Lightning Talks

Menna Brown (Swansea University)
Qurat-ul-ain Jahangir (University of Sunderland in London)
Johnny Leung (University of Sunderland in London)
Lydia M. Castro (University of Sunderland in London)
Sherif Welsen (The University of Nottingham Ningbo China)

Monday, April 8, 2024 10:00 AM - 10:45 AM

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Session Outline

An extra line of defence; Does peer mentoring fill the gaps in personal tutoring?

Menna Brown (Swansea University)

Personal tutoring, also known as academic mentoring; offers one-to-one support for students through signposting, pastoral support and an initial point of contact. The purpose being to develop and foster a relationship which can help students develop autonomy as they progress through HE and into the real world (UKAT 2023). However, it has become increasingly obvious (evidenced by the recent UK wide strikes) that academic staff are over stretched, and many have reached a crisis point as the demands placed on them continue to expand beyond manageable proportions (Jayman et al. 2022). Set against a backdrop of rapidly increasing student numbers, significant changes in student demographics, specifically an increase in international student numbers, poor student retention and worsening student wellbeing in a post covid era of education (Allen et al. 2022).

In light of this, alternatives are required to support staff and students alike. For example, a ten-week validated peer mentoring scheme was embedded into one MSc programme at one Welsh HE. The scheme was added specifically to add an extra line of support for international students as they arrive and transition into UK HE (Hayman et al. 2022).

Can peer mentoring fill the gaps in personal tutoring? Like personal tutors, peer mentors need to be trained to deliver effective mentoring sessions. They need to develop their knowledge of mentoring and acquire relevant skills to effectively guide their peers towards academic autonomy (UKAT 2023). But what are student expectations, how is peer mentoring received and what is the mentor experience? Finally, how does this compare with personal tutoring received? These were the questions asked in a mixed method study which evaluated peer mentoring in the 2022-23 academic year.

Students were surveyed before and after they received a 10-week peer mentor intervention, to identify expectations, understanding, benefits and experiences. Five peer mentors were interviewed to explore their experiences and five students were interviewed to examine how the two schemes compared. Findings showed that expectations were varied and high. Benefits were included academic readiness, preparedness, and increased subject knowledge alongside the creation of a sense of belonging and community. Mentors gained new skills and enhanced their employability while students viewed the scheme in a different light to staff mentoring. Results and implications will be presented.

The Nexus of Personal Academic Tutoring and Student Employability: A Data-Driven Investigation

Qurat-ul-ain Jahangir (University of Sunderland in London); Johnny Leung (University of Sunderland in London); Lydia M. Castro (University of Sunderland in London)

Personal academic tutoring is seminal in nurturing core student skills, including research, analytical thinking, and self-discipline. These skills are vital not just for academic success but also for meeting the challenges of the professional world. As dedicated Personal Academic Tutors (PATs) at the University of Sunderland in London, we have come to recognise the vital nexus between our role and developing future employability in our students. We have observed that personal tutoring not only enhances academic skills but also develops critical competencies in students, essential for the workforce. Based on our observations and student feedback, we have identified the need for a structured approach to personal tutoring to enhance student employability. This rationale underpins our research, which aims to explore the impact of personal academic tutoring on cultivating professional competencies in students.

Literature on the role of personal tutors in Higher Education acknowledges the multifaceted support they provide, however, their impact on the career readiness of students is less explored (Sian, 2011; Atkinson, 2014; Yale, 2017). Our research seeks to enhance the current discourse by exploring how personal tutoring impacts cultivation of soft, transferable skills, vital for employability, in students from diverse backgrounds. This focus on foundational abilities and career growth aims to provide a more structured understanding of the role of PATs in students’ professional development.

Adapting the Employability Skills Framework from Jackson & Chapman (2012), our research employs a mixed methods approach including semi-structured student surveys, PAT reflections, and analysis of student academic performance. This enables us to gauge two key variables, first how students self-assess their own employability and second, the perceived impact of personal tutoring on the professional development of students at varying levels. Furthermore, this approach allows us identify areas where tutoring interventions can be most beneficial. We also aim to scrutinise how PATs can leverage student assessment data to improve the design and delivery of personal tutoring, with a view to enhancing student employability.

Preliminary results from our research reveal variations in students' perceived employability skills influenced by their level of study, age, and background. Students report some common areas of low confidence in employability skills across all levels but acknowledge the positive impact of personal tutoring on crucial skills such as communication and adaptability.

Our objective in presenting the outcomes of this research is to stimulate dialogue within the wider network of academic tutors in the UK Higher Education sector around strategies for student success. We aim to underscore the influential role personal tutors can have in enhancing student employability and exchanging strategies that have proven effective for our diverse study body.

Enhancing Student Holistic Development: A Case Study on the Impact of Academic Coaching in Science and Engineering

Sherif Welsen (The University of Nottingham Ningbo China)

In this presentation, we explore the positive effects of academic coaching on science and engineering students at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC). Our focus is on the holistic development of students, and we discuss the coaching program that was designed for a one-semester term. The program aimed to foster the overall growth of undergraduate students within the Faculty of Science and Engineering. It was offered free of charge to students who were new to coaching, providing valuable insights into the impact of coaching on individuals with limited prior exposure.

To assess the outcomes of the coaching program, we conducted a survey using MS Forms. The survey included a combination of Likert-scale questions and open-ended inquiries, ensuring a nuanced understanding of participants' experiences and perceptions. The survey was distributed among the 42 students who actively engaged in the coaching program, resulting in a commendable participation rate.

Our study revealed compelling evidence that integrating coaching practices positively influences the holistic development of Science and Engineering students. Through the analysis of survey data, we observed notable improvements in various aspects of students' academic, professional, and personal skills. These findings contribute to the broader discourse on student development and hold significant implications for addressing study skills and awarding gap issues.

The implications of this case study extend beyond UNNC. By showcasing the positive impact of coaching on holistic student development, we advocate for incorporating coaching into broader student support systems within higher education. Furthermore, our findings underscore the importance of reinforcing personal tutorials and enhancing the training of both personal tutors and tutees.

Our case study contributes to the ongoing discourse on effective individual advising and tutoring strategies by addressing study skills and awarding gap issues. This presentation is relevant to the UK Advising and Tutoring (UKAT) annual conference, which focuses on "Personal Tutoring in the Spotlight." Here, we emphasize the pivotal role of academic coaching in shaping and developing students' core academic, professional, and personal skills.

Keywords: Academic coaching, Holistic development, Science and Engineering Education, Student support systems

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
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
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
P4 - Understand the implications of quality assurance and quality enhancement, and engage in on-going evaluation and development of advising and tutoring practice
P1 - Create and support environments that consider the needs and perspectives of students, and respect individual learners
R3 - Motivate, encourage, and support students to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and respect individuality
R4 - Plan and conduct successful advising and tutoring interactions
I2 - Curriculum, degree programmes and pathways, including options
C4 - Expected outcomes of academic advising and tutoring
P3 - Commit to students, colleagues, and their institutions through engagement in continuing professional development, scholarly enquiry, and the evaluation of professional practices
P2 - Appreciate students’ views and cultures, maintain a student-centred approach and mindset, and treat students with sensitivity and fairness
I6 - Campus and community resources that support student success
R6 - Facilitate problem solving, decision-making, meaning-making, planning, and goal setting