11 SES 07, Students Perceptions of School
Over the last two decades there has been a growing attention of researchers to counselling and university tutoring, particularly in the European context. Probably, the main cause of this trend is the university model proposed by EHEA, which is closer to the student and champion of a more personalized learning, adapted to the singular needs of each individual. In fact, the European Commission has recommended that “higher education institutions and national policy makers in partnership with students should establish counselling, guidance, mentoring and tracking systems to support students” (European Commission, 2013, p. 45).
An overview of the state of art on this issue shows that university tutoring has been interpreted from many different perspectives. As a result, there is a number of term referred to the proper functions of counselling and tutoring: accompaniment tutoring, academic tutoring, personalized tutoring, itinerary tutoring, curricular guidance, telematic tutoring, peer tutoring, professional counselling, among others (Colvin, 2015; López-Gómez and Camilli, 2017).
Although it is difficult to formulate a classification, university tutoring can be organized in three integrated lines of action: 1) Counselling institutional services (Johnston, 2010; Watts and Van Esbroek, 2000). 2) Peer tutoring programs (Colvin, 2015; Crisp and Cruz, 2009). 3) University teachers tutoring (López-Gómez, 2016; Hagenauer and Volet, 2014, Mcfarlane, 2016). In this paper, we focus on the last one, university teachers as tutoring agents.
This kind of tutoring is based on the closeness of university teachers to the students. In fact, UNESCO (1998) recognized the importance of this in the World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century by stating that one of the responsibilities of the university teacher was to provide students with advice and tutoring when necessary, as well as course support and course review guidance, study and learning strategies, and other forms of tutoring to enable students to progress in their learning and in their lives in general.
However, this conception demands to rethink the role of university teachers and the university quality standards, considering that in its very core is the way we comprehend the relationship teacher-student.
There is an international trend which consider that the university teacher is not a dispenser of knowledge but a counsellor for learning, promoting -in the words of Barr and Tagg (1995)- a "shift from teaching to learning", or a teaching approach for a learner / student-centered learning (McCabe and O'Connor, 2014). Student centered learning requires building the capacity of university students to intervene in and influence their learning environments and learning pathways (Klemenčič, 2017) and tutoring allows building the capacity of students through learning opportunities in a broad sense, from a holistic student-centered perspective.
The university teachers, in their role as tutors, should generate a framework in which students feel that they really matter. It is about put their best effort in creating a “supportive atmosphere” between student and teacher (Nunn, 1996) which leads to the creation of a healthy ecosystem to allow the student to reap the benefits of a good student-teacher relationship at the university (Hagenauer and Volet, 2014). This idea needs, for its development, a commitment to implement a pedagogy of accompaniment, which implies an altered role for the teacher and their displacement from the centre of the university life, in favor of the student who is now in the centre (Ghenghesh, 2017).
In this context, this contribution intends to examine the students' perceptions about the importance of university tutoring. The main hypothesis is that university tutoring is an indicator of quality of university education; this study will explore this hypothesis from the perspective of students.
This study is part of a research project which aims to propose –from an extensive literature review–, validate –using the Delphi method–, and assess –applying a questionnaire to university teachers and students– an integral tutoring model (López-Gómez, 2016). In this contribution, we present quantitative and qualitative results of the assessment process of the tutoring model. 679 university students participate in this research from 13 different universities in the Community of Madrid (Spain). The 68.33% are women (n = 464). Regarding the university course, 605 are undergraduate students (1st & 2nd year: 310 / 3rd & 4rd year: 295) and 74 postgraduates (Master and Doctorate students). The instrument was a questionnaire containing 51 items, which asked the participants to make two assessments related to their perception in a 6-point scale: one about the importance they ascribed to the item, in order to configure the tutoring, and another on the reality observed in the setting of their university based on their personal experience. Each scale was conceived with the aim of discovering the perceptions of the agents (students and teachers) of university tutoring in terms of the importance (what it should be) and reality (what it is) of each indicator. The questionnaire also includes open-ended questions in which participants are asked to give their input about the relevance of the university tutoring. Data analysis allowed us to identify the most important indicators of tutoring from the students´ perspective (quantitative analysis) and to emphasize the main reasons that justify the relevance of university tutoring (qualitative approach through emerging categories).
Results show that the best rated indicators in university tutoring are related with: transition from the university to the professional field, guidance on postgraduate courses (academic itinerary), support for the student during work experience placements in companies or institutions and support for the student for developing more professionally-related functions, through guided practical work and the development of the End-of-Degree Project. Analysing the answers to the open-ended question about the arguments on the importance of university tutoring, we identify different categories and subcategories. The three main emerging categories manifest the relevance of personal-social, academic and professional dimensions of university tutoring. To conclude, after discussing the results with other similar studies, we can affirm that tutoring is a valuable tool to provide the students with better and more complete education (Thomas and Hixenbaugh, 2007; McChlery and Wilkie, 2009; López-Gómez, 2016) and, therefore, an appropriate indicator to assess and improve the quality of higher education.
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