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Academic personal tutoring and impact on belonging

Academic personal tutoring and impact on belonging

Faijabanu Patel supervised by Simon Lightfoot

About the student researcher

My name is Faiza and I am in my third year of studying Advanced Psychology. I have been a recipient of a positive Academic Personal Tutoring (APT) relationship which has involved my tutor utilising my interests and hobbies outside of university to signpost me to specific ventures that will benefit both my personal and professional development to support my career pathway. The tutor also provided useful advice to maximise my academic potential. Whilst I have experienced effective academic personal tutoring, this is not necessarily the case for all students at the university. Thus this project has allowed me to engage with a range of students and staff to utilise their experiences and perspectives to inform implications for APT as an instrument to create a sense of belonging for students. As a Muslim South Asian woman who aspires to build a career in the higher education sector, accessibility is often considered challenging and confusing. Therefore, partaking in such an impactful project has provided a stepping stone in creating a bank of transferable skills such as enhanced academic writing, successful networking to gauge interested parties and critical analysis to provide original perspectives to existing ideas.

Project overview

The project underlined the impact of both one-to-one tutoring and group tutorials underpinned by the theory of change model. A literature review was conducted to provide a comprehensive understanding of existing literature to clarify and evaluate the current standing of APT across higher education in the UK. This was used as a tool to identify the gaps that the current project will address.

Both staff and students engaged in focus groups in which they were asked a series of questions that enabled insightful expression of their experiences and articulating their perspectives on APT at the University of Leeds. Using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) 6-step framework, thematic analysis was conducted from which common themes were constructed to inform discussion regarding how APT is currently carried out across the schools at the university. Such themes from student focus groups outlined the multi-faceted role of an academic personal tutor, significance of consistent communication and the impact of meaningful conversations that are tailored to the individual’s learning experience. Themes from staff focus groups highlighted the importance of active inclusivity that is paramount to the increased diversity of the student body, building confidence and competency as well as clarifying what effective APT looks like.

Such research has underlined the significance of creating a safe and non-judgemental environment in which students feel supported. This is during the transition between levels of academic study and staff are able to fully recognise the value of their role and immerse in a rewarding experience despite their other responsibilities. Overall, the cultivation of strong and positive relationships between students and staff can be a great asset alongside the several avenues of academic and wellbeing support that the University of Leeds has to offer.