Defining Personal Tutoring

David Grey (UKAT)
Joseph Bailey (York St John University)

Thursday, September 03, 2020 9:00 AM - 9:45 AM

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Session Outline

Personal tutoring has existed in UK higher education since the 16th century. Over that time the nature and purpose of the role has changed, and the terminology used to describe the role varies across the sector (e.g. personal tutor, personal academic tutor, academic tutor, academic support tutor, academic advisor, etc). Differing names are used for similar roles, and similar names are used for differing roles. The lack of a commonly understood definition for personal tutoring makes it hard to share practice and conduct scholarly inquiry into the process. Several authors have attempted to address this in their writings by offering their own definitions, and the definition offered by Locthie (Lochtie et al. 2018) is a useful starting point.

In recent years the focus of personal tutoring seems to have shifted more towards that of providing academic guidance to students, and the process is broadly synonymous with faculty academic advising (Wallace, S.O. and Wallace, B.A. 2015) in the US. The term academic advising is used almost exclusively in the US, yet despite this no widely accepted definition of academic advising exists. (Larson et al. 2018) conducted a study with NACADA members to understand their perceptions of the role of the academic advisor and, through an analytic induction (Bryman 2012) approach, derived a unified definition of academic advising.

In this session we report on a OneHE-funded project carried out to replicate Larson et al’s study in the UK, with the intention of deriving a unified definition of personal tutoring. Using Lochtie’s (Locthie et al, 2018) definition as a starting point, the study revised this based on the lived experiences of the role reported by personal tutors from across the UK.

The session will present the definition to participants and discuss its derivation. Participants will have the opportunity to critically review the definition and

  • offer suggestions to enhance its verisimilitude, based on their perceptions and experiences of the role
  • reflect on how the definition aligns with the process at their own institution, and if/how this should change
  • reflect on how their personal practice aligns with the definition
  • discuss whether the term personal tutoring accurately reflects the contemporary process or whether a different, commonly accepted title for the process should be adopted across the sector

Learning Outcomes
Through attending this session, participants will

  • Become familiar with a contemporary definition of personal tutoring
  • Examine their own practice and understanding of the role in the light of this definition
  • Reflect on how the definition informs organisational provision of the process, training and personal professional development


Bryman, A. (2012) Social Research Methods. [Internet] OUP Oxford. Available from

Larson, J., Johnson, A., Aiken-Wisniewski, S.A. and Barkemeyer, J. (2018) What is Academic Advising? An Application of Analytic Induction. NACADA Journal, 38 (2), pp. 81–93.

Lochtie, D., McIntosh, E., Stork, A. and Walker, B. (2018) Effective Personal Tutoring in Higher Education. St. Albans, Critical Publishing.

Wallace, S.O. and Wallace, B.A. (2015) The faculty advisor: Institutional and external information and knowledge. The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the Art of Academic Advising (2nd ed., pp. 125–141). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C1 - Core values of academic advising and tutoring
C4 - Expected outcomes of academic advising and tutoring
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies