Towards student engagement: An Enhanced Approach to Personal Tutoring


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  • Session outline – Background to the BSc Health Studies Personal Tutor pilotBackground to theory and design of the formative writing activity that forms part of the pilot schemeAn opportunity to ‘try out’ the formative writing pilot activity – using the feedback rubric and guidance chartReview of ‘where we are’ - evaluation.Questions/Comments and discussion.
  • The pilot project that Alison and I are going to discuss, emerged from an activity designed for a specific module created to allow senior carers in the adult care home sector to meet the management theory element of their training. Successfully completing such a module is a condition , the regulating authority, the SSSC require them to achieve to become Adult Care Home Supervisors. The module is designed as an SCQF Level 8 module and for many of the participants their educational background is SVQ training at local colleges. They come with a variety of experiences from college and many struggle with academic writing. To overcome the difficulties they experience with transition from college and to try and improve retention and successful completion rates, Alison and I devised a writing activity designed to allow us and students to evaluate their writing skills. The activity was short, and could be used formatively and that you could give feedback on quickly. It also got the students to think earlier about developing their writing skills because they were asked to complete the task within the first two weeks of starting the module. It proved really useful because it gave both Alison myself and Brian my other colleague, an opportunity to identify challenges and issues students required assistance with and some insight into what kind of assistance might be needed. Having achieved what we set out to with 2 cohorts of students on this module, we began looking at using a similar approach on a much larger scale.
  • The programme we wanted to look at trying this on was the BSc Health Studies programme. This is a programme of modules designed to allow part-time students with a UK registerable healthcare qualification to gain the academic points required get their BSc Ordinary Degree. There are many healthcare professionals, particularly nurses and social care staff who have qualifications that allow them to practice which fall short of a degree (often these are Diploma level qualifications). With the move towards all degree professionals across health and social care worldwide, there are a large number of professionals who wish to gain a degree for career advancement purposes etc. so the programme attracts a lot of part-time studentsAbout 85% of the students are UK based students with a variety of educational backgrounds about 15% of the students are from overseas. You can participate on campus, via eLearning or a combination of both depending what modules you select. Some students need as few as 3 modules to complete, others as many as 8 (This number depends on when and where they trained).The programme was to be redesigned and re-validated in 2011-12. This presented 2 challenges. 1) Previous attempts to introduce a personal tutor scheme for students had met with no success. A new scheme therefore had to be devised.2) Feedback from staff students and external examiners all pointed to poor development of academic writing skills as being a principal reason for poor module performance for many students, and the most likely reason for student attrition from the programme. So, could we devise a scheme that would address both of these challenges.
  • We discussed these two issues with the programme delivery team, who were helping to draft the new validation documentation, we also involved the effective learning staff and staff from CAPD and started to look at what we would want from the personal tutor scheme.We came up with the above 4 targets that we would like the scheme to achieve. They were to: Focus personal tutoring on the most problematic issueIntroduce the scheme using a formative activity that allows personal tutors the opportunity to provide feedback and early assistance. Provide a scheme that allows students to recognise their own writing skill development. Provide activities that can contribute to student portfolios.
  • So what does it look like.The scheme we devised consisted of 3 elements:Stage 1: is a writing exercise very similar to the one that we used with the ACHS classes. (You should have a copy of the exercise in front of you.). As you will see it’s a very short exercise. Its designed to be quite easy to understand and do, and a bonus is that you can very quickly provide feedback to students on it because there is a marking schedule for it.Stage 2: The student should be encouraged to carry out a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of their academic writing skills based on the feedback they have received from the exercise and if possible from feedback received from their first assignment. They should then discuss this with their personal tutor to develop a plan to address identified weaknessesStage 3: Review the progress of their writing skills by examining the feedback received from summative assignments and develop and action plan with their personal tutor to address any identified problems. (eg. poor referencing, construction structuring issues)This should mean that each contact with your personal tutor has a clearly identifiable purpose.
