A tutee peer support network to encourage inclusion and dialogue

Page, Nigel (2023) A tutee peer support network to encourage inclusion and dialogue. In: UKAT Annual Conference 2023: Personal tutoring: enhancing outcomes for all students; 03-04 Apr 2023, Swansea, U.K.. (In Press)


The role of personal tutors is often cited as crucial in facilitating professional and personal development, supporting academic progress, and well-being and engagement. Yet, the effectiveness and consistency in value and support gained can be variable and dependent on the success of focalised relationships. Evidence from our university dashboards (2018-2021) in the biosciences indicated that of those students who were engaging with tutor-led personal development, 75% were consistently white and only 51% and 53% Black or other mixed race, respectively. This difference was particularly acute during the COVID-19 pandemic. This indicated there was a structural bias within our bioscience tutor scheme that was benefitting a certain group of students. Personal development journeys rely deeply on students being supported to develop their own self-awareness and positive self-identify. However, in our biosciences, 85% of our students identified as ethnically diverse (Asian, Black, and mixed race) whereas most tutors were white. In the literature, Lewis (2022) evidenced Black students can feel excluded and less clear where to start in considering their career goals, aspirations, academic progress, which highlights the importance of equitable support for all tutees. These differences in tutor-led personal development engagement led us to review and consider what an inclusive personal tutor scheme (PTS) should look like. In doing so, we developed a supportive tutee peer learning network within the PTS framework linked to themed tutor meetings, tutee peer support meetings and a core module-delivered professional development programme. We wanted to ensure themes connected with dialogue identifying with the diversity of student learning needs that included fresh ways to building affinities between peers, tutors, and the wider university support community. The support network has enabled tutees to connect in groups to discuss their professional development, work together in supporting each other, and identify opportunities and share ambitions. Previously, personal development had only been through self-evaluation with little or no dialogue encouraged between tutees to share their lived experiences. This presentation will highlight the positive impact observed through introducing a tutee peer support network - sharing the experiences of tutees that demonstrate clear benefits beyond just personal development to encompassing developing relationships, well-being, sense of belonging, and sharing of knowledge and experiences. In the first year of operation, we increased personal development engagement by 23.2% for all students compared to the previous three years and essentially closed our awarding gap from 25% to 0.08%.

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