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Anthony Smith: It's personal (tutoring)

27 March 2013

The Vice-Provost (Education) discusses the importance of personal tutoring in helping boost students' employability, as well as their wellbeing.

Professor Anthony Smith, UCL's Vice-Provost (Education)

There’s nothing quite like being asked to 'do a piece to camera' to crystallise one’s thoughts. This happened to me recently when colleagues in UCL’s Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching (CALT) asked me to record a video promoting the resources that we have to support colleagues in their role as personal tutors. I am grateful to Paul Walker and Jenny Marie from CALT for prompting me to reflect on this further: what is personal tutoring? What do students expect and need from staff?

UCL is at the leading edge of education globally and one of our strengths must be our concern and care for each and every individual in our large and diverse community. Every student at UCL should have at least one member of academic staff who knows their name and who takes an interest in their progress and development over time, someone they can turn to for authoritative advice and guidance on all aspects of university life or referral to our many other excellent support services if needed.

Personal tutoring is not only a safety net for student welfare. It is a key resource for students in their individual learning journeys, from entry to graduation. The knowledge, skills and attributes of any graduate in any discipline are developed in sustained learning conversations not only within formal academic modules, but between and alongside them.

Personal tutors help students to flourish, using the manifold resources and opportunities of university life to learn through 'real world' experience, as well as academic theory. Such experiential learning can be easily obscured by the swirl of everyday events unless students are guided to be more conscious and articulate about their aspirations, their development needs, their plans and the progress they make over time. This is why students’ personal and professional development – or PPD – is embedded into personal tutoring at UCL. PPD is intended to be driven by the students themselves, facilitated in periodic meetings with their personal tutors. The benefits to students are both immediate, in the quality of their learning experience, and longer term, in their career development.

Everyone is intensely busy struggling to balance multiple competing demands. To support you in this aspect of teaching, we are producing videos (including my own ‘piece to camera’) containing suggestions and examples of strategies that experienced colleagues have found to work well in personal tutoring. These will be added to the personal tutoring website in late April.

Experience tells us that a personal approach makes all the difference to students. I’ve spoken before of ‘making every contact count’ – recognising that the time we spend with our students is as precious to us as it is to them. Commitment to personal tutoring by all at UCL offers us a real opportunity to transform the experience of our students.

This will be the last edition of the Teaching and Learning Newsletter before the upcoming CALT/UCL Careers conference (19 April 2013), which will focus on embedding skills and employability in the curriculum. The programme could not be better timed as we consider new ways to support our students in that key transition into employment. I hope to see many of you there. If you are not able to participate yourself, please recommend the conference to a colleague.

Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education)

Page last modified on 27 mar 13 13:48

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