How to offer effective and useful personal tutoring to maximise student attainment

personal tutoring training

16th February 2017

The Personal Tutoring system is part of a vital role in enhancing students’ academic and personal potential. To this day, it still remains as part of a long-standing tradition at most UK universities whereby students can take advantage of a one-to-one session with a nominated tutor.

These sessions are intended as an opportunity where students can request feedback and advice on a range of academic, pastoral as well as career orientated questions. Universities may have different approaches to how this system is implemented, with some mandating a set number of sessions a year, whilst others offer it as and when a student may need them.

The Personal Tutoring Challenge

With an increasing number of students part-financing their studies with jobs and (in some cases) commuting from the parental home time, spare time is increasingly short. Time pressures may prompt both students and universities to consider whether personal tutoring sessions continue to represent a worthwhile investment of the students’ free-time or whether an alternative should be considered.

To help answer this, UCL carried out a study in 2014 to examine the benefits and shortcomings of the personal tutoring system and discover what aspects students particularly valued or dismissed.

Of the 271 people surveyed, researchers discovered that students really valued having a designated academic available to them for personal support if necessary. They indicated that although they may not need to call upon them, the knowledge that there is a safety net and someone who they can turn to, was reassuring and helpful.

Students also appreciated the personalised nature of a designated tutor, as they felt that having the sole attention of an academic member of staff, gave them more individualised feedback, better communication of academic progress and confidence in the advice offered.

Students were least satisfied when they felt that tutors approached the sessions as a check-boxing exercise. In these instances, students reported limited value from tutors who seemed less supportive and impersonal, preferring to keep a large professional distance between themselves and their nominated students. Students also reported that scheduled meetings were problematic as being either too few or too frequent in nature.

The main take-aways from this research was that the Personal Tutoring system was indeed a much valued resource to students, but to maximise student engagement and to create a community of practice, universities need to offer a tutoring programme that:

  1. Values students as unique individuals
  2. Provides personalised attention and feedback
  3. Offers appropriate academic and professional support based on relevant research interests to the student’s degree choices
  4. Is accessible and easy to contact.

How easy is this in practice?

Despite the use of the Personal Tutoring system being wide-spread throughout the UK Higher Education sector, there are few that offer a systematic and comprehensive training programme to ensure that all tutors follow the same recommended best practice. This has created problems in terms of consistency for both students and staff where support has been uneven and differed between departments.

When used correctly, personal tutoring plays a key part in delivering a holistic, coherent and student centred curriculum. It is a crucial aspect of how the University supports students and helps them fulfil their academic and personal development potential.

To maximise the effectiveness of personal tutoring it’s vital that all staff members are given the same comprehensive training that they can undergo at a time that suits them. In this regard an elearning programme offers an ideal solution.

Elearning offers a cost-effective means to rollout training to large audiences at a time and place that is most suitable for varying schedules. Unlike the traditional University Handbook, it also offers a means by which the University can share its voice and vision in a fully interactive medium that brings the course material alive through branching conversation simulations, interactions and quizzes that test the learner’s knowledge. The course content also offers support documentation and policies they can use once the course is complete.

Interested in Personal Tutoring Training?

At Marshall E-Learning, we have partnered with Westminster University to produce a fully interactive Personal Tutoring Course designed for both new academics and as a refresher for more experienced staff members that wish to update their knowledge

The course coaches staff members on their academic and pastoral roles, whilst teaching them about the range of support and other referral services available to students.

For more information or for a demo, please contact David Marshall on 0845 123 3909 or contactus@marshallacm.co.uk

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