Personal tutor encounters: understanding the experience

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Abstract

Aim

To investigate the lived experience of the 'support' relationship between students and their personal tutors.

Method

The purposive sample comprised 36 personal tutors and 44 pre-registration undergraduate nursing students on diploma and degree-level courses (adult, mental health and child branch) from a London university school of nursing and a northern university school of nursing. Private audiotaped interviews were conducted with the participants. Data analysis was undertaken to identify important themes.

Findings

The tutees varied in their readiness to learn, define, discuss and negotiate support. Positive encounters were when the tutees felt supported. Tutors had an overwhelming feeling of frustration when tutees lacked study skills and came unprepared to tutorials. However, some tutors indicated a high level of empathic understanding for tutees and spent much of their personal time supporting them.

Conclusion

The study illuminated the complexity and skill required to be a tutee and a tutor. Tutors' individual support style reflected tutees' expectations and perceptions to varying degrees. A positive experience by tutees and tutors was perceived when each had a shared understanding of the support concept. Mutual trust, engagement, respect and accepting responsibilities were important elements of the personal tutor and tutee relationship.

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