Lightning Talks

Victoria Adkins (University of Greenwich)
Mark van der Enden, Emily Pentland-Hill, Najaah Oozeer (University of Surrey)
Divya Vinnakota , Chandeera Gunawardena (University of Sunderland in London)

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 11:30 AM - 12:15 PM

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Session Outline

Consumer attitudes, personal tutoring and being part of the problem

Victoria Adkins (University of Greenwich)

Having recently participated in the UKAT Professional Recognition Scheme, I have had an opportunity to reflect on my personal tutoring practice. At the start of my reflective exercise, it was easy to criticise the institution for the high student numbers and demanding workloads. In addition, the broader narrative of students’ consumer attitude dominated discussions of “difficult” student cohorts and their unrealistic demands. However, as my reflection deepened and after an eye-opening discussion with my UKAT mentor, I was able to situate myself and my practice within these issues.

In speaking at the UKAT conference, I wish to share areas of my own practice that I realised contributed to and reinforced the prevalence of the consumer attitude narrative. The defensive stance I was taking towards the preparation of meetings with tutees illustrated that the consumer narrative had blinded my own perception of the students. The narrative had become so dominate that it was no longer questioned and instead automatically fed into my own practice. As a result, I was then perpetuating this unchallenged narrative of the student body and reflecting it in my interactions with personal tutees.

In being confronted with my being “part of the problem”, I would like to participate in the UKAT conference to discuss how I used this fresh insight to push myself to play a more active role in changing personal tutor practice. In becoming a personal tutor co-ordinator in my department, I hope to influence the personal tutor practice by for example, embedding the tutor and tutee partnership at an early stage in the curriculum. Whilst institutions can certainly do more to give the roles of personal tutors further recognition, it is a responsibility of us all to reflect on our practice and consider the part we play in the broader narratives regarding higher education.

Collaborative Approaches, Learner Analytics and Personal Tutoring: A Holistic Approach to Facilitating Student Success at Surrey

Mark van der Enden, Emily Pentland-Hill, Najaah Oozeer (University of Surrey)

Personal Tutoring at the University of Surrey, as at many other Institutions, forms a vital part of the infrastructure put in place to support students throughout their degree. At Surrey every student is assigned a personal tutor who, in most cases, continues to function in this role for the entirety of the student’s time with us. As such the personal tutor is often the member of academic staff closest to the student and an important source of support, encouragement, and information, both academically and pastorally. This naturally places significant demands on personal tutor resources as they are required to have the necessary capacity for increasing case-loads and be equipped with the skills and knowledge to support an increasingly more complicated cohort of students with a broad scope of needs.

To facilitate an outstanding Personal Tutor System and to prepare colleagues adequately for the role, the last couple of years has seen the progression of significant pieces of work overhauling Personal Tutoring at the Surrey Business School. The work done has resulted in more streamlined processes and working relationships between Personal Tutors, Senior Personal tutors, our Student Success team and other key stakeholders (e.g., Programme Leaders, Directors of Learning and Teaching, Professional Services). This has facilitated more regular and open communication and the provision of joined up support to those students most at risk. We have particularly focussed on the need to provide proactive support, aiming to intervene early so as to maximize a student's chances of success. The recent acquisition of Learner Analytics, managed by our Student Success team, has greatly facilitated the ability of Personal Tutors and Senior Personal Tutors to do so by providing real time access to the engagement data of their tutees and as such the ability to proactively monitor how a student is doing and offer support if and when required.

This paper will provide an overview of the innovative practices embarked upon, how they facilitated proactive collaboration between Personal Tutors and Professional Services, and how oversight (per School/Department) by a Senior Personal Tutor has enabled a joined-up approach to offering support which has been perceived as highly valuable by both students and staff. Our paper will not only set-out the processes put in place but also share some examples of the way in which personal Tutoring and Professional Services, in this new context/arrangement, have successfully collaborated not only in offering a more streamlined and fit for purpose personal tutoring system, but also in providing tailored support to students who need additional support in order to succeed.

The impact of Personal Academic Tutoring on academic success: A case study of two (different) postgraduate programmes

Divya Vinnakota , Chandeera Gunawardena (University of Sunderland in London)


The present study was designed in a context where the University of Sunderland in London (UoSiL) introduced weekly Personal Academic Tutor (PAT) seminars as a new initiative in October 2023. They are non-credit-bearing seminars and do not involve the award of UoSiL academic credit. The PAT seminars will help the students develop the academic and research skills they need to excel at university. Active participation in the seminars helps them bridge the gap between where they are and where they are required to be. In the present paper, we explore the impact of PAT seminars on student academic skills development. We compare quantitative data from two postgraduate graduate programmes: MSc Public Health and MSc Project Management. A growing body of research into additional learning support and personal academic tutoring suggests that good practice is exemplified by identifying and integrating academic skills into university degree programmes (Harris & Ashton, 2011). This allows university students to acquire the skill set needed to complete the degree programme (Smale & Fowlie, 2009; Smale & Fowlie, 2015). Therefore, following good practice, we first accessed the academic skills required to complete the two postgraduate programmes and then integrated them into the PAT seminars (Gidman, 2001). Initially, twenty study and academic skills were identified. Following a needs assessment survey, we narrowed them down to ten skills (e.g., structuring assignments, writing reports, academic misconduct, paraphrasing, critical thinking), as these skills will help them excel in their Master’s programme.

Research design

The participants were sixty students in term 1 of two Master’s degree programmes at the UoSiL. They represented the two postgraduate programmes: MSc Public Heath (n=30) and MSc Project Management (n=30). More than 60% of the participants were international students, mainly from Nigeria and India. A seven-point Likert-scale questionnaire was administered to the participants, and they were asked to self-access their academic skills at two testing points: a pre-test at the beginning of the term and a post-test at the end of the term (10 weeks later). The data will be analysed using SPSS software (SPSS, 2011).

Main findings

Regarding the expected results, pre and post-test results will show statistically significant learning gains with respect to the ten academic skills. Further, there may be significant individual and group differences with respect to the learning gains in the post-test. However, the overall results are expected to show significant learning gains at individual and group levels. Those who show high learning gains in the post-test are also expected to obtain high grades in all their credit-bearing modules.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C1 - Core values of academic advising and tutoring
R4 - Plan and conduct successful advising and tutoring interactions
P2 - Appreciate students’ views and cultures, maintain a student-centred approach and mindset, and treat students with sensitivity and fairness
R7 - Collaborate effectively with campus services to provide support to students
I7 - Data and information technology applicable to tutoring
P1 - Create and support environments that consider the needs and perspectives of students, and respect individual learners
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
C4 - Expected outcomes of academic advising and tutoring
I5 - The characteristics, needs, and experiences of major and emerging student populations