Inclusive Personal Tutoring
This inclusive teaching guide is aligned to Baseline Standard 1 and the Professional Standards Framework A4. It provides general advice on how you can be more inclusive in academic personal tutoring.
Acknowledge individual diversity
- If you are aware one of your students has a disability (e.g. if there is a “red tick” against their name when you access your list of tutees via Student Services) ask how it impacts on their learning and academic tasks in general. Your School Disability Contact (Student Education Service website) may be able to provide you with more information, if available.
- Students tell the University about disabilities so that those involved in teaching and supporting them can make use of this information. Discuss it directly with your student and ask what support they are receiving (if any). If necessary, refer them to e.g. Disability Services (Student Education Service website) or Skills@library (Library website).
- Be sensitive and focus discussion around support rather than on the details of your student’s condition or impairment itself. This will make your student feel more comfortable about discussing this with you and help them feel more confident talking about their disability in the future.
- Help your student to think through strategies that would work for them to overcome any challenges. The Assistive Technology Resource Site on Minerva may be useful for this (requires UoL access).
- Advise students to take the QuickScan online screening test if they are experiencing difficulties around literacy based tasks. The test will show whether they have indicators of a Specific Learning Difficulty, such as dyslexia and also help them to understand their strengths.
- Acknowledge factors such as caring responsibilities and financial hardship. These may also have an impact on your students’ ability to prioritise their studies.
- Avoid assumptions based on students’ names or backgrounds. The same personal factors, such as issues of identity, mental health and lifestyle can affect all students so be careful not to let preconceived ideas affect your interaction with tutees.
- If you know of any LGBTQ or other students who are estranged from their families, ask them to email the Plus Programme (firstname.lastname@example.org), as they are eligible for additional support, including financial, to help with access to extracurricular and development opportunities.
- Try to use language that doesn’t assume a majority experience (e.g. assuming a partner a student mentions is of the opposite sex).
Be aware of barriers created by cultural factors
- International students and those from under-represented backgrounds (e.g. mature students, financially independent students and 1st generation student etc.), may need greater support with understanding the context of personal tutoring and how to engage with it.
- Depending on the background of your students, some may regard the personal tutor role as an authority figure, rather than supportive. This may affect their engagement.1
- Avoid assuming your students have prior knowledge of university terminology. Many will be new to the environment and won’t know about the processes and procedures in place, or the language used to talk about them e.g. “mitigating circumstances” and “first attempts”.
- Encourage students to develop a sense of belonging by finding students who share similar interests through joining clubs and societies (LUU website)
Arranging (offering) appointments
- Be prepared to spend more time with some students than others (outside of the set appointment protocol).
- Due to their personal circumstances, including health, disability, cultural and domestic issues, some of your students will require more support than others. Don’t feel that you’re being unfair by offering additional appointments if required on an ad hoc basis.
- Students with organisational difficulties may need additional support with remembering appointments. So consider providing your students with appointment reminders.
- Find out from your tutees whether there are particular days to avoid when arranging appointments (e.g Fridays for Muslim students or those who live or work in the Middle East).
- Be clear about methods of contacting you, and offer a variety of ways to do this. Your students will have different preferences for communicating and arranging appointments.
- Some students will have difficulty with the concept of an “open door” and may interpret this to mean you are available to spend the whole of that time with them. It is much better to set clear times and appointments although virtual drop-in sessions via Teams with clear boundaries can also work well.
- Be aware of the limits of your role and your knowledge – always refer your student to other services as required or contact the other services yourself to discuss the matter. For issues relating to disability, you might find it useful to discuss the situation with to your School Disability Contact in the first instance. It is better to give no advice at all than to give the wrong advice. If you refer your student on, explain this to them and ensure you keep an overview of the situation with them.
Provide clear information
- Back up any important points discussed verbally in writing so that your student has a record. Some of your students may find it difficult to understand and retain everything that you have said to them. For example, students with dyslexia, chronic fatigue or anxiety, may only take in part of what is said to them.
- Allow students to record your Teams one to one meetings if that helps them to recap key information.
- Ensure that your students know that you cannot guarantee absolute confidentiality in some situations. This protects both you and the student and ensures that any serious concerns are dealt with in a timely manner.
- Learn more about confidentiality, disclosure and data protection (Student Education Service website).
LeedsforLife and opportunities
- Some of your students’ will have limited opportunities for extracurricular development, compared to others. So it’s important that you acknowledge this and make provision for them.
- Students with caring responsibilities may have less time available and some disabled students may find it difficult to find work experience where their needs can be supported.
- Avoid making assumptions about what your student can or can’t do based on their disability label. Discuss “Opportunities” in relation to the skills listed and the time that your student realistically has available. This will help your student make an informed choice about their participation in these activities and / or will allow them (or you) to find alternative activities if necessary.
- Provide additional support with some aspects of the “Living CV”. Some students, such as those with Autistic Spectrum conditions, may have difficulty articulating their achievements and selling themselves. Other students, such as those with specific learning difficulties, may find it challenging to complete forms.
Keep up to date with knowledge about University services
- Ensure you have a clear understanding of disability as defined in the Equality Act (Gov UK).
- Conditions such as mental health and long term medical conditions can be classified as disabilities. Disability Services (Student Education Service website) may be able to offer specialist support and advice to those students, to enable them to cope with their studies.
- Consider how personal issues such as mental health may be affecting academic progress, participation and attendance. Refer your students to Student Counselling and Wellbeing (Student Education Service website) for support, if necessary.
- Disciplinary procedures may not be the appropriate route for some of your students. Instead, they might need additional support and consideration.
- Familiarise yourself, and make students aware of inclusion policies (Equality and Inclusion Unit) at the University.
Further guidance on Academic Personal Tutoring can be found on the Student Education Service website.
Guide written by Jenny Brady | Updated July 2022
© University of Leeds 2022 | Attribution-NonCommercail 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)