Unlocking potential with academic personal tutoring

Ruth Payne, University of Leeds

Ruth Payne, Associate Professor in Student Education from University of Leeds on ‘Academic Personal Tutoring.’ This recording is from our 2022 MiniBash community event which was hosted in Birmingham, England. Videos are for educational personnel only and require a live educational email to watch. You can read the video transcript below.


It’s great to be back in Birmingham, and I was really pleased to be asked speaking. I was brought up in Birmingham and I need to tell you early doors. It did not look like this in nineteen seventy eight. It did not. It did not. Right. I’ve got ten minutes so buckle in.

And being asked to look back on what we did from 202 when we started with PebblePad Leeds was actually quite an nostalgic experience. My role was a two year role. I I stopped having anything to do with PebblePad Leeds apart from my own personal use of course.

In August. So this was actually quite an unusual sort of thing to reflect on.

So I’ve tried to sort of encapsulate it in what we wanted, what we did, and then what we achieved. And I feel a real need to say that at the point at which PebblePad arrived in Leeds we we didn’t The for me, the structure of where we were going to go with it wasn’t clear. Where we were going to look up to guidance from people higher up in the tree about how to implement PebblePad. Certainly for personal tutoring which we’ll talk about in a second.

Was not clear, and it wasn’t clear where we had to go. So looking back now, there is a very firm structure. So the first thing I want to say is I think that PebblePad actually helped us tidy up the structure and it’s now very very clear who does what. So retrospectively, that seems to be one of the things that we’ve achieved although it wasn’t an aim.

When we were procuring PebblePad the process started a long time ago long before COVID and people were invited to come along members of staff were invited to come along for various things. Just to comment on something from their perspective. And I was having involved in personal tutoring in my school at that time and still am. And I was invited to come along and just say how do you see this working in terms of personal tutoring? So we were filling in all sorts of things and ticking boxes and giving scores and all the rest of it and we did all of and lots and lots of colleagues did that.

I found this message that I actually sent during one of those meetings and that was watching this I’m irrationally infused and I just if you want Earth rights like that. But I actually sent this message to one of the senior people at Leeds and and said, you know, this is just gonna unlock so many things. So the potential of PebblePad as far as I’m concerned was very, very clear from the start. And I also need to say, I’m not at all tech not even slightly.

Seriously, can’t use Google Maps. Honestly, couldn’t find the hotel. Really, really has taken aback to be asked to lead this project. But I looking back despite the the heartache of last year, I don’t know.

Despite the the the challenges that I face because I don’t really I’m not really technically minded.

I I kind of see what what the idea was.

So PebblePad was introduced Leeds in 2020. And the remit was to use it for academic personal tutoring. That was that was absolutely part of the thing. You know, we get PebblePad

This is the basis on which we it. We’re going to do all our personal tutoring at leads through PebblePad. This is a massive piece of work. We have thirty eight, thirty nine thousand students at Leeds, It’s it’s just an enormous ask.

The project was asked was tasked with ensuring that everybody used this everybody used pad for tutoring, but also that we understood and managed to convey to colleagues, it’s other things that it could be used for. So there was there was a huge remit and a tiny tiny team. There were three of us to start with. It really was a a tiny sort of business supported of course by digital education.

So the plans for the the new e portfolio kind of seat felt like they went on forever.

We were asked to support student experience and well-being and of course that came into focus as Shane has already said during the the pandemic.

An enhanced assessment strategy which we are now seeing the benefits of. Community building, inclusivity, the changing student profile and of course hybrid teaching which again shot into center stage during the pandemic.

We were asked to do the the apprentice thing and enhance also enhance provision for the regulatory bodies, some of which we’re already using. Some of our schools were already using PebblePad. That.

And we were also asked to look at the reflective practice that went on during placements either in industry or in a year abroad. I teach in the school of languages, cultures and societies. I don’t teach a language, everybody asks me what you speak, nothing at all. But the and I’m a kind of social linguist and and and most of our students go away for replacement year.

So they go off to wherever in the world. And and I have to say and I’m not sure if I’m I should say this were being recorded. But there was a sense in personal tutoring that when is when your two t’s went abroad. So your your your your duties in Spain this year.

Oh, great. Okay. So I don’t have to actually do anything very much with them, which was never the right approach and has now been fixed. Woo hoo.

So personal tutoring at least though was an unusual stage and what and and this is I think this is across the sector. So I don’t this is gonna be news to people.

The existing provision actually led to quite a sort of checkered thing and and a and a range of different approaches to it. The model that leads for those who are at all interested in it is is a pastoral care one.

