Using university wide workshop to identify strategic, institutional, faculty and course level implications for masters level academic advising

Alison McCamley (Sheffield Hallam University)
jane fearon (Sheffield Hallam University)

Friday, September 04, 2020 9:00 AM - 9:45 AM

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Session Outline

Academic advising and personal tuition is important for student retention, progression and course enjoyment (Grant, 2006, Crosling, Heagney, & Thomas, 2009). Further this type of provision is linked to the academic experience and widening participation (Yorke and Thomas, 2003), relationships between staff and students (Thomas, 2002) as well as academic and social integration (Wilcox, Winn & Fyvie‐Gauld 2005). Less clear is what the are the issues and how might an institution respond to providing academic advising to masters students. Taught post graduate provision in the UK is often relatively invisible in terms of institutional systems and lack of supportive faculty structures where the focus is undergraduate provision and research degrees. A recent UKCGE survey of postgraduate program directors and administrators (UKCGE 2018) suggests frustration at academic support work for taught postgraduate students being under resourced and not recognised or valued by universities. Within this wider context the literature raises several concerns for academic advising at this level. First, the often lack of preparedness of students for M level study has been identified along with issues of anxiety, stress and identity in their lived experience (Haggis 2002, Tobbell and O'Donnell 2013). Second, differences in course duration raise some concern as Bownes, et al. (2017) suggest postgraduate taught students have 'pressing needs' as they need to adapt and succeed quickly in a year or 18 months full time, much quicker than undergraduates. Third, the diversity of this student group (Kneale 2005) may means rather than a supporting a transition to masters level, courses and institutions need to think about the diversity of transitions e.g. technological, professional, discipline, identity etc. (Fearon and McCamley 2018). Further post graduate study attracts international students which may raise additional concerns. Specifically, in terms of overseas postgraduate students Coates and Dickinson (2012) found language barriers, a different learning environment (including independent learning, critical thinking, group work, participation in seminars, engaging with e-learning) as well as different assignment formats (essay and report writing or presentations) as common difficulties identified by this group of students. What on first approach might seem like a straightforward question, namely 'how do we best provide personal tutoring to post graduate university students?' on reflection throws up many issues and concerns.

The authors conducted a university wide workshop for those involved in supporting masters students across a post92 institution and present here their findings, drawn from this workshop on what the issues are and implications for strategic, institutional, faculty and course level organisational development might be.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
I1 - HE Provider mission, vision, values, and culture
I2 - Curriculum, degree programmes and pathways, including options
I5 - The characteristics, needs, and experiences of major and emerging student populations