Zoë Leadley-Meade, course director BA (Hons) Education Studies and Andrew Read, Head of Education
Our starting point is, assume nothing. Someone might be doing brilliantly academically but still need help with other aspects of their lives.
Arriving at LSBU from a career as a secondary school teacher, Zoë was struck by how students were expected to be independent right from the start.
In schools, a lot of time is spent preparing pupils for university,” she says. “But people here don’t always come via that route. We needed to ask ourselves, ‘How can we support our students to do their best?
The first step was to introduce an “audit” – a face-to-face meeting with each new student, which includes a short writing test designed to highlight any literacy needs. Students are given feedback at their first meeting with their personal tutor. “Building that relationship is so important in getting rid of the stigma that can still go along with asking for help,” says Zoë.
Personal tutors also have a key role to play in another aspect of the team’s work: making the assessment process more transparent. “As academics, we tend to speak in code,” says Andrew Read. “It’s all very well telling someone they need to develop their arguments more, but unless they’re steeped in the academic world, that’s not going to mean much to them.”
Now, students at the start of their second year sit down with their personal tutor to look at their first-year marks, discuss their goals and identify specific areas for development. “I feel we have a moral responsibility,” says Andrew.
We’ve taken them on because they have the potential to do well. We can’t just say, ‘It’s sink or swim’.
Zoë’s priority this year is to get more students involved in sharing their experiences with their peers. “That’s much more powerful than hearing it from a lecturer,” she says. For Andrew, it’s about continuing to build momentum. “The first group of students to benefit from these initiatives have done really well,” he says. “Our diverse population is completing their degrees, and getting great results.”
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