  • Choosing to focus personal tutor activity on academic writing skills has a number of other benefits. The first of these is encouraging the student to consider the graduate attributes they are expected to attain through participating in the course. Mapping out their writing skill development, which this scheme encourages students to consider doing contributes to their communication and information literacy skills. It also has an impact on their ethical, social and professional understanding as the process helps them to develop their personal reflection skills. The fact that you are asking them to “Action Plan” to solve their own problems with academic writing also encourages them to consider their personal and intellectual autonomy.It also has the potential to become a key personal development activity: The 3 focussed tasks are all recordable because they are paper-based, are all linked to key skill development and encourage personal reflection. The tasks can also be revisited following every episode where the student receives feedback on a written piece of work. Particularly in relation to encouraging further action planning.Learning Teaching & Assessment Strategy (LTAS ): Linking the personal tutor scheme to LTAS Principles there are obvious links to Principle B: Transformations are achieved in learning both by managing partnerships and developing the emerging independence and resilience of learners.D: Engagement with learning should focus on learners needs. E: Feedback to and from learners will be a key driver in our approaches to improving our practice.
  • Going to look at cover some of the key points of theory on student writing - In Effective Learning we work from a theoretical base that is rooted in students’ experience of writing at University, and our approach to curriculum development is informed by what we learn from our work with individual students: Writing as social practice Academic literacies theory views literacies, in this case writing, as social practice. Different ‘literacies’ (or ways of writing) associated with different contexts, and related to what counts as ‘knowledge’ in those contexts – so for instance different ways of writing in different subject areas, depending on how knowledge is constructed in that subject area.  Academic knowledge is constructed and communicated through writing, and learning is assessed through writing and so writing should form a central part of the student learning process.  Students experience academic writing activity in the context of their wider life and educational experience. Writing in HE is where students engage in deep learning and understanding of subject content and is a potentially transformative learning process, rather than being about the acquisition of surface skills.  Learning and writing in HE requires students to adapt to new ways of knowing and understanding – a different, more critical approach to knowledge - and students also need to learn how to write in a new and unfamiliar way.  Students who have not encountered this learning/writing approach before often find it to be a frustrating, confusing and emotive experience. They don’t feel they have the level of knowledge or authority required to write in that way....and are challenged by aspects such as expressing an opinion when using ‘third person’ writing style.  The ACHS students wrote in a ‘procedural style’ that was suitable for keeping patient records and reports at work. However this style was very descriptive and lacking in critical reflection and so did not have an ‘academic’ form and purpose - we were asking them to adjust to a radically new way of thinking and writing.     Teaching in HE tends to focus on the finished ‘product’ without focusing on the process of creating that productEncourages students to copy and engage in ‘fake writing’ - using specialist terminology and imitating academic style, without understanding it - and often missing the key substantive elements that should be included (even though they know them). Writing becomes a ‘barrier’ to learning. Formative activity - Writing as a process of thinking, learning and reflection The formative activity allowed us to integrate writing as a process of learning – and to encourage students to use writing as a way to improve and clarify their learning, rather than aim for a final ‘product’ - to see difficulties as opportunities to learn rather than ‘mistakes’. Writing as usefully problematic; writing to learn and learning to writeIssues highlighted through the individual feedback were collated and discussed in a follow up class session and the class were asked to write a ‘draft introduction’ to their essay in groups, putting into practice some of what they had learned from the initial formative activity. This illuminates what is usually a hidden and private process – becomes a ‘usefully problematic’ process - encouraging peer learning - bridges the gap between teaching, learning and assessment, and allows for a clear and shared understanding of assessment criteria and the feedback process.Identified key blocks to learning to write in this way, and to support learning and also to adapt the guidelines to clarify areas that hadn’t been clearly expressed.
  • In practice the activity and feedback rubric were developed to be clear and easily understandable for students. We took account of the appropriate SCQF level descriptors and linked the structure of feedback to the assignment guidelines focusing on reflective writing, analytical writing and structure, academic style (formality) language use and grammar. The overall design focused on writing as a process of learning related to personal development , feedback for learning and to help students ‘practise’ and learn from the writing process in a safe and supported environment – writing about a familiar event so that students didn’t focus too much on content.  Feedback focused on the process of writing allowing students to learn ‘how to write’ rather than focusing on getting ‘correct’ content. (see feedback comments sheet). Small class allowed personal provision and discussion of feedback – and what we learned from student understanding of feedback informed the development of the rubric/assignment guidelines.   What we learned - The activity promoted dialogue between students, and between students and teachers - writing became a collective activity - academic writing not seen as a ‘deficit’ or ‘problem’ in students, but as an important teaching task and site of learning. illuminated the gaps between what teachers think students know and understand and what they do know and understand....developing a more inclusive and effective approach to teaching – a clearer understanding of aspects that need to be made more explicit in teaching/assignment guidance.  
