoring which respects individuals and is inclusive and authentic, demonstrating genuine care (Yale, 2019) must be a joint endeavour between staff and students. One can’t create it without the other. The criticality of personal tutoring as a space for students and staff to be authentic with one another cannot be understated (Gravett and Winstone, 2022). This presentation offers one unique intervention to achieve better personal tutoring experiences for staff and students, where everyone’s voice is included, wellbeing is prioritised and everyone can feel they belong and matter – critically intertwined issues in the current challenges facing our sector (WonkHE, 2022; Student Minds, 2022).

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for 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
P2 - Appreciate students’ views and cultures, maintain a student-centred approach and mindset, and treat students with sensitivity and fairness