Becoming an Outstanding Personal Tutor: Supporting Learners through Personal Tutoring and Coaching

Becoming an Outstanding Personal Tutor: Supporting Learners through Personal Tutoring and Coaching

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How confident do you feel in your personal tutoring role? In the face of ever-increasing and demanding learner issues, do you feel equipped to provide the essential support to meet their needs? This timely book provides you with essential help in an area which has often been given little attention in comparison with curriculum delivery by:

  • contextualising the support side of a teacher’s role within further education;
  • looking beyond conventional notions of personal tutoring and coaching;
  • appreciating the real world applications of issues;
  • recognising the benefits personal tutoring and coaching bring to learners and educational institutions;
  • reflecting on a variety of different approaches to support learners’ achievement as well as positively affecting institutional key performance indicators.

It provides proven practical advice and guidance for planning and delivering group tutorials, undertaking one to ones, identifying and managing vulnerable learners and those at risk of not achieving, as well as helping learners to progress onto their chosen career paths. It explores methods to engage the most disaffected and hard to reach learners, as well as stretching and challenging the more able.    

It includes clear aims, detailed case studies, learning checklists and a unique self-assessment system for the reader and the educational institution. You are encouraged to develop your skills in order to influence individual learners as well as the systems, processes and performance of your educational institution by becoming an outstanding personal tutor. 

The text is an excellent foundation for the majority of modules on teacher training qualifications and is relevant to any pre-service or in-service trainee teacher or existing practitioner with a personal tutoring role, a specialised personal tutor, manager or anyone in a learner-facing role within further education.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781910391075
Publisher: Critical Publishing
Publication date: 10/21/2015
Series: Further Education
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 216
File size: 1 MB

About the Author


Andrew Stork is a lecturer in marketing, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and co-author of the highly regarded book Becoming an Outstanding Personal Tutor: Supporting Learners through Personal Tutoring and Coaching. As well as presenting at national and international conferences he has published research in personal tutoring and coaching. He has held the roles of cross-institutional quality lead for personal tutoring and student experience, course leader of the postgraduate certificate in education course, and a variety of curriculum leadership, quality and staff development positions. He is a chartered marketer and, prior to working in education, worked in marketing management and consultancy roles.

Ben Walker has co-responsibility for the personal tutoring and coaching of learners at The Sheffield College and is an English lecturer and teacher trainer. Prior to this he was a full time English lecturer for several years and then head of department for English. Through teaching on the PGCE and certificate of education courses and being an observer, he has experience training, mentoring and supporting teachers and personal tutors.  He has undertaken recently published research into how coaching conversations help students learn through the Education and Training Foundation and working with The University of Sunderland’s Centre for Excellence in Teacher Training,

Susan Wallace is Emeritus Professor of Education at Nottingham Trent University where, for many years, part of her role was to support learning on the initial training courses for teachers in the FE sector.  She has researched and published extensively on education, training and management of behaviour, and is a popular keynote speaker at conferences. Her particular interests are in mentoring and the motivation and behaviour of students.


Andrew Stork is an Academic Professional Development Adviser at the University of Sheffield and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He is co-author of two highly regarded texts for Critical Publishing: Becoming an Outstanding Personal Tutor: Supporting Learners through Personal Tutoring and Coaching and Effective Personal Tutoring in Higher Education. As well as presenting at national and international conferences he has published research in personal tutoring and coaching. He has held the roles of cross-institutional quality lead for personal tutoring and student experience, course leader of the postgraduate certificate in education course, and a variety of curriculum leadership, quality and staff development positions. He is a chartered marketer and, prior to working in education, worked in marketing management and consultancy roles. Find out more about Andrew's work at

Ben Walker is a senior lecturer and doctoral researcher in academic development at the University of Lincoln and co-authored the highly regarded Becoming an Outstanding Personal Tutor: Supporting Learners through Personal Tutoring and Coaching (2015).  He has designed and delivered staff development on personal tutoring, is a member of the UK Advising and Tutoring (UKAT) Professional Development committee and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  Previously he held the roles of manager of personal tutoring, head of department for English, course leader of the Postgraduate Certificate in Education course and English teacher. Find out more about Ben at

Susan Wallace's particular interests are in mentoring and the motivation and behaviour of students, hence she is a popular keynote speaker at conferences. She is Emeritus Professor of Education at Nottingham Trent University where, for many years, she supported learning on the initial training courses for teachers in the FE sector. She has researched and written extensively on education, training and behaviour management.

Read an Excerpt

Becoming an Outstanding Personal Tutor

Supporting Learners through Personal Tutoring and Coaching

By Andrew Stork, Ben Walker

Critical Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2015 Andrew Stork and Ben Walker
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-910391-07-5


What is a personal tutor?

Chapter aims

This chapter helps you to:

• explore the natural overlap between outstanding teaching and personal tutor practice;

• define the personal tutor;

• explore the useful relationship between personal tutoring and coaching;

• consider different theoretical models and apply these to different situations;

• recognise the useful qualities and attributes of personal tutoring within different situations and create actions to improve your practice;

• understand different institutional models of personal tutoring and evaluate their relative advantages and disadvantages.

