Students often ask their Personal Tutors questions about their degree programme so that they can make informed choices. They might also seek guidance on how to develop study skills and prepare for assessment.
This Taking care of yourself video created by students and staff from Imperial's Faculty of Medicine helps students and personal tutors think about how students can balance the new academic demands of their degreee programme with rest, relaxation and fun.
Quotes from IC student and PT
"She has been giving me essay writing tutorials and has wished me good luck for my exams."
"He knows his way around the Life Sciences degree as well as the concerns of a student pursuing it. This has helped me on several occasions as he is often my first port of call for any unfamiliar College matter."
"Find out about the programme they are studying so that you can give correct, useful and timely advice about:
- Locations of labs, lecture theatres, seminar rooms, teaching office etc.
- Compulsory courses and an overview of their content
- Optional courses and how they are selected
- Intercalated years (in industry, etc.) and degrees with a year in the Business School, including how to transfer on to /off of these
- Final year projects and how they are selected
- Dates of exams and resits
Much of this will be in their student handbook which you should refer them to." (Personal Tutor, Department of Life Sciences)
Personal Tutors might reasonably be expected to assist in these areas:
Areas where PTs can assist
The more self-directed approach to study expected at university might be very unfamiliar to your tutees. They may also find that the study strategies that they had successfully applied in the past do not work at Imperial.
Opportunities to develop the required academic skills and practices should be embedded into the curriculum, so it is worth consulting your tutee’s programme handbook or finding out from the Programme Lead so that you can signpost this for your tutee. Or you might task your tutee with doing this.
Advise students on appropriate learning strategies, time management, drawing up study plans, note taking in lectures, how to research a topic and how to go about writing a report or essay. Direct students to the Success Guide for comprehensive ideas on learning at university. Signpost specific guidance on 'Developing an action plan for independent learning'.
LearnHigher is a university sector-wide website offering resources to staff and students to support the development of skills and practices necessary for learning at university.
Imperial Student Space offers advice on the many social, emotional and practical issues which can impact on learning and studying, as well as suggesting ways for getting the most out of College.
The Graduate School offers a suite of Professional Skills courses to assist postgraduate students in their studies and beyond.
"Know about the course that they are studying especially the assessments because these are the biggest sources of anxiety." (Personal Tutor, Faculty of Medicine)
Advise students on preparing for assessment. This might include:
- Making them aware of the purpose of assessment and feedback at Imperial and how this might be different from school, college or other universities. The Imperial Success Guide offers a useful overview.
- Discussing the requirements of their assignment briefs. These are not always as clear and student friendly as they could be. For guidelines on effectively communicating to students what is required and expected of them in an assignment see the Assignment Brief Design project website.
- Helping students to cope with exam-related stress. This may involve discussing study and revision approaches and sign-posting relevant workshops:
- Exam Stress Workshops held at the Health Centre;
- The Student Counselling Service run Stress Management workshops for undergraduates;
- The Graduate School run Stress Management workshops for PhD students;
Directing your tutees to advice on the Student Space on aspects such as sleep, time management, personal resilience and work-life balance.
"Since first year he has been pushing me to achieve my potential and to stretch myself rather than going the easy way." (Imperial student)
You may need to assist students with developing responsibility for their own academic progress. As well as discussing how they are managing the transition to more self-directed learning you might signpost the guidance and practical tips on the Success Guide.
For some students not being ‘top of the class’ and getting the very high marks may come a shock. This can knock their confidence and affect their motivation so may need to be addressed. The Student Space offers advice on strategies and skills such as personal resilience.
Monitor and review student academic progress and provide feedback on overall performance and report on this to Senior Tutors. See advice on how to encourage students to make use of their feedback.
Personal Tutors are advised to keep copies of all their correspondence with their tutees. See advice on keeping confidential notes. Personal Tutors may be required to write reports on their tutees and to provide references.
Throughout their degree students are expected to work with others in small groups, perhaps in a laboratory class, during a tutorial, or as part of their own study time.
Students may look to you for advice on how to manage fellow students. You are probably most useful as a sounding board, asking questions that encourage your tutee to reflect on how they want to manage the situation. The Imperial Success Guide offers them some useful advice on working with others.
To avoid falling into the trap of giving your solution to their problem, see guidance on using the OARS.
If you are told about or suspect bullying or harassment you should advise your Senior Tutor and consult the Harassment, Bullying and Victimisation advice.
Giving Feedback to Students
"Make sure you find out how they are doing academically, especially remembering to make contact after each batch of exam results comes out." (Personal Tutor, Department of Life Sciences)
Research below suggests that feedback comments on students’ work has more impact if it is:
- “Understandable: expressed in a language that students will understand.
- Selective: commenting in reasonable detail on two or three things that the student can do something about.
- Specific: pointing to instances in the student’s work where the feedback applies.
- Timely: provided in time to improve the next assignment.
- Contextualised: framed with reference to the learning outcomes and/or assessment criteria.
- Non‐judgemental: descriptive rather than evaluative, focused on learning goals (e.g. the bigger degree picture) not just performance goals (e.g. that exam).
- Balanced: pointing out the positive as well as areas in need of improvement.
- Forward looking: suggesting how students might improve subsequent assignments.
- Transferable: focused on processes, skills and self‐regulatory processes not just on knowledge content. e.g. ability to critically think and self-assess.
- Personal: referring to what is already known about the student and her or his previous work.” (Nicol, 2010: 512-513)
Conveying all of these important messages is difficult to achieve, especially in written feedback on a single piece of work. As a Personal Tutor you’re in a good position to have conversations with tutees that enable them to make sense of feedback and feed it forward into future work. Students should also be encouraged to develop their ability to self-assess. For example, after exams or coursework submission you might ask:
- What do they think about their performance/progress?
- What have been their particular strengths?
- How could it be improved?
- What have they learnt through doing the assessment?
- What will they do differently next time?