Personal Tutoring

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Personal tutoring at MMU: Project Findings

Over the past 18 months, CELT/UTA have run an Office for Students funded project looking into personal tutoring (PT) at Manchester Met, building on previous work with academics and the Students Union.

It follows from the findings below...

Personal tutoring is often seen as ‘the answer’ to a question that is in fact ill defined and that has a myriad of different interpretations by students and staff. From our institutional-wide work (underpinned by a soft systems methodology), we suggest that personal tutoring would be improved by:

  1. An institution wide purpose statement for personal tutoring as a starting point for local adaptation as needed
  2. A set of design and evaluation questions that can be applied to existing or proposed personal tutoring models to interrogate their likely impact
  3. A set of resources that support programme teams in designing Personal Tutoring Systems for their particular context

This work found that

  1. In this institution, There are no clear descriptions of the purpose of personal tutoring or collective understanding about what the purpose is, making it hard to ‘sell’ to tutors and students, and to evaluate for impact
  2. Personal tutoring is often seen as the ‘answer’ to a myriad of key higher education challenges such as progression, employability, and differential attainment but to address these issues it is unresourced
  3. Personal tutoring is seen as a low status activity by academics that they feel ill equipped to perform and that is under resourced
  4. Some personal tutoring models are judged by staff to be effective, based on reflections of their own experiences of delivering them, but with little empirical evidence to support evaluations
  5. Successful Personal Tutoring Systems designed and operationalised for particular subject and discipline specific contexts
  6. A sample of 130 Manchester Met students reveals that: 11% did not feel they needed or wanted a personal tutor; 18% felt the personal tutoring ‘system’ they experienced gave them what they needed and was not in need of specific improvement; and 71% of students suggested some improvement was required with half of these perceiving no or limited value in the personal tutoring system they experienced
  7. Meaningful interactions between students and their tutor can enable students to feel supported, motivated and sometimes, inspired
  8. Students’ report that the three most important facets of a fruitful relationship are: ‘the tutor cares about me’; ‘helps me improve my work’; and ‘values me as a learner’
  9. Students can spot when the personal tutoring offer is insincere, this could be because staff are not committed to the role or because it is under resourced relative to its stated aims
  10. It is unclear how personal tutoring and auxiliary support services provide a cohesive experience.
  11. The bar chart below shows an analysis of data from the MMU Student Awards for teaching staff for the category of Best Personal Tutor indicating what students value.