Development of a College wide personal tutor programme designed to aid transition into Higher Education, within a diverse student cohort impacted by the Covid pandemic.

Gillian L Knight (Aston University)

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 10:00 AM - 10:45 AM

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Session Outline

Aston University has a very diverse cohort, with the majority of our students coming from under-represented communities and the highest BAME Higher Education community within the UK. The College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, has ~1000 year one and foundation year students, spread across three schools and nine departments, studying a range of Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Technology based programmes.

In September 2020, the College developed an innovative personal tutor programme aimed to support new undergraduate student’s transition into Higher Education and was implemented in response to our new students’ disrupted education in the Covid pandemic. This ambitious personal tutor programme was introduced across the College to our ~1000 new students, with the aim to increase student’s awareness of their personal tutor, but also to provide study skills support particularly around blended learning and for tutees to build a peer network. All our Departments year one and foundation year personal tutors (~100) were required to engage with this programme. This programme was delivered over six weeks, with weekly, online, personal tutee group meetings aligned to different areas of student support. Each session’s content, teaching material and lesson plans were designed centrally by a small group of College academic and professional service staff, with all ~100 year one and foundation year academic personal tutors required to deliver each of these set sessions on the same week, to their group of personal tutees. The College timetabled these personal tutor sessions into student and staff teaching timetables and organised individual personal tutor groups interactive Virtual Learning Environment rooms.

To determine the success of this initiative both student and staff feedback has been collected. With staff feedback focused around their experience on being provided pre-designed set teaching material, student interaction and engagement and academic workload. Student feedback was based on the use of online delivery mechanisms, the suitability and relevance of the study skills materials, their interaction with their personal tutor and other personal tutees and suggestions for future developments.

The main objective of this presentation is to provide details of the design, implementation and delivery of this personal tutorial programme and present data on the key impact and outcomes, encompassing student and staff perspectives. This information on our College’s experience which will help inform other institutions development, leadership and management of their personal tutorial programmes. As the initiative was implemented across a large and diverse College, in relation to academic subject and student diversity, additional learning outcomes will be focused on providing insight into how successful this initiative was on enhancing student transition within the different STEM academic areas and also within under-represented student communities.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
R4 - Plan and conduct successful advising and tutoring interactions
P1 - Create and support environments that consider the needs and perspectives of students, and respect individual learners