Lightning Talks

Julian M Kendell (university of bristol)
Jennie R Blake, Emma Sanders (University of Manchester)
Katherine E Chapman (Swansea University)

Monday, April 3, 2023 2:30 PM - 3:15 PM

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Session Outline

What do students' nominations for a personal tutoring award tell us about what they value in the role?

Julian M Kendell (university of bristol)*

Since 2021 the Bristol Teaching awards (BTAs) have included a category that recognises outstanding personal tutoring. To nominate a personal tutor for an award, students submit a brief narrative that explains why their personal tutor should be considered. In this presentation, I will be exploring what a thematic analysis of these narratives tells us about the ways students value the role of personal tutor with a particular focus on what they say about the actions their personal tutor takes to support them. I will explore what students suggest are the personal qualities they value in their personal tutor, and examine what the nominations reveal about the ways in which personal tutoring empowers students and feeds into the transformative nature of their higher education experience.

The presentation will suggest that students value strong, relationships that break down traditional hierarchies and give them the space and confidence to reflect on their capacity and opportunity for personal transformation. And that caring and supportive personal tutors can often be the difference for a student being able to continue and be successful in their programme.


The Network Effect: the practicalities and impact of a community of practitioners

Jennie R Blake, Emma Sanders (University of Manchester)

The University of Manchester is a large and diverse University, with nearly 50,000 students engaging with a wide variety of degree programmes. The student body is equally diverse, both in background and aspirations, and a perennial area of focus for the University has been ensuring equity of experience of academic advising. (Salmi & D'Addio, 2020) Each undergraduate at Manchester is assigned an academic advisor, and each advisor has a clear set of expectations in their role, but, beyond those firm facts, individual Faculties, programmes and schools all approach advising slightly differently. While this allows individual contexts to ensure advising support suits the needs of their students and staff, historically this has meant that the University struggled to take advantage of and share effective practice.

Recently, the University was able to formally bring advising under the purview of a post meant to link teaching and learning practice directly to the student experience. Advising as a whole was formerly divided into an oversight committee, a quasi-management level of “senior academic advisors” and the advisors on the ground. Because of this top-down and siloed structure, most effective practice was often locked or obscured by assumptions around context or resource, and little sharing of either successes or problems occurred. Recognising both the strength of experience found on the ground with advisors and the barriers to sharing present in the structure, a project was launched to build a network that would be lead by advisors and reflect their experience, questions and initiatives. Based on an iteration of Wegner’s work on Community of Practice and Maha Bali and Mia Zamora's Equital Hospitality model (Wegner, 2011) (Bali & Mia, 2022), this “community of practitioners” takes the form of a network of senior advisors, professional services staff and others who all work together to collectively discuss, evaluate and structure advising from a pedagogical and practical perspective. It takes advantage of current technology such as Zoom and Teams and integrates formal and informal mechanisms for connecting and sharing. This talk will focus on three specific areas:

  1. The launch and structure behind the community of practitioners and how it uplifts voices and experiences from a diverse group
  2. The impact that this community has had on advising at Manchester in terms of improved practice, advisor-advisor support and enabling advisors to leverage collective advocacy for University-wide change.
  3. The next “big” focus for the network: examining different models of advising and recommending University-wide standards

The talk will also touch on the methods of evaluation growing out of the network, and its potential to influence wider University work. Audience members listening to this lighting talk will take away a potential structure for a community of practitioners at their institution.


Identifying student mentees’ frequently asked questions to promote effective academic support

Katherine E Chapman (Swansea University)

Personal Academic Mentors’ awareness of topics of importance to students is crucial for timely provision of accurate and relevant advice during mentor-mentee contact, such as meetings or email exchanges. Mentor awareness is also key for effective signposting of students to additional resources and understanding the educational needs of today’s student cohort (Stelter, Kupersmidt and Stump, 2021). Advice that students receive from their mentor may contribute to students’ decision-making, potentially impacting on their academic performance (Nora and Crisp, 2007). Identification of the common academic enquiries undergraduate students direct to their Personal Academic Mentors is important when supporting students’ academic progress and development.

The aim of this presentation is to summarise question data from a sample of academic mentees within the Biomedical Sciences cohort at Swansea University Medical School. A sample of questions asked by BSc undergraduate mentees between January 2022 and January 2023, either via email or verbally during mentee meetings, were analysed and categorised in terms of general topic area. During the presentation, the audience will be asked to reflect on queries that they have received most frequently from their student mentees.

Overall, queries from students most frequently related to assignments, progression requirements, employability, disability/wellbeing, and extenuation support. Year 1 and Year 0 (Foundation Year) students were more likely to request advice relating to university policies and procedures. Year 2 students frequently expressed interest in optional modules as well as Graduate Medical School entrance requirements, aligning with our programmes’ Pathways to Medicine option. Final year (Year 3) students requested support with their dissertation projects and career advice.

The information obtained will be used to create online information resources for students to access. The nature of the queries suggested that students understand the role of their mentor in supporting their studies. Many queries relating to general study support and topics of interest varied depending on the year of study. It is intended that the identification of questions frequently asked by students will allow for development of improved and relevant resources for future students, and maximised effectiveness of signposting to the appropriate department or individual for specific assistance. This will help to facilitate student engagement and attainment, ultimately enhancing the overall student experience.

Nora, A., & Crisp, G. (2007). Mentoring students: Conceptualizing and validating the multi-dimensions of a support system. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 9(3), 337-356.
Stelter, R. L., Kupersmidt, J. B., & Stump, K. N. (2021). Establishing effective STEM mentoring relationships through mentor training. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1483(1), 224-243.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
C5 - How equitable and inclusive environments are created and maintained
I1 - HE Provider mission, vision, values, and culture
I5 - The characteristics, needs, and experiences of major and emerging student populations
I6 - Campus and community resources that support student success
R1 - Build advising and tutoring relationships through empathetic listening and compassion for students, and be accessible in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach
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