Tutors need student mentors to refine teaching

June 19, 2008

Students should "mentor" their lecturers in order to improve teaching standards, new research suggests.

According to the study, some university teachers hold an oversimplistic view of their students' diversity, which can result in teaching that leaves students feeling disengaged from their studies.

University of Wolverhampton research, conducted in a pre- and a post-1992 university, found that students most value teaching that recognises their individual needs.

Chris Hockings, learning and teaching research coordinator at the university and principal investigator of the Economic and Social Research Council project, said: "Our research showed that students really valued teachers who took notice of them and paid attention to their particular differences and interests. But we found that students didn't have that experience often.

"One of the assumptions by lecturers was that there were 'non-traditional' students and 'traditional' students, and the non-traditional students come in without the necessary skills, knowledge and cultural capital to really excel at university.

"But we found some students who were getting bored because there was an assumption that they needed to be taught the basics when they already knew them," she said.

A system under which lecturers met regularly with a student mentor could help tutors to avoid teaching based on assumptions, she suggested.

Dr Hockings believes that university teachers are doing their best under difficult circumstances and that systems designed to assure quality and maximise economic efficiency can constrain their efforts.

"Large class sizes mean there is very little opportunity to get to know students on a one-to-one basis," she said. "Many teachers knew they could improve their teaching, and wanted to, and we saw people doing really good work under incredibly difficult conditions."

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com.

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