  • 3 pieces of writing – good/fair/poorCopies of flow diagram(copies of feedback rubric?)Sufficient copies of example writing
  • Is the scheme valued? – Early evaluation shows that the students are yet to be fully convinced of the value of early writing activity, given time and workload pressures. Most see it as ‘being a good idea’ but many do not engage as not assessed – strategic approach – how to convince them that it will contribute to preparation for their assessed writing. Has it embedded? – not yet fully embedded. Difficulties in convincing staff of the importance of early formative writing – changing attitudes to embedded writing development? Staff development? More information and discussion? Staff support is essential to encourage student participation. On the BSc Health studies pilot - Time for engagement (issues around time and workload – staff and students) personal tutors still new- understanding of role (staff and students – i.e. difference between personal tutor and class teacher? Who can help with what?). Difficulties around understanding of early engagement with writing as being important – hard to convince students of the importance of engaging in writing until it’s ‘too late’ and they are feeling challenged by writing for assessment/or have failed. Difficulties in convincing staff of the importance of early formative writing – changing attitudes to embedded writing development?
  • A Holistic view of the process of gaining a degree where the student can see the links between the elements that the Personal Tutoring scheme incorporates.
  • Impact on teaching and learning? Change in approach to writing to focus more on embedding formative writing within the wider curriculum – rather than focusing on culture of additional support?
  • Towards student engagement: An Enhanced Approach to Personal Tutoring

    1. 1. Centre for Academic and Professional Development School of Health Nursing and Midwifery Towards student engagement: An enhanced approach to personal tutoring Alison McEntee – Effective Learning Tutor Raymond Duffy – Programme Leader BSc Health Studies
    2. 2. Background     Adult Care Home Supervisors (ACHS) – frequently experienced academic writing difficulties caused by transition from SVQ style education to an academic module. For some students the transition was from one education system to another as about10-15% of participants have been educated overseas. Writing activity presented as a formative exercise early feedback improved individual success, reduced fear of writing and allowed participants to practise and develop writing skills. Can you use the same principles on a much larger group of equally diverse students? UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    3. 3. BSc Health Studies: AY11-12 Pilot  Diverse student population  Re-validation  Challenge: Can you kill two birds with one stone? 1. Manageable personal tutor scheme 2. Embedding writing development UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    4. 4. Arriving at a Possible Solution     Focus personal tutoring on the most problematic issue. Introduce the scheme using a formative activity that allows personal tutors the opportunity to provide feedback and early assistance. Provide a scheme that allows students to recognise their own writing skill development. Provide activities that can contribute to student portfolios. UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    5. 5. Personal Tutoring Pilot Outline UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    6. 6. Wider Context  Graduate Attributes.  Personal Development Planning.  Links to LTAS Principles B,D & E.  Student Support and Guidance Policy. UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    7. 7. Formative Writing Activity: Theory    Literacies as social practice (Lea and Street 1998, 2004). Writing as ‘an epistemic process in which thinking and reflection develop...and as a communicative product, structured in particular ways by particular conventions and forming particular, recognisable social functions’ (Britton 1982, p.94). Writing in Higher Education ‘involves new ways of knowing; new ways of understanding, interpreting and organising knowledge’ (Lea and Street 1998, p.158).  Writing as ‘usefully problematic’; writing to learn and learning to write (Britton 1982, p.94; Young 2002). UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    8. 8. Formative Writing Activity: Design  Specific activity and feedback mechanism designed with reference to:      SCQF level descriptors Process of reflective writing Process of Analytical writing Structure/academic style/language and grammar What we learned- early engagement with formative writing promotes dialogue, meaningful participation and feedback, access, inclusion; and learning for students and teachers. UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    9. 