Talking to Personal Tutors : Why they want you to utilise their services!
Personal tutors are extremely valuable members of the community at Warwick, offering support in various areas of university life.
Though Personal Tutors are readily available, many students are unaware of what Personal Tutors can specifically offer and how they can enrich students’ Warwick experience. Personally, I am extremely grateful for my Personal Tutor, as she has helped me by providing general advice and a comfortable environment in which to have a chat, as well as help with academic matters such as helping me with applications.
In this blog, I will be talking to the Personal Tutor Excellence award winners of 2019/2020 : Nigel Denton (from Warwick Manufacturing Group), Tilly Harrison (from the Centre of Applied Linguistics) and Julie Taylor (from the Centre for Teacher Education). These Personal Tutors have been recognised for all they do for students at Warwick, so I was keen to find out more about their duties and values, as personal tutors.
Nigel Denton is a Deputy Senior Tutor in the School of Engineering and his role also focuses on employability skills/ career development.
- Could you please tell me how you, as a Personal Tutor, have aided students with their career prospects/professional development?
“With professional development I encourage them to get to as many external lectures as possible to get a better feeling of the “real world”. In addition to this I encourage them to join at least one professional body – there is a lot you can get out of them as a student for very little or no cost!”
- What do you feel is your most important role as a Personal Tutor?
“To be that person the student feels confident to come and talk to when there are difficult times and that they know you will listen to them. To be able to “properly” listen would probably be the number one thing”.
- What do you believe students might miss out on if they did not utilise their Personal Tutor?
“All sorts of support. We all have different backgrounds and strengths, if students ask something and we do not know the best answer we normally know someone who would.
The better we know the student the better reference we can give, the easier it is to see when something does not seem quite right and to be able to ask a better question.
The better the relationship is between the personal tutor and the student the easier it is for the student to “knock” on the door – if only for a chat and cup of tea! (Hopefully that time will come again soon!!)”
Tilly Harrison is a Senior Tutor, known well in the department for her wellbeing support.
- What do you feel that you can offer, as a Personal Tutor, that students cannot gain from their day-to-day lecturers within the department?
“Although students can and should feel a strong connection to their day-to-day lecturers, that relationship is inevitably based more on academic issues and will probably in most cases be more formal than a friendship. As Personal Tutor I try to be someone that a student can get to know on a more personal level and although there is a certain formality, there can be a high level of trust and friendly chat. This should lead students to a feeling that they can disclose to me as the Personal Tutor issues that are affecting their life and academic work. I can offer a link between them and university processes, advocating on their behalf when there are problems. As Personal Tutor I am genuinely interested in my tutees as complete people. Although my main hope is that they will thrive academically, I also want to help them develop individually and socially and become confident, competent adults”.
- Could you please tell me about how, as a Personal Tutor, you have supported students with their wellbeing?
“All students experience a certain amount of stress as they start university life, but for some, the level of change and consequent stress is overwhelming. As a Personal Tutor I am very aware of the challenges that face my tutees and I try to put them at their ease as much as possible. For those who I can see are struggling, I am a listening ear and a guide to getting the help they need as the university has a wide range of support facilities in place, not only for academic issues but also for personal, and mental health problems. There are also particular times of year when the Personal Tutor’s interest can be helpful – exam-related anxiety is common and I am keen to make sure my tutees know about all the different workshops and support they can access at that time. As Personal Tutor I make sure tutees who have particular needs are aware of support and get the reasonable adjustments that they need. When a major incident happens in a tutee’s life, I can help with applying for Mitigating Circumstances and speak up for them at the Exam board where necessary”.
- How important is it to you that students make good use of their Personal Tutors?
“As a Personal Tutor I hope that students see the relationship as two-way where they can talk to me as easily as I can talk to them. It is important to me that a good relationship develops because then it is much easier to offer timely advice, not just about managing workload and time management but also about wider issues such as dissertation topics and career choices. Eventually as Personal Tutor I might need to write a reference for a student and I can be much more convincing and believable if I know the student well and can write about their extra curricular activities as well as their academic achievements. Students who fail to make good use of their Personal Tutors may not realise what they are missing and the future difficulties that may arise, if for example the Personal Tutor hardly knew them and had forgotten who they were when a reference request arrives. I definitely recommend students getting to know their Personal Tutor well, asking them questions and telling them about any difficulties they have. The Personal Tutor should be a helpful sounding board for students as they find their way in university life and develop as academics and adults”.
Julie Taylor leads the Primary PGCE course and is the lead for Primary Partnership and Mentoring.
- Could you please tell me how, as a Personal Tutor, you can support students with regards to their academic life?
“As a personal tutor I aim to support my students in a variety of different ways. I play a key role in providing academic support for my personal tutees to ensure they are well prepared for the assessed aspect of the programme. Many of the PGCE students I have tutored over the years have lacked confidence with the academic component and may not have engaged in their own studies for a number of years, so it has been necessary to co-ordinate personalised provision and signpost students to wider university services for additional support if required”.
“The personal tutor should also ensure students with declared disabilities have the support they are entitled to. On our programmes, personal tutors work with their students to create individual support plans for all students with declared disabilities/health issues. These plans are regularly reviewed to ensure the recommendations from disability services are taken into consideration both in university and whilst on professional placements”.
- Is there anything you would like students to know about what their Personal Tutor can offer, that students might currently be unaware of?
“In addition to academic support, personal tutors have a pastoral responsibility to support and safeguard their students’ wellbeing. Particularly in the current climate, students may be feeling particularly anxious about embarking on their university journey and should be able to look to their personal tutor for support. Whilst personal tutors should not be viewed as counsellors, it is beneficial for students to have regular opportunities for contact with their personal tutor and to feel they can share any concerns they have, particularly whilst the majority of teaching remains online. Where students are encountering challenges that require specialist support, personal tutors will be able to signpost to the relevant people”.
- What are some of the particularly positive ways you feel Personal Tutors can impact their students?
“We should not underestimate the importance of the personal tutor role. If personal tutors invest time in getting to know their students as individuals, the tutor will be a significant factor in a student’s university experience, potentially having a positive impact on both their academic and personal growth. Students I have tutored over the years have learnt a lot about themselves through a carefully tailored tutorial programme, allowing them to reflect on their own character and values in addition to their own wellbeing and academic progress. Providing such opportunities for critical reflection, where students learn to better understand themselves and aspire to keep growing and developing, can have significant long term benefits”.
After hearing from these brilliant Personal Tutors, the benefits of utilising your own Personal Tutor throughout your time at Warwick are hopefully clear. The huge amount of personal, academic and career-based support that Personal Tutors can provide students with can make our time at University less daunting and more enjoyable.