But I don’t think that the majority of colleagues fully understand that there are different models of personal teaching. That’s just because it’s not what they’re focusing on, they’re focusing on other things. So when I said to colleagues, you do know you’ve got some fashion services stuff going on in your personal tutoring. They guy don’t know what you mean. And and but we also had a mix of that and some curriculum led stuff as well. So it was a little bit of a hybrid model, which I’m not sure everybody fully appreciated. An engagement with personal tutoring from both tutors and from tutors sadly could be very patchy.

So there was this slightly cinder esque feeling about personal tutoring in general. So we the remit suddenly bulged if you like. We have to use this new platform for personal tutoring, but in a way, we kinda need to fix personal tutoring while we’re doing that. Okay? So so that was actually quite a lot to do.

In case anyone has forgotten, COVID vaccines started in December 2020.

Staff were and still are absolutely exhausted and we are so busy looking after our students. I do believe we are at risk of forgetting our staff. Just a personal note.

Many of my colleagues were homeschooling, and a lot of them were very unwell.

So back with this.

The leads context in twenty twenty was our vision for leads, our strategic vision for leads, is this, a focus on community and on collaborative working rather than anything that’s that seem to be competitive.

We are embracing diversity. We are inviting welcoming, embracing, wanting, inviting, asking it back in, diverse we want diversity. So the old model of higher education no longer exists at least.

Creating and maintaining belonging our actually involved in the belonging project that leads and I’m one of three academic leads for belonging at Leeds, at Leeds.

And and the idea of course is that we are going to within our institution, we’re going to reflect in its makeup.

The community that we are actually serving externally.

So the idea is that we have in our institution representation of every aspect of the community that we’re serving and we’re not there yet but we are moving towards that point.

So the action plan for PebblePad with all of this background was to introduce it to provide this space for reflective student led personal tutoring. I’m gonna say that again reflective student led personal tutoring.

We also introduced learning analytics. I can’t talk about that because I’ve told you I’m not tech and for students and personal tutors to use but that that is also a piece of work that’s going alongside it. So that tutors can look at the learning analytics for a student when they’re looking at them for personal tutoring. So they are getting a holistic picture and they’re able to respond to that in the discussion with the students.

You’re waving minutes.

You’re kidding. I’ll be I’ll be fast. Okay. We had to deliver it across the institution in twenty twenty.

The tutoring workbook itself presented all of these challenges ten minutes. Who gets ten minutes? And what should be included? Who should write it? What should we leave out?

Who do we give admin rights to? Who do we like create content? How do we tailor it for all these lovely students in our diverse thing? We have three principles and they have all They have all prevailed.

The workbook would promote reflective practice. We still have that despite everything else changing around it. It would should be students should be able to go through it at their own pace. We have that and that they set their own agenda for tutorials.

They do not turn up and have the two say, so what your mark’s like in semester one. We actually have them saying I’m coming to see you to talk about employment skills. Great. I’ll I’ll do that with you.

Here are some just an example of what the the thing looks like. This is the tutorial agenda actually in the personal tutoring workbook. I’m speaking so fast. Have you got one of those canes with a hook on?

Okay. And then we were off. We created a resource thank you so much. That’s kind.

Who are you? No. No. That’s kind. Thank you. That’s really kind. Like him.

We were we created the sainted, Patricia Quinn, whoever she over there. Patricia Quinn helped create studying during the pandemic work we threw together. We said, like, all our students having this, which was very well-being focused, obviously.

There’s a massive piece of work on careers, skills surfacing. The sort of thing that Shane was talking about.

Live of success resource and the welcome induction and transition that leads is all now in pebble pan. At this point, I was actually warned by senior management not to try and build whole university of Leads in Pebelpads. It’s true.

Academius can do this too. I put my entire module despite my absolute untechness. I put my entire level two level three module into pebble pad.

And I put some this is my module. It’s open for business. This is a seminar. It’s really murky, horrible screenshot. But what I did at the bottom you’ll see, I asked students to give me one question that they thought about when they were preparing for their tutorial with me, their seminar with me.

Doesn’t matter what that says, but these are four responses. What they did was this, some commented, some speculated, some asked to clarify things they haven’t understood. And some suggested things we could use as part of teaching. I am all for all of those things. So this is great. These were the student comments.

Yeah. He said I could have two more minutes. He said two more minutes. No. I haven’t got time to argue. So what we’ve what we’ve achieved, forty eight completed projects petting PebblePad that leads in twenty five more in development again the St. Patricia Quinn, and here are some examples.



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