2.5 Skills and attributes of an Associate Lecturer

Many different types of people work as tutors and, as mentioned previously, many different types of students come to study at the OU. The skills and attributes of a tutor play a very important part in the effectiveness of the role.

The skills and the attributes of a tutor tend to fall into two broad areas, that again relates to section 2.3, where we discussed teaching and facilitation:

  • Academic tutor support – working with and developing the cognitive needs of students – teaching students.
  • Non-academic and pastoral support – working with the emotional and organisational skills of students and how they impact the overall learning process.

However, in practice, these areas are not always distinct. Tutors have to be prepared to deal with many different situations and/or circumstances that may affect their students' ability to make progress in their studies. For example, technology difficulties; requests for tutor-marked assignments (TMA) extensions; queries about TMA grades, personal situations of students (that impinge on their studies); domineering students (e.g., in tutorials); making adjustments to teaching (to take account of student disability for example); having to meet deadlines for marking; and students having difficulties understanding particular areas covered by the module. Bearing this in mind, it is safe to say that the job of a tutor at the OU, whilst being a rewarding one, is rather different from that of a ‘traditional’ lecturer.

As the first point of contact for a group, tutors need to be able to respond to a variety of situations, not forgetting that there is plenty of support available, should it be needed.

Activity 2

A tutor ideally should be:

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Approachable

  2. Constructive listener

  3. Open and accepting

  4. Honest

  5. Non-judgemental

  6. Empathic

  • a.Being true to themselves about what they can and can’t do, as well as being prepared, in order to build trust in students.

  • b.Understanding how students from different backgrounds feel about being learners.

  • c.Respecting the values of others and not jumping to conclusions.

  • d.Helping students to clarify their concerns without forcing the tutor's own solutions on them. Being reflective and using open-ended questions.

  • e.Being warm and friendly when approached and when contacting students. Placing themselves ‘on a level playing field’ when working alongside students.

  • f.Expressing their views without being directly critical of students.

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = e
  • 2 = d
  • 3 = c
  • 4 = a
  • 5 = f
  • 6 = b

Activity 3

A student has emailed asking for an extension to a TMA. What factors would you take into consideration when deciding your approach?

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Firstly, it is important to find out the reasons for the student wanting to have an extension. This requires tutors to be good listeners and be non-judgemental of the situation, as well as being supportive of the students whilst taking into consideration the plight of the student. Tutors may also have to make a judgement call and turn down a student's request if they feel the reasons for wanting an extension are unwarranted.

2.4 Staff tutors and module teams

2.6 The ethos of correspondence tuition