Academic mentoring and how it can support personalised learning

Smith, Lorraine D. (2014) Academic mentoring and how it can support personalised learning. EdD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This study investigated how academic mentoring in two secondary schools in England could support personalised learning. The focus was limited to academic mentoring of year 11 students by members of staff, which aimed to improve academic performance.

Academic mentoring was one of the strategies used after the introduction of school accountability measures such as league tables and school targets. School accountability is based upon the policies that are believed to have consequences for educational attainment. The overall picture from literature was that mentoring is difficult to define for specific contexts and is linked to many positive outcomes for mentors and mentees. However the link between achievement and mentoring is problematic due to the limited evidence and the complex interplay between different factors.

With the introduction of personalised learning in schools, a new and additional dimension to mentoring was provided besides the enhancement of exam performance. The definition of personalised learning was imprecise and this provided schools with the flexibility to develop initiatives to meet their own needs and context. Despite the research on school based mentoring and its potential outcomes, little was known about how mentoring could support personalised learning beyond the advice and guidance suggested by different models of personalised learning by Hargreaves (2004a) and the DCSF (2008b). This was partly due to the lack of shared understanding of ‘personalised learning’ and which activities could be classified under this term.

The aim of the study is to explore how academic mentoring can support personalised learning. The sub-aims are:

1. How do students and staff understand the purpose of mentoring?

2. How does academic mentoring help students achieve their targets?

3. How does mentoring work effectively for different types of students?

4. How do staff understand personalised learning?

5. What might a mode of mentoring look like to support personalised learning?

This study adopted a qualitative approach in two case study schools. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with students, of differing abilities and gender, and in groups and individually, at the beginning of the mentoring programme and near the end to identify any changes or similarities in their responses regarding mentoring. Staff completed a questionnaire initially to inform the sample choice then semi-structured interviews were conducted regarding their understanding of the mentoring programme and personalised learning. Interviews and documentation were analysed using NVivo 8 software to identify themes in participants’ responses. An analysis of student and staff interviews, relevant documentation and a staff questionnaire yielded insight into the participants’ definition of mentoring, activities and perceived outcomes of mentoring, the logistics of the mentoring programme, and staff perceptions of personalised learning.

The findings of this study suggest that personalised learning and mentoring are poorly understood concepts, but any suggested definitions tended to be context specific. The personalised learning agenda tends to be better understood at the senior leadership level as they are responsible for the integration of the policy into their school. The role of mentor is not viewed in isolation from the other roles a teacher inhabits. However a pre-existing relationship between the mentor and mentee was viewed as the foundation on which to build a successful mentoring relationship. The mentoring outcomes suggested by participants goes part way to preparing students for personalised learning, however there needs to be a consistent approach to ensure that students develop the necessary characteristics to enable them to take responsibility for their learning and progress.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (EdD)
Supervisors: Youens, B.N.
Hood, P.
Keywords: mentoring personalised learning
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 14189
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2014 13:22
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2016 15:36

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