- Guidance & Support for Personal Tutors
- The Role of the Personal Tutor
- Formats for Personal Tutorials
- Support for Personal Tutors
- Helping Students in Difficulty
- Frequently Asked Questions
Skills for Effective Personal Tutoring
Some people may have natural gifts in human understanding and communication
that enable them to tune in instinctively to the personal tutor’s role.
Many successful tutors, however, believe that their expertise has come
with experience and developed gradually through reflection and
self-evaluation, as well as discussion with experienced colleagues. To meet the needs of all students equitably, it is vital that we encourage discussion and exchange of good practice among the community of personal tutors across the institution. Hopefully, this website can in time provide facilities for such discussion and exchange to develop a shared resource for all personal tutors. A companion site using UCL's Moodle servers has been set up to provide a Personal Tutors' Online Forum. Please use this to ask questions of your colleagues and/or to contribute to collaborative discussions.
It is also vital to know the boundaries of the role. Personal Tutors are not expected to deal with critical issues that require specialist skills. Rather, we should know when to refer a student with a problem to others with appropriate expertise and be familiar with what facilities are available for such referrals.
The following skills are fundamental (click on any heading below for some elaboration)
Sometimes students simply want to talk to someone when they are in difficulty or feeling low. They don’t necessarily want advice or expect someone else to sort out their lives, but they appreciate an empathetic ear, someone to be aware and to understand without making value judgements. We can best help by giving them our undivided attention and offering the space to explore their problem, without the injection of too many 'words of wisdom'.
To be of help to students in difficulty, a tutor needs to judge the
extent and seriousness of a problem: is it real or perceived, genuine
or spurious, an isolated situation or part of a complex set of
circumstances? Students rarely reveal the whole picture. For example,
tutees may be prepared to talk openly to their tutor about work
problems, but could be more reluctant to discuss the personal situations that
may have contributed to the difficulties arising. Tutors may have to be aware of hidden agendas and be able
to pick up the nuances and hints that can enable them to inquire skilfully to
uncover the factors underlying the issues presented.
A surprising number of students don’t think through their problems systematically for themselves, or haven’t done so before seeking help. Sometimes they worry unnecessarily or unduly: in outlining a problem they may reveal misunderstandings or misconceptions - for example over institutional requirements or departmental systems - that can quickly be corrected. The personal tutor’s task is usually to help students to define and articulate their problem and to prompt them to consider the avenues of action open to them. Very occasionally tutors may need to tell a student what to do: usually, however, it is the student who has to decide on an appropriate course of action. The personal tutor offers only what is necessary to ensure that it is an informed decision, based on careful consideration of all the options.
UCL provides an extensive network of support for students in relation to a wide range of pastoral issues and special needs. The personal tutor can be a helpful point of contact in referring students to services with the resources and expertise most appropriate to their needs. A list of relevant services is accessible on the UCL website.
The choice to advise or refer needs to be made judiciously. On the one hand, it is disappointing to students if the personal tutor’s only reaction to their problem is to suggest that they see someone else about it. A decision to seek help often requires considerable effort, and students are easily deterred if they sense they’re being passed along the line. On the other hand, a cardinal principle of personal tutoring is not to take on more than one can manage. For one’s own sake, as well as the student’s, it is important to realise when other people need to be involved and particularly when a student has psychological or other problems requiring specialist help.
The UCL Student Psychological Services offers some helpful guidance for staff who may wish to refer students to its various services and resources.
If you are concerned about students’ health, mental condition or emotional state, try to persuade them to obtain professional advice without delay. In extreme situations you may need to initiate the contact on their behalf . If a student comes to you too ill or distressed to be left alone, get help immediately. If concerned, don't be reticent to contact emergency services (dial 222 from any UCL extension). In an emergency the Health Centre will deal with students, whether registered there or not. Click here for Health Centre details.
In addition to its general guidance for staff, the UCL Student Psycological Services offers scheduled workshops on identifying and managing student mental ill-health.
Page last modified on 27 sep 10 19:32