9. Activity/Feedback     Three pieces of writing Read one piece over and decide what kind of feedback you would give using the feedback rubric. Decide on the category the example falls into. (White, Green Yellow, Red). Look at the flow diagram as it indicates what might happen next. UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    10. 10. No assistance required Tutor feedback may suffice Consider the need for additional support Needs support beyond the personal tutor's role • Achieved the set task appropriately • Followed the instructions and writes in a fluent and logical way • Move student on to next task • Has attempted the task in appropriate manner but improvement is possible. • Feedback indicates clear improvements that the student can make or there are areas for improvement where the student can utilise available UWS resources. • Provide guidance and move student on to next task • Has attempted the task but there are clear areas that require improvement. • Direct students to available resources that address areas of concern highlighted in the feedback • Consider referral for additional support (See Notes below titled "If you have a student where the outcome is Amber consider the following" • Failed to understand the task and/or has clear difficulty constructing work and writing academically. • Advise student to contact Effective Learning Service as soon as it is possible. UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    11. 11. Where are we?  Is the scheme valued? Has it embedded?  Have we met the challenges?  1. 2. Manageable personal tutor scheme Embedding writing development UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    12. 12. What We are Trying to Achieve Personal Development Planning Personal Tutoring Graduate Attribute Developmen t UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    13. 13. Discussion   How transferable? Challenges re:  Securing student engagement?  Securing staff engagement? UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    14. 14. Bibliography    Borglin G. (2011) Promoting Critical Thinking and Academic Writing Skills in Nurse Education. Nurse Education Today, (In Press) available at: Boud, D. (2007) ‘Reframing assessment as if learning were important’ in Boud, D. & Falchikov, N.(eds.) Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education: Learning for the Longer Term. London: Routledge. Catt, R. & Gregory, G (2006) ‘The Point of Writing: Is Student Writing in Higher Education Developed or Merely Assessed?’ in Ganobcsik-Williams, L. (ed.) Teaching Academic Writing in UK Higher Education: Theories, Practices and Models. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    15. 15.     Curry, M.J. ( 2006) ‘Skills, Access and ‘Basic Writing’: a Community College Case Study from the United States’ in Ganobcsik-Williams, L. (ed.)Teaching Academic Writing in UK Higher Education: Theories, Practices and Models. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan Gimenez J. (2008) Beyond the academic essay: Disciplinespecific writing in nursing and midwifery. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp. 151-164 Ivanic , R & Lea M.R. (2006) ‘New Contexts, New Challenges: the Teaching of Writing in UK Higher Education’ in Ganobcsik-Williams, L.(ed.) Teaching Academic Writing in UK Higher Education: Theories, Practices and Models. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan Lea, Mary R. (2004) Academic literacies: a pedagogy for course design, Studies in Higher Education, Vol 29 (6) pp. 739-756 UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    16. 16.    Lea, Mary R. and Street, Brian V.(1998) Student writing in higher education: An academic literacies approach, Studies in Higher Education, Vol 23, (2), pp. 157-172. Lillis, T. (2006) ‘Moving towards an ’Academic Literacies’ Pedagogy: Dialogues of Participation’ in Ganobcsik-Williams, L. (ed.) Teaching Academic Writing in UK Higher Education: Theories, Practices and Models. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. Mitchell, S. & Evison A. (2006) ‘Exploiting the Potential of Writing for Educational Change at Queen Mary, University of London’ in Ganobcsik-Williams, L. (ed.) Teaching Academic Writing in UK Higher Education: Theories, Practices and Models. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012
    17. 17.    Tarrant M., Dodgson J.E. & Law B.V.K.K. (2008) A curricular approach to improve the information literacy and academic writing skills of part-time postregistration nursing students in Hong Kong. Nurse Education Today, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 458-468. Tomic, A. (2006) ‘A Critical Narrative of the Evolution of a UK/US University Writing Programme’ in GanobcsikWilliams, L. (ed.) Teaching Academic Writing in UK Higher Education: Theories, Practices and Models. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. University of the West of Scotland (2011) UWS Student Support and Guidance Policy. Paisley Campus, Quality Enhancement Unit. UWS Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2012