Exploring academic personal tutoring in partnership with under-represented students

Rachael O’Connor, School of Law

Project Overview: This project builds on existing work on reverse mentoring in higher education to explore how identified principles can be applied to academic personal tutoring, utilising supportive technology.

The project is important because academic personal tutoring is important. Tutor/tutee relationships have significant transformational potential for staff and students. However, there are often inconsistencies in how it is approached which can lead to some staff and students ‘checking out’ of the process.  It is crucial that academic personal tutoring is informed by student voices, particularly those who are marginalised or grouped by University norms.

As well as building on ongoing work on reverse mentoring with marginalised student groups, the project will also help us to understand how the institutional review of academic personal tutoring and the introduction of new supportive technology for academic personal tutoring plays out ‘on the ground’ so that we can continue to challenge and to develop. The cross-institutional nature of the project will help us to develop an inclusive and authentic academic personal tutoring provision across campus.

The research seeks to empower students as active decision makers, working in positive partnerships with staff and promoting authentic relationships and belonging.  The key objective is to understand challenges faced by marginalised students, particularly those facing intersectional barriers, when it comes to academic personal tutoring.

The secondary objective is to assess what such findings mean for tutor/tutee roles and for  the  development of supportive technology for academic personal tutoring.

The research approach: The project will be focused on qualitative research methods in order to gather rich reflections which can meaningfully contribute towards the development of academic personal tutoring in the University. Importantly, data gathering methods will be co-designed with a student consultation group from across the University and from a range of backgrounds to ensure the project’s design is closely informed by lived experiences and priorities. The project will take inspiration from students as partners approaches, being led by student voices and providing regular opportunities for reflection by those involved.

Project Aims:

  1. Identification and understanding of staff and student barriers to delivery of institutional academic personal tutoring principles
  2. Creation of positive research partnerships with students, creating communities of practice between peers and staff and students
  3. Empowerment of marginalised students through leadership exercised during the project, enhancing student experience and longer term life/employability prospects
  4. A growing body of data enhancing and scaling up my reverse mentoring work in HE
  5. Stronger understanding of how to incentivise students and staff to engage meaningfully with academic personal tutoring across campus
  6. Production of cross-Faculty data contributing to better understanding of marginalised student experiences
  7. Practical guidelines and toolkits on effective academic personal tutoring, designed with students
  8. Contribution to and development of existing work in the University around sense of belonging, academic personal tutoring, student success, welcome induction and transitions and internationalisation.

If you would like to find out more about this project contact Rachael O’Connor 

Project start date: October 2021