Personal Tutoring

Types of Meeting

The kinds of meetings you have with your tutees will depend on the system that operates in your department. The use of a coaching model can be very useful for all types of personal tutoring meetings.

Proactive Meetings

These are meetings that are timetabled or tutor-initiated at each level for every student and have clear purposes and sometimes, specific content. In many cases, these kinds of meetings will be designed to align with the PDP activity in the department.

Find out about Proactive Meetings

The first meeting may typically include :

  • a general welcome and orientation; if this is 2nd or 3rd year UG then this might be a link meeting to last year’s performance – perhaps considering exam results or final level marks.
  • basic boundary setting;
  • explanation of the goals of the Academic Tutorials in the department;
  • the role and responsibilities of the tutor;
  • setting and agreeing expectations and responsibilities of the student.

Subsequent meetings could focus on:

  • feedback from work submitted - how does the student think they did? How would s/he have assessed their performance?;
  • option choice for the next level - linking this to career goals if appropriate;
  • PDP including, for example, a personal SWOT analysis or some thinking around work experiences they have enjoyed/not enjoyed;
  • In some cases, the tutorials may also be used for formal Personal Development Planning within a department’s own scheme.

The final meeting of the level will include discussion of achievement at the level completed and transition to the next level. When deciding on the content or structure of the final meeting in a level, it may be useful to consider how transition to the following year is supported and to develop activity around this. For example an end of year ‘report’ or reflection by the student could be used to discuss progress towards objectives and goal setting for the period to come. The student may want to discuss what their major achievements are and how they might record these for employability purposes.

Reactive Meetings

These occur when a student has a unexpected issue that may impact on their academic performance and that they therefore need to discuss with an academic tutor. They will often involve advising a student how to make an application for exceptional factors, how to make sense of marks received that may not be what was hoped for or to communicate more complex needs around health or welfare issues that affect academic performance. These meetings are almost always student-initiated and their content often unpredictable. As well as the coaching model, an adaptive guidance model can also be helpful in this situation.

Find out about Reactive Meetings

As these may arise at any time, it is necessary to discuss the possibilities for these meetings to occur during the boundary setting that forms part of the first proactive meeting:

If a student needs to come and see you for any reason, when are your office hours? Can a student come to you outside of these times? How should they do this? (arrange by email or other method?) what if they have a sudden crisis?

In some cases you may need to refer them to other services. It is helpful to explain that this is not because you don’t want to help them, but because sometimes other professionals are better placed to deal with some issues than you are. You are not abandoning them, merely seeking to signpost them to the best possible help.

The expectation on you as a personal tutor to provide some kind of pastoral care to your student tutees, will vary to a large extent depending on your discipline area. For example, students in healthcare (e.g. Nursing) may need very different levels of personal and pastoral support as they learn to deal with, for example, patients’ end of life care issues, than students studying in other areas. Nonetheless, many students do experience their own significant life events during their time at university and may need help in finding a ways to cope.

Of course, many students may not wish to involve a tutor, but where the student has sought help the role of the academic tutor is usually to:

  • provide a sounding board for issues that the student has brought
  • advise on the effects of these issues on attendance, assessment, and academic performance
  • refer the student to the most relevant sources of help as appropriate.

Every faculty at MMU has a Student Support Officer, who provide support to students around study skills and are also used to referring students as appropriate to their needs.

Supervising projects and dissertations

This is a more specialised "tutoring" role. Often in the final year of undergraduate study a student will carry out a piece of independent work usually called a project or dissertation.

Find out about Supervising projects and dissertations

For this, the student will normally be allocated to a supervisor. The allocation process will be specific to your department, but often a student chooses a topic and a supervisor is allocated on the basis of any combination of: workload, subject specialism, availability and so on.

Again, the exact arrangements are something that you will need to check in your own department, and each department will have someone who is in charge of this process, a 'Dissertations Co-ordinator'. They will be able to advise you on the specific procedures followed.

Meetings with students will vary in length and frequency, but are usually conducted as 1:1 face to face supervisory meetings:

  • 3-5 hours per year for (at undergraduate level)
  • 7-10 hours per year for taught postgraduate dissertation
  • 30 hours per year for Research Masters.

Your department will have procedures for the way in which these meetings are arranged, conducted and recorded.

'Supervision'' usually consists of guiding the student in:

  • Framing a suitable problem to explore
  • Finding suitable literature and other resources (but not finding or tracking down resources yourself - so a supervisor might suggest a particular journal as a useful starting point, but would not be expected to seek out particular topics or articles to send to the student).
  • Providing a 'sounding board' for students to try out their ideas - for example, for selecting their methods of inquiry; or for the appropriate use of different kinds of data analysis or presentation.

'The Effective Supervisor'

The effective supervisor is a flashcard set designed to stimulate discussion, debate and activity around supporting student learning. The set, or parts of it, can be used to generate conversation triggers with students and academic staff when thinking about the qualities of an effective supervisor, teacher, or personal tutor.

The flashcard collection was developed by CELT and #creativeHE in collaboration with MetMunch.

Download 'The Effective Supervisor' flashcard set (3.5MB zip file) »


If you are interested in undertaking a taught unit focused on this area, the Research Degree Supervision and Examination unit is offered as part of the PGCLTHE/MAHE and can be taken with or without credits.