Lightning Talks

Victoria Adkins (University of Greenwich)
John Morton (University of Greenwich)
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.

A Case for 'Form' - Organising Tutoring as the Core of Welcome Week and Year 1 of Studies

John Morton (University of Greenwich)

This presentation will advocate for the organisation of University Welcome Weeks primarily via Tutor Groups.

It is based on the idea that Universities differ so radically from secondary school that there is substantial benefit to students in them initial maintenance of something that approximates the 'Form' they are used to at School in the UK - and if from a different educational background, that students typically benefit from the expectation of close contact with and attention from a member of University staff.

It will suggest a strategy for tutoring focusing on Welcome Week, outlining suggestions for ways in which tutors and programmes might engage students as soon as they arrive on campus, in order to avoid the consistent problem of students claiming not to know who their Tutor is and feeling disconnected from University support as a result, at a time when they often expect staff to have been briefed on their backgrounds and educational needs in the manner of their beginning secondary school and sixth form.

It will be based on the good practice by colleagues in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Greenwich. It will consist of two main sections.

The first will consider pre-planning and seminar allocation, suggesting that tutees be allocated to the same seminar group for one core module at each level of study, where they should ideally be taught by their Tutor.

The second will suggest a series of tutorial meetings staggered over days in Welcome Week, involving campus tours, academic exercises and wider programme meetings, as a way to ensure tutees are familiar with both their Tutor and the campus by the end of their first week of study.

This recognition will mean students always know who to turn to and who to see with problems and concerns they might have, which will enhance engagement, attendance, and thus academic success and personal development.

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
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
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