Guiding Principles for Personal Academic Tutoring at the University of Northampton

The eight case studies presented in Personal Academic Tutoring at the  University of Northampton provide insight into the different approaches to Personal Academic Tutoring across the University. As noted by several of the PAT Pilot participants, Personal Academic Tutoring is balancing act. On one hand it is vital to respond quickly to students’ needs as they arise. One the other hand, it is important to work proactively in scaffolding the whole student experience. From the PAT Pilot Study (2014-2015) the following principles, or ‘lessons learned’ serve as guidelines for effectively managing this ‘balancing act’.

  1.  Clear and frequent communication to students about Personal Academic Tutoring, during all stages of the student experience (including pre-study) reinforces the importance of Personal Academic Tutoring in achieving their academic, personal and professional goals.

  2. A scheduled group tutorial during Welcome Week of each academic year is an effective way to reinforce Personal Academic Tutoring as a central feature of students’ learning experience and helps to nurture social belonging.

  3. Regular, scheduled group Personal Academic Tutorials are effective ways to address broader topics related to study skills, employability, social belonging and sources of support, and these sessions may be a more efficient way for staff to meet with students.

  4. Regular, scheduled individual Personal Academic Tutorials are effective ways to address personal concerns, academic progress and personal development.

  5. Having an ‘open-door policy’ for students to access their PAT (or another member of staff who can help) is important for students to feel supported, and has a measurable impact on student satisfaction.

  6. Providing a means of communicating and agreeing expectations at the beginning of each academic year, may enhance levels of student engagement with Personal Academic Tutoring.

  7. Personal Academic Tutoring sessions are excellent opportunities to engage students in the wider discourse around retention, progression and student success.

  8. Targeted interventions by PATs are a significant source of support for students who may be ‘at-risk’ and contribute to higher rates of retention and progression within the programme.

  9. PATs are often the first point of call for support and need to feel equipped to signpost students to appropriate sources of specialised support.

  10. PATs are able to escalate issues to the Academic Advice Managers within each School for additional support.

  11. PATs can play an extended and valuable role in work based learning, through placement visits and additional feedback on assessed work.

  12. PATs are an additional source of informal, formative feedback on students’ assessed work and provide support for developing students’ metacognitive abilities to use feedback to improve learning and performance.

  13. Personal Academic Tutoring can be enhanced through collaboration with other areas of the University, such as the University’s Centre for Employability and Engagement, the University International Office and Centre for Achievement and Performance.