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Personal Tutoring in Higher Education

October 14, 2008

By Kuresman, Kia

Personal Tutoring in Higher Education Liz Thomas and Paula Hixenbaugh (eds.) Stoke on Trent, UK: Trentham Books, 2007, 174 pages, $32.00 (paperback) Reviewed by Kia Kuresman, Villa Julie College

Personal Tutoring in Higher Education provides an international perspective to the needs of advisors in higher education, specifically from within the United Kingdom (UK). Similar to an advisor in the United States, a personal tutor’s role is to review and support a student’s personal, academic, and career development. The research, case studies, and literature reviews presented in this book provide useful information to administrators working in the areas of advising, retention, student support, and student success.

The book is divided into three sections: “Context and Current Agendas of Personal Tutoring,”"Institutional Models and Approaches,” and “Issues and Implications for Staff”. The editors’ “Introduction” begins the first section and provides an overview of the featured authors and a description of each of the chapters.

In chapter 2, “Personal Tutoring: A System in Crisis?,” Annie Grant reveals that most personal tutors are involved in the teaching and research aspects of the university, and consequently, there has been some “staff resistance to personal tutoring of a nonacademic nature” (p. 13). Chapter 3, “Widening Participation and the Increased Need for Personal Tutoring” by Liz Thomas, outlines the need for opening up participation of advising throughout higher education and provides alternative approaches to the current advising structure. Thomas reveals the challenge many institutions may have in developing “a more integrated and proactive personal tutoring system” (p. 31).

The final two chapters of this section, “Rescuing the Personal Tutor: Lessons in Costs and Benefits” by Ormand Simpson and “Student Perspectives on Personal Tutoring: What Do Students Want?” by Paula Hixenbaugh, Carol Pearson, and David Williams, provide justification for personal tutoring through financial gains and student needs. Simpson “follows the money” through the benefits and consequences of personal tutoring, specifically in the areas of student retention and re-enrollment. Subsequently, Hixenbaugh, Pearson, and Williams find that students want advising that will help them create connections, feel supported, and become integrated into the university community. Both chapters show that an increase in student support benefits the institution and helps increase student retention and success.

The second section, “Institutional Models and Approaches,” begins with chapter 6, “Enhancing the First Year Experience through Personal Tutoring” in which Heather Hartwell and Crispin Farbrother introduce the research findings of a pilot program within The School of Services Management as part of the first year experience. The program reviews Stepping Stones, a website created to help encourage a culture of learning and create a sense of community for incoming students, which helps students succeed throughout their university/ college career.

Chapter 7, “Putting Students First: Developing Accessible and Integrated Support” by Liz Marr and Sheila Aynsley-Smith, describes the model used at Manchester Metropolitan University and introduces the Student Support Officers (SSO) pilot program. A description of the implementation and successful integration of the SSO on campus is provided. Similarly, chapter 8, “Creating a Network of Student Support” by Barbara Lee and Alan Robinson, describes the Students 1st program, created to fill the need for a holistic and integrated system of student support at Southampton Soient University. The authors describe the process of uniting key university offices to provide accurate information and increase communication among the offices involved.

In chapter 9, “Platoons to Encourage Social Cohesion Amongst a Large and Diverse Undergraduate Population,” Peter Hill describes the creation of student peer groups, known as “platoons,” in the Business School, which were designed to provide student support during the university’s enrollment increase. The students involved relied on each other more for help in courses and showed an increase in grades and connection to the university than in years prior.

“Strategic Approaches to the Development and Management of Personal Tutorial Systems in UK Higher Education” by Margo Blythman, Susan Orr, Daphne Hampton, Martina McLaughlin, and Harry Waterworth provides the conclusion to this section and describes the authors’ nine years of experience in developing a culture and structure for advising by combining theoretical constructs with the development of advising strategies. The authors focus on four key areas in this chapter, creation of the tutor coordinator, relating the work to the structure of the university/college, harnessing resources, and the difficulties they encountered through this process. Recommendations for those trying to develop an advising system are included in the chapter.

The final section of the book, “Issues and Implication for Staff,” provides four chapters describing various programs to support the development of advisors in professional and personal ways. Chapter 11, “Changing Practice in Tutorial Provision within Post-Compulsory Education” by Sally Wootton, highlights the need for the institution’s mission to incorporate the tutoring philosophy. In addition, as students’ needs change, Wootton suggests implementing new methods, such as mentoring, to ensure student success.

Chapter 12, “‘Who’s Looking After Me?’-Supporting New Personal Tutors” by Pauline Ridley, and chapter 13, “Issues for Online Personal Tutoring: Staff Perceptions from an Online Distance Learning Programme” by Rosalind Crouch and Ruth Barrett, review various support structures in place for advisors. Ridley’s institution encourages new lecturers to complete the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. The program provides a safe place for lecturers to be supported in their struggles in working with students and helps them maintain the balance between teaching and advising. In support of 21st century teaching styles and student needs, Crouch and Barrett provide verbal and nonverbal strategies for online advisors to use. The information provided is useful to advisors who meet with students face-to-face and can be implemented easily in daily work routines.

The final chapter, “Working with a Lack of Structure: The Experience of Supporting Work Based Learning” by Charlotte Ramage, reports the findings of the research conducted on students, mentors, and teachers involved in work based learning, a new educational method for health care professionals. This chapter is helpful to professionals working with learning communities and other similar programs.

As a U.S. citizen not familiar with the U.K. education system, it was difficult at first to understand the terminology used in the book. However, after figuring it out, the information provided allowed me to view advising in a more global way. Personal Tutoring in Higher Education is a resource student personnel administrators can use to create new programs, help justify the work being done, and show the impact of our work in student success and retention.

Copyright American College Personnel Association Sep/Oct 2008

(c) 2008 Journal of College Student Development. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.




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