Students increasingly value one-to-one time with their tutors and this can be an effective way to support and empower them in their learning (Wootton, 2007; Wisker et al, 2007). Students would like to see their tutors more frequently and routinely, however, this becomes more challenging as the profile of the student body changes and student numbers rise (Owen, 2002; Sosabowski et al, 2003; Stephen et al, 2008; Thomas et al, 2017). Both students and tutors have called for more structured and focused support for their one-to-ones to reflect the complexity of their relationship (Blythman et al, 2006; Small, 2013; Thomas et al, 2017). It is important that meetings have an explicit purpose and structure to ensure students and tutors do not resort to guesswork or trial and error to figure out what personal tutoring is for (Thomas et al, 2017).
While many tutors believe students would benefit from taking responsibility for making appointments, students have called for tutors to be proactive and to schedule tutorials in advance. Here there is a danger that those who need support the most may not seek it and slip through the net (Malik, 2000; Owen, 2002; Neville, 2007; Wisker et al, 2007; Stephen et al, 2008). It is therefore important that tutorial support is proactive and seen as an integral part of all students’ education rather than a safety net or as part of a deficit model (Owen, 2002; Whittaker, 2008; Stenton, 2017).
Suggested dos and don’ts for one-to-ones
|Prepare for them, for example by reading notes from previous one-to-ones, at risk meeting documents, ‘staff comments about students’ and speaking to other tutors and support staff about progress.||Be unprepared, because poor preparation or no preparation at all may lead to issues being missed, therefore reducing the impact of the meeting.|
|Appear pleased to see the students and have a sincere and calm approach (even if you are busy and have competing priorities; Dobinson-Harrington, 2006).||Let it appear to the students that you are just tickin off’ your one-to-ones as an administrative duty you must fulfil.|
|Explain at the start of the meeting what things you would like to cover, but ensure you are clear that students can discuss anything that they have on their own agenda.||Go straight into reviewing the targets without some |
opportunity for discussion about how the students are feeling about their studies and any factors which might be affecting their progress.
|Use more open questions to allow students and yourself to explore their thoughts and feelings.||Use more closed questions, because this will elicit only brief answers which don’t help to build rapport or understand and explore issues deeply.|
|Record details of the conversation using the dashboard system for future reference.||Focus more on the recording of the conversation than on the quality and depth of the discussion.|
|Sit near and facing the student. Facing them slightly at an angle is preferable.||Have tables between you. Sit in a way that blocks access to the door. Be too close so as to invade their personal space.|
|Display active listening, as well as body language and tone of voice that show you‘re genuinely interested. Also challenge, reframe, reflect back and summarise, where appropriate.||Appear unengaged in the |
|Start with and praise the positive things that students have, or feel they have, tried or achieved.||Ignore their perspective or be too general.|
|Be honest about any areas that students need to improve.||Start with or ignore areas for development.|
|Be clear about the consequences of not improving.||Fail to explain the consequences of not improving.|
|Encourage the students to reflect and have a clear, open and honest discussion about progress against previous SMART targets (these may be academic, attendance, punctuality, engagement or personal).||Briefly mention previous SMART targets and offer no opportunity for discussion around these.|
|Allow the discussion to develop SMART targets that are stretching but are |
agreed between you and the students.
|Set targets for the students which you have not discussed or agreed, because this will reduce the level of ownership that they feel for them.|
|Use scaling and solution-focused coaching techniques, where appropriate.|
|Make clear your desire to help resolve any problems where it is possible.|
|Ensure that the agreed targets are SMART.|
|Finish on a positive and ask the student to summarise the agreed targets before the end of the meeting.|
|Ensure dates for the review of these targets are agreed before the meeting finishes.|
As with teaching and curriculum planning, there isn’t a secret formula for a perfect one-to-one. Within your busy academic life, to avoid spending too much time on detailed planning or recording, it is useful to use the dos and don’ts as a helpful checklist (particularly the dos). As every student and educational institution is different, your one-to-ones will be different too. You will need to be adaptable to the needs and context of every students well as the resources available, and to keep in mind clear boundaries. Carrying out effective one-to-ones with students is a skill that can be learned through practice and reflection, and as you get better the impact on your students’ progress and outcomes will improve.
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Dobinson-Harrington, A (2006) Personal Tutor Encounters: Understanding the Experience. Nursing Standard, 20(50): 35–42.
Malik, S (2000) Students, Tutors and Relationships: The Ingredients of a Successful Student Support Scheme. Medical Education, 34: 635–41.
Neville, L (2007) The Personal Tutor’s Handbook. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Owen, M (2002) ‘Sometimes You Feel You’re in Niche Time’: The Personal Tutor System, a Case Study. Active Learning in Higher Education, 3(1): 7–23.
Sosabowski, M H, Bratt, A M, Herson, K, Olivier, G W J, Sawers, R, Taylor, S, Zahoui, A and Denyer, S P (2003) Enhancing Quality in the M.Pharm Degree Programme: Optimisation of the Personal Tutor System. Pharmacy Education, 3(2): 103–8.
Stenton, A (2017) Why Personal Tutoring is Essential for Student Success. [online] Available at: www.heacademy.ac.uk/blog/why-personal-tutoring-essential-student-success (accessed 30 June 2018).
Stephen, D E, O’Connell, P and Hall, M (2008) ‘Going the Extra Mile’, ‘Fire-fighting’, or Laissez-faire? Re-evaluating Personal Tutoring Relationships within Mass Higher Education. Teaching in Higher Education, 13(4): 449–60.
Thomas, L, Hill, M, O’Mahony, J and Yorke, M (2017) Supporting Student Success: Strategies for Institutional Change. What Works? Student Retention and Success Programme. Final Report. London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
Whittaker, R (2008) Quality Enhancement Themes: The First Year Experience – Transition to and During the First Year. Glasgow: Quality Assurance Agency Scotland.
Wisker, G, Exley, K, Antoniou, M and Ridley, P (2007) Working One- to- One with Students: Supervising, Coaching, Mentoring, and Personal Tutoring (Key Guides for Effective Teaching in Higher Education). Oxon: Routledge.
Wootton, S (2007) An Inductive Enquiry into Managing Tutorial Provision in Post- Compulsory Education. PhD. Sheffield Hallam University. Available at: https:// search- proquest- com.proxy.library. lincoln.ac.uk/ pqdtglobal/ docview/ 1913902798/ fulltextPDF/ 5B739D42F2A846B6PQ/ 1?accountid=16461 (accessed 30 June 2018).