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Supporting students

Support for Students. Teaching for Tutors. An Investigation into Ideas on Encouraging Students to Engage

Project leader(s): 
Cathryn Peoples
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

In 19J, the Project Lead carried out an investigation on providing personalised support to two groups of Level 3 Software Engineering students. The literature suggests that students want more attention from their tutors, a general greater level of support, and a sense of belonging [1] [2]. In practice, however, the findings differed from what is reported in the literature: A minority of students were interested in the personalised support in reality, and the students who engaged formed the higher performing cohort. The students who had the most to gain, the disadvantaged students, therefore did not receive personalised support beyond that which is typically provided. There was therefore a gap between performance achieved across the module 

The objective of this proposed investigation is to respond to this gap, by gaining an understanding of the reasons why certain students do not engage with their tutor and/or their study, and to provision mechanisms which might encourage their engagement. This will investigate the “Support for Students” aspect in the project title, in the sense of understanding if non-engagement is a result of student characteristics, ability, and/or personal circumstances. The second part of the investigation will examine the “Teaching for Tutors” angle, in an attempt to understand if the reasons why a particular cohort of students has not engaged is because they believe their tutor to be unapproachable. The target is then to deploy approaches, from the introductory contact from the tutor to the post-exam period, which respond to the needs of this cohort. The project will conclude with an assessment of the suitability of the proposed approaches in terms of the frequency, type and quality of student engagement.

The intention is that the project will be applicable to other modules. If it is identified that a more personalised approach to communicating with students becomes effective when initial communication attempts are not responded to, the introductory approaches and subsequent support approaches can be applied.

Cathryn Peoples project poster


[1] P. Humphreys, “The Top Five Things That Really Matter to Students about their University,” JISC, Mar. 2018.

[2] A. Mountford-Zimdars, D. Sabri, J. Moore, J. Sanders, S. Jones, and L. Higham, “Causes of Differences in Student Outcomes,” HEFCE, Jul. 2015.

 

Encouraging verbal communication in online small-group Maths problem-solving sessions; taking inspiration from individual sessions

Project leader(s): 
Abi Kirk
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

There is evidence that verbal communication by students in group online tutorials is rare. In contrast, it seems anecdotally that students speak more in individual support sessions online. This project will take inspiration from the aspects of individual sessions that succeed in promoting speech. This information will be obtained by surveying tutors, following up some responses with logs of individual sessions. This will inform the design of small-group online problem-solving sessions for students on M337 Complex Analysis. Such sessions are chosen as being midway between individual sessions and standard group tutorials, with a problem-solving setting being more conducive to interaction. M337 is chosen because the project lead has over ten years of tutoring on it, and the Module Team have agreed to sessions being run on their module.

There will be two phases involving problem-solving sessions: a pilot of two and a main series of four. In each phase, feedback will be taken from students and tutor observers. Suggestions from the pilot phase will be used to modify the session design before the main series. In the final phase views on the effectiveness of the sessions will be documented. Recordings of the sessions will be analysed to assess the level and type of verbal interaction, as explained in Section 3. The anticipated outcome is a conclusion on whether this type of problem-solving session is effective and can encourage students to speak. This could lead to further such sessions, and the approaches used could possibly be extended to more standard group tutorials, taking us a step towards the desirable outcome of learning through interaction within a community online.

Abi Kirk project poster

Workday day-time tutorials for apprentices – what is the best practice in Computing?

Project leader(s): 
Chris Thomson and Marina Carter
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

We know more about our apprentice students on the computing degree apprenticeship programmes (Digital Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship England, IT: Software Development/Cyber Security Graduate Apprenticeship Scotland, Digital Degree Apprenticeship Wales) than our regular students. Uniquely for the Open University we know these students are all in full-time work, and that they have been provided time during their work hours to study (20%). Some of these students have strongly voiced the opinion that tutorials should be provided during their work hours via feedback to their module and practice tutors. However, it is far from clear how this relates to the majority of the students. Our focus in this project is to investigate the provision of tutorials for apprenticeships in computing with the potential to generalise this to other programmes.

We have conducted an early stage pilot study on TMXY130J where we provided 16% of tutorials (1 of every topic) during work hours with the same tutor, with that tutor also providing a tutorial repeated identically in the evening of the same day (see appendix 2, the project report). The initial findings were that work-day daytime tutorials were significantly better attended, however questions remain about how effective these tutorials are – for example if apprentices are in a busy office can they concentrate and join in effectively?

We plan to further investigate these results by surveying and interviewing apprentices to gather their reasons for selecting tutorials and their ability to participate in them. We will use this to inform tutorial provision for modules in 20J, advice apprentices, and develop a further evaluative process of those proposals. We will also feedback advice to the other apprenticeship programmes in FBL and WELS who are yet to investigate weekday daytime tutorials.

Chris Thomson and Marina Carter poster (PDF)