Lizzy Lander – School of Chemistry Food and Pharmacy
This blog will outline the successful integration of core (compulsory) skills modules with the academic tutor system via a curriculum of tutorials designed in this project to be delivered by tutors. This project involved the successful design and scheduling of tutorials for tutors to deliver that supported content (e.g. writing and referencing) in core skills modules to allow better support for student academic skill development and also more closely link tutors into modular taught material.
- Link new academic tutor system with existing Key Skills modules through newly designed academic tutorials discussing core skills to be delivered by tutors.
- Design this curriculum of tutorials to improve engagement and development of skills at relevant points in the academic year.
- Design tutorial resources for tutors to ensure consistent support for tutees.
- Schedule tutorials so tutors and tutees have a place/time to meet in their timetable to facilitate engagement.
SBS had been delivering core skill “Key Skills” modules in parts 1 & 2 for a number of years (since 2015) that focused on academic skills (e.g. writing, referencing,). The introduction of the academic tutor system (2018) with greater focus on academic skills development was closely aligned with the learning outcomes of these modules therefore it was proposed to link the two together.
Firstly, an audit of the core skills taught in the Key Skills modules took place to identify which would be most impactful for student development to be reinforced by being integrated into tutorials with academic tutors. Then assignment timetabling was examined to create a schedule of tutorials for the identified skills which allowed practice and formative feedback before assignments, as well as post-assignment feedback to allow students to identify areas of development.
Next, tutorials were formally timetabled, so students viewed these sessions as part of their “normal” academic schedule rather than optional meetings with their tutors.
Afterwards, resources for tutors were created so they could facilitate these tutorials. This consisted of a one to two page pro-forma to inform tutors about the running of the session. Other resources created included materials for activities such as essays to critique as a group. This would also help improve consistency between tutors delivering these sessions as all tutors would have the same session to deliver.
Finally, this project was presented to staff along with details on how resources and information would be disseminated (initially email). Throughout the year tutorials were run by academic tutors directed by the pro-formas and resources with support if needed. Tutors also marked their tutees’ assignments in Key Skills and gave them feedback in their tutorials. Outside of the scheduled tutorials tutors gave one-to-one support for tutees as needed.
The implementation and influence of these structured and timetabled tutorials was highly effective in supporting tutees in improving academic skills and improving the consistency of tutors engaging with their tutees. Positive impact was clear from the students (surveying parts 1 + 2 in 2019); 53% felt supported/very supported by their tutor and overall, 65% were satisfied/very satisfied with their sessions with 62% finding the summative feedback from tutors helpful and 72% found it useful/very useful to have tutorials in their timetable. Tutors also fed back they have a much clearer idea of what do at tutorials and how best to support student development, whilst valuing the resources provided in this project.
Overall staff and student experience was positively impacted with staff being led and guided to successfully support student development more effectively and consistently.
This activity was successful in the way in which it blended together academic tutors, compulsory modules, as well as assessment and feedback. This generated a platform from which students could learn and practise academic skills for success at university in both a compulsory module and with their tutor through formative and summative feedback. This also helped formalise the role of the tutor for both staff and students giving both groups direction, which ultimately benefitted the students’ academic development. Given that each tutorial had a pro-forma of discussions and activities this helped all tutorials stay consistent so all students got broadly the same development opportunities. Finally, the timetabling of meetings made the tutorials like a normal part of the academic calendar encouraging engagement.
Implementation when supplying information and resources via email to academics was shown to not be the most efficient distribution method and ultimately, some students did not attend tutorials despite reminders of the purpose of these sessions, meaning not all students benefitted from this project.
The core outcome of the project in that Key Skills modules would be linked by academic tutorials run by tutors and assessments marked by tutors has continued to be implemented in SBS. However, some alterations have been made for more efficient accessing of materials, by placing resources on a OneDrive that could be accessed at any time. This then evolved into an MS Team to store these resources and also allow tutors to ask questions.