A ‘design thinking for life’ approach to enhance tutee engagement, inclusive and empathetic peer dialogue and support core skills development

Nigel Page (Kingston University London)
Carmen Ecookit (Kingston University London)

Monday, April 8, 2024 11:30 AM - 12:15 PM

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Session Outline

The role of personal tutors is often cited as crucial in shaping and developing students’ core academic, professional, and personal skills. Yet, the effectiveness and consistency in support gained, and levels of engagement can be variable and dependent on the success of individualised tutor relationships. Moreover, personal development requires tutees to not only develop their own needs, but warrants an acute awareness of understanding others, and the context of one’s own natural environment. Therefore, we saw substantial value in connecting our first-year tutees through a network of peer support teams supported by workshops utilising a ‘design thinking for life’ approach. This encouraged more active empathetic peer dialogue enhancing engagement with professional/personal development through shared identification of opportunities, interests, and aspirations. Overall, this strategy has led to a consistent increased engagement (24%) with our tutor-linked professional development activities and essentially closed a significant awarding gap from 2017 to 2021 (that had ranged from 8.4-24.2%).

This workshop will introduce delegates to our approaches in developing fresh ways of building empathetic affinities between tutees, tutors, and the wider university support community through the introduction of a ‘design thinking for life’ approach. Design thinking is a transformative problem-solving approach typically associated with product and service design in business, which is human centred focussing on the needs of people. We have used design thinking beyond these traditional contexts getting tutees to apply the principles in addressing and solving challenges in various aspects of their lives (from enhancing their personal development, graduate attributes, well-being, and sense of belonging/mattering). This approach has empowered tutees to explore their own unique needs, goals, and challenges, through developing skills in empathy and self-awareness, to clearly defining the issues they would like to develop or improve. From the identified issues/challenges tutees brainstorm solutions; and from these develop strategies to help themselves engage more effectively in interventions whilst articulating the skills they are developing.

We will explore with delegates how design thinking can be used as an empathetic approach to enhance tutee engagement, peer dialogue, and support the evidencing and articulation of core professional and personal development skills through interactive activities and use of different case studies. This not only focussing on the life-long development of the individual but how this can lead to fostering a supportive and collaborative learning environment. Overall delegates will get a taste of this process by undertaking examples of some of the student activities, be able to gather feedback and adapt and share their practice to better support their tutees.

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
P3 - Commit to students, colleagues, and their institutions through engagement in continuing professional development, scholarly enquiry, and the evaluation of professional practices