Getting from what we have, to what they need: a coaching approach to personal tutoring

Ritta Husted (University of Essex)
Anna Hardiman-McCartney (University of Essex)
Dominic Micklewright (University of Essex)

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 10:00 AM - 10:45 AM

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Session Outline

What approaches to personal tutoring are best suited to the diverse academic, pastoral and mental health needs of contemporary university students? The risk is that tutors feel anxious and ill-equipped to carry out the role and students feel uncertain about the relevance and benefit of tutoring. In this session we will discuss institutional imperatives to change traditional personal tutoring in favour of an alternative, coaching-informed approach that we have trialled at the University of Essex.

Our pilot takes place within three of the 18 departments of the University, including staff and students across a range of disciplines which encompass both the traditional academic and the vocationally oriented. Central to our approach is to support departments and the academic colleagues within the to develop an approach to coaching conversations that work for their students, academics and personal tutoring structures.

The University of Essex aims to offer transformational, research-led education for all, in which students are active participants in their learning. Within this context, the university wanted to explore a more student-led approach to Personal Tutoring where students are equipped with tools to take more responsibility for their own challenges and to solve their own problems. This approach facilitates a more equal relationship between tutor and tutee, with the two working in partnership to further the student’s goals.

Staff across three Departments took part in a two-day practical skills-based training opportunity focusing on performance and solution-focused coaching approaches. The objective was to facilitate students to find their own solutions to their own problems and to allow them to develop a toolkit for future use long after the coaching programme had finishes.

The specific performance coaching areas included: procrastination, perfectionistic tendencies and performance coaching models such as PRACTICE and GROW; these themes were co-created with the staff in the Department to reflect their students’ specific needs. Staff practiced using the change process / competence cycle as well as Skills Audits and Performance Improvement Plans. As none of the colleagues were trained coaches, the emphasis was on training them to adopt a coaching approach within their academic conversations and move away from a mentoring focus. All materials and coaching models were adapted and made accessible to a non-coaching specialist context with on-going support and review opportunities.

We will present data on the focus of coaching conversations, together with findings from interviews with staff about their experiences with utilising coaching approaches within their personal tutor work.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
P1 - Create and support environments that consider the needs and perspectives of students, and respect individual learners
C1 - Core values of academic advising and tutoring