5.2 Role of the tutor in supplying tuition and feedback.

Correspondence tuition is an extremely important aspect of the tutor role and a really good way to develop a personalised approach to support students.

For many students, the comments that tutors put on their marked assignments are the only direct, personal tuition they receive so it is important that the comments added are both supportive and effective. It is an opportunity to be encouraging regarding the work students have submitted and can also be a driving force for student learning.

The feedback given can help to open up a dialogue between tutors and the students they support. Tutors can provide clear advice relating to students’ skills and knowledge development, for example by highlighting how their study relates to specific learning outcomes. As well as providing feedback on the work submitted, it is an opportunity to be forward-looking, to help students improve in future assignments.

It is also an opportunity to help students pace their studies by highlighting the key milestone and upcoming tutorials, for example.

Activity 1

Watch this video where students Heather Bloomer and Cath Brown give an insight into how they regard tutors at the OU.

Download this video clip.Video player: nc4487_alstem_2020_vid004_1080x1920_high.mp4
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Transcript

CATH BROWN
We're on the screen! Yeah. So Heather, tell me about your best tutor at the OU.
HEATHER BLOOMER
Oh gosh. I had a brilliant tutor last year. I have a great one this year too. But my tutor last year was my first ever OU tutor, because I'm in my second year of a creative writing masters. And she was amazing. The most, sort of, what you want when you're trying something new - so for me it's master's level education - is you want someone that encourages you, but also sort of empowers you to go off and do your own thing. And that's just absolutely what I got with my tutor last year.
CATH BROWN
I think feedback's really important as well, isn't it?
HEATHER BLOOMER
So important. Especially - I mean, obviously I can only really talk for my qualification, but to have someone to read so deeply into your work and be able to give you a really thorough feedback that really helps steer you in the right direction, point out where you haven't done quite so great, but also places that they really liked and appreciated, it's just amazing.
CATH BROWN
It is. And I think the fact it's so targeted at you - if I think about some of the great tutors I've had, they're not just giving generic feedback about, that's what you give to anyone who gave that answer. Think thinking about what you did last time and how you've improved, and the sort of standards you set yourself, that they know you want to achieve this, and help you move on to that.
And it can make a real difference how they explain things. I remember my very best ever tutor. There was this topic in this module. And I was studying chemistry. This topic looked like it was biology, and I don't like biology. But she actually managed to show me that this wasn't biology. It was applied chemistry. And that became my favourite ever module.
HEATHER BLOOMER
Wow.
CATH BROWN
And I really do attribute that to her.
HEATHER BLOOMER
So she changed your whole perception of the module.
CATH BROWN
She did. She absolutely did.
HEATHER BLOOMER
Wow.
CATH BROWN
It was brilliant.
HEATHER BLOOMER
Fair play. Yeah, so in, sort of all the pieces of feedback I've had from my now two tutors, I have to say the advice has been so clear and consistent, and really sort of given me a good sense of direction in where I need to go, especially with something that can be quite subjective, like creative writing.
CATH BROWN
Yes.
HEATHER BLOOMER
Sometimes I worry that, you know, one person won't like it, but one person will love it. And where do you go from there? But to have this clear, consistent advice has definitely made me a lot more confident in my own skills, which is amazing.
CATH BROWN
And I think know there's someone out there who actually knows you as a person, who cares about how you get on -
HEATHER BLOOMER
Yes.
CATH BROWN
- as the OU's got loads and loads of students. The OU centrally can't know all of us individually. But your tutor can. And it just makes that much difference. If you're feeling a bit down with your module, you're not quite feeling the love, you're worried, you're not sure you can do it, knowing there's someone who believes in you and can encourage you makes a lot of difference. Doesn't it?
HEATHER BLOOMER
So true. I mean, I had the loveliest of emails from my teacher last year, really encouraging me to keep going, I'm totally understanding when, obviously work full-time, so I got a little bit overwhelmed - a little hairy. I think we were working on Freshers.
CATH BROWN
Ah!
[LAUGHING]
HEATHER BLOOMER
I was like, "I can't do a TMA right now!" So, yeah, so just the encouragement to keep going, have your own goal in sight. And I really felt like she believed in me, which really made a difference.
CATH BROWN
Which enabled you to believe in yourself. Doesn't it?
HEATHER BLOOMER
Yeah. Yeah.
CATH BROWN
The OU wouldn't the OU without out tutors, would it?
HEATHER BLOOMER
Definitely not. Definitely not.
End transcript
 
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After watching the video think about the possible ways of building good tutor–student relationships via correspondence tuition. What kinds of methods could be tried?

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5.3 The marking process