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Supporting GEES undergraduates at Ulster through the use of senior student tutor workshops Martin Eaton School of Environmental Sciences, Coleraine, Northern.

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Presentation on theme: "Supporting GEES undergraduates at Ulster through the use of senior student tutor workshops Martin Eaton School of Environmental Sciences, Coleraine, Northern."— Presentation transcript:

1 Supporting GEES undergraduates at Ulster through the use of senior student tutor workshops Martin Eaton School of Environmental Sciences, Coleraine, Northern Ireland. BT52 1SA.

2 Introduction Student-mentoring initiatives have a long history and were embedded in the Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) programme at the University of Manchester, which was based upon the Supplemental Instruction (SI) model pioneered by the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the early-1970s Scheme is focused upon failing modules, utilises feedback from leaders to teaching staff and allows for regular meetings between PASS mentors to share experiences

3 Intro. Our in-house scheme at the University of Ulster is different but no less ambitious and follows a path based upon constructivist learning theory Tutors share their experiences and shape local learning environment First year students in the SES are enrolled on a range of environmental science, geography and marine science honours programmes, as well as an associate bachelors degree (ABD) in environmental studies (Common curriculum/ induction activities/ studies advice/ PTS)

4 Aims We set out to analyse the value of using peer-mentors to facilitate the preparation of first year students for their end-of- semester university examinations Our aim was to determine if the SSTs were having a beneficial effect in an area of perceived weakness: the three-hour, essay writing/multiple short answers assessment

5 The SST project As part of our induction process the School employs final year/ postgraduate students to take part in peer mentoring activities (Recruitment/ sound K&U/ experience/ small remuneration/ training/ formative activities) The workshops are a smaller-scale and shorter variation on the PASS/ SI/PAL schemes mentioned earlier (Share own received learning strategies/ hints/ encouraged to lead/ workshops organised by SSTs)

6 Data collection Project evaluation was based upon a mixed-methodology involving both quantitative and qualitative techniques For the purposes of this case study, statistical data relating to progression from level four and covering the reference period from were analysed (exam results/ attendance records/ failures/ module average marks) Qualitative feedback was received from first year students via an anonymous survey resulting in 68 questionnaires being completed and a response rate amongst workshop attendees (in 2008/09) of 79 per cent

7 Results

8 Caution At the School level, we observed a steady increase in overall levels of attendance and in the average number of workshop attendances to 2009, audiences increased from 35 to 80 per cent/ attendances grew from 1.7 to 1.9 per student -As practice was embedded, tutor-training techniques evolved, mentors became mentees

9 Results (cont.) These positive signs were reinforced by the numbers of examination failures amongst attendees at SST workshops falling from 1.2 per student in 2006/07 to 0.5 per student in 2008/09 In contrast, and in spite of the numbers of workshop absentees having fallen to less than 20 per cent, examination failures amongst this group remained consistently higher (absentees between 2 and 3x more likely to fail exam) ES absentees could expect to fail 2 out of 4 exams/ Geography attendees ran 1 in 5 chance of failing

10 Results (cont.) In terms of module average marks the discrepancy between the attendees and absentees was even more remarkable -ES/Geog attendees recording mean module marks 16/17 per cent higher than absentees -ABD attendees (2.5 workshops/3) recording two degree classifications difference -MS students attendance had less marked effect

11 Discussion At face value, there appeared to be a cause and effect relationship between engagement with the peer mentoring scheme and enhanced examination performance On reflection, the picture was more complicated. Of note was the finding that amongst workshop attendees, only 16 per cent went to three sessions and the modal level of attendance was just one workshop Decay due to coursework commitments (56%) and ill- health (16%) Lack of marked assessment (?) the senior student tutorials … were … focussing too much on simple study and revision skills Anecdotal discussion revealed that some students who started attending workshops and then stopped were amongst the most talented and self-confident members of their cohort

12 Discussion (cont.) A second discussion of those attending two/three workshops confirmed that the SSTs were engaging with highly motivated, risk-averse students; conscientious individuals who were responding positively to their tutors (comfort/ freedom/ practise) First year students gained confidence, less intimidated, empowered Whatever the real explanation, it is clear that we face challenges (1. embrace non-attendees; 2. promote extended engagement) Introduced assessed mock exam exercise

13 Conclusion There are no major reasons why this type of senior student tutor scheme (operating as part of a broader studies advice tutorial system) cannot be transferred to other faculty in Ulster or beyond (progression problems/ collegiality and interconnectedness) -locally controlled, low-cost, small-scale, peer mentoring model

14 Further information/ TY Ulster CHEP, Perspectives on Pedagogy and Practice, Vol. 2, September 2011, pp Funding from STAR Fellowship (FLHS, Ulster) HEA Travel Fund

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