Integrating employability resources to strengthen student – personal tutor partnerships

MacFadyen, Ann, Fehringer, Gerhard and Mellor, Tony (2019) Integrating employability resources to strengthen student – personal tutor partnerships. In: Advance HE Teaching & Learning Conference 2019, 2nd - 4th July 2019, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

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The Teaching Excellence Framework has resulted in an increased focus on personalised learning, as part of the wider learning environment, and on graduate employment, as an indicator of student outcomes and learning gain. One element of the academic role which is fundamental to both these considerations is that of the personal tutor.

The benefits of an effective personal tutoring system include promoting the development of transferable skills, improving student retention and progression, and strengthening career awareness and employability (McFarlane, 2016). Inconsistencies in the implementation of this important element of individualised student support may be partly due to staff uncertainties about the scope of their responsibilities, concerns about the boundaries between pastoral and academic elements of the role, and the lack of readily available resources and tools for the personal tutor. (Race 2010; Luck 2010; Gardner and Lane 2010; Barlow and Antoniou 2007; Levy et al. 2009). Moreover, students can have variable experiences of personal tutoring (Thomas 2006a; Hixenbaugh, Pearson and Williams, 2006), which result in them viewing it as poorly organised and perhaps unnecessary.

This presentation will explore the challenges involved in the creation of a tool designed to help personal tutors facilitate student reflection on their progress and to signpost them to a range of employability resources and opportunities, and the strategies used to overcome these. There were four contributory elements to this development. An exploration of staff and students’ experiences of personal tutoring included focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews with students and staff across five different Departments which included sciences, geography and engineering. The findings of an institutional survey into student readiness for employability highlighted the proportion of students who did not appear to be considering the importance of in-course preparation for future graduate employment. Two examples of initiatives in which personal tutoring had been successfully embedded into curricula were then considered, from geography and health programmes. One of these had involved embedding personal tutoring within a core module and the other incorporated several mandatory individual meetings scheduled between students and personal tutors throughout an undergraduate programme.

Lessons learned from all these elements were discussed with personal tutor coordinators, and the Director of Placements and Employability who advised about local, national and regional resources and opportunities, both at Faculty and University level.

Building on these elements, a tool for personal tutors was developed and distributed to colleagues. The aim of the tool was to provide them with easily accessible resources which could be used at meetings with their personal tutees. It included elements of the work and toolkit developed by Winston, Nash, Parker and Rowntree (2017), created to encourage students to optimise the use of their assessment feedback, and reflect on their personal development. Alongside this, it highlighted the whole range of employability opportunities which might enable students to better consider their future following graduation.

Feedback from colleagues was very positive and it was disseminated across the institution. Comments from colleagues who were new to Higher Education indicated that some were quite daunted as it highlighted the scope of their role as personal tutor, but that the tool was helpful in adapting to this responsibility.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Employability, Personal tutor
Subjects: X300 Academic studies in Education
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Architecture and Built Environment
Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Computer and Information Sciences
Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
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Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2019 17:49
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2021 09:59

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