Setting the scene

How outstanding personal tutoring principles lead to outstanding teaching

The principles of being an outstanding teacher are very similar, if not the same in most instances, as the principles of being an outstanding personal tutor. For example, both the teacher and personal tutor demonstrate a commitment to learners through respecting their uniqueness and individuality and therefore provide appropriate learning experiences as well as aiming to motivate and inspire learners to achieve their potential. Personal tutoring principles are ones that most trainee and experienced teachers use many times throughout their working day. Even though these are principles that learners find particularly helpful, they tend to be the least written about and are not always covered in teacher training.

So, what are these principles? We use the phrase outstanding personal tutoring principles as the umbrella term which includes all of the numerous aspects covered within this book, from values and skills through to key activities and measuring impact, together with everything in between. Your teacher training will show you how to plan and teach a good lesson, which is of course vital. However, it is important to explore how other complementary approaches, which help learners succeed, can be learnt and mastered.

Good teachers and good teaching aim to put each learner at the centre of everything, whether that is when planning a lesson, marking a piece of homework or even having a departmental meeting with colleagues. In today's modern, fast-paced, target-driven and ever-changing educational landscape, teachers, whether you like it or not, are expected to offer more to a learner's success than just traditional classroom delivery. Whatever your methods, you are trying to help learners to get from point A to point B, but more quickly than they could do by themselves. Point B is learner success, though as you will already have found out, 'success' for each learner looks very different and, if we are honest, probably should look very different. This is where the outstanding personal tutoring principles will enable you to help your learners achieve more, not only in terms of passing an exam or achieving a good grade on a piece of coursework, but also in terms of developing the whole learner, one who can confidently overcome all of the many and varied challenges they encounter.

The focus on a greater holistic approach to education has also been reinforced outside education by, for example, The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which states that 'we need an education and skills system that supports and encourages the holistic development of young people, with a focus on attitudes and behaviours as well as knowledge and skills', and for this to happen they would like to see 'a framework [Ofsted] that places more equal weight on this wider personal development as on academic progress' and they also propose placing personal development as a separate graded judgement (Confederation of British Industry, 2014, online). This has, in part, come to pass with the 2015 Common Inspection Framework.

As you read through the book, you will find that in your role as a personal tutor you are well placed to be able to contribute to this more holistic approach to developing your learners (see Figure 1.1).

It is important to understand that the line between outstanding teaching and personal tutoring principles do overlap and naturally become blurred as you face different situations and challenges both within and outside the classroom. The likelihood is that the personal tutoring principles will be performed alongside your curriculum teaching and vice versa.

When working with learners for the first time as trainee teachers, we have a tendency to be overly analytical and critical of our teaching practice. This is natural and also not such a bad thing in moderation because it shows that you are keen to get it right and to improve. The key to becoming an outstanding personal tutor is like many things in teaching (and life): practice, practice, practice. If you continue to apply the personal tutoring principles in different situations and with different types of learners and reflect on the impact, then you will quickly move from being an intrepid beginner to becoming an outstanding personal tutor.

The definition of the personal tutor

Here, we define the personal tutor. But remember, in this book we shall explore what it means to be an outstanding personal tutor.

The personal tutor is one who improves the intellectual and academic ability, and nurtures the emotional well-being, of learners through individualised, holistic support.

What constitutes emotional well-being is discussed later in the book.

In addition to this definition, we want to bring in the highly important and valuable element of coaching. Personal tutoring and coaching can be seen as separate, but the model of the outstanding personal tutor includes coaching elements within it. In order to understand this more fully, we will analyse scenarios later in the chapter as well as dedicating a full chapter to solution-focused coaching (Chapter 6).

Personal tutoring and coaching: dictionary definitions and history of the terms

There are many definitions of coaching in existence but very few of personal tutoring. Viewing the 'stock' dictionary definitions of the terms and their derivation (source and original meanings) aids understanding. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary and the online etymology dictionary give us the following definitions and derivations.

As you can see, the modern word 'tutor' has a purely academic sense. However, the original Latin meaning of 'guardian, watcher' and its verb form 'watch over' is certainly relevant to the personal tutoring principles. Also, by putting the two together, with the adjective 'personal' modifying the noun 'tutor', we have a sense of a practice tailored to the individual. (The third definition of the verb 'to tutor' – 'to restrain, discipline' is something that we may relate to, if not directly in the support role!)

Although there is partly an association with a particular field (sport), the term coach, both as a noun and a verb, contains meanings with immediate relevance: instructor, trainer, train, teach, give hints to. Its history gives us the highly relatable sense of 'carrying through'. A very pertinent image is provided with the meaning broadening from the literal physical carrying of 'stagecoach' to the metaphorical sense of carrying a learner through an exam. In our context, the 'carrying through' is widened to include many aspects of the learner from the programme of study and barriers to learning, to name but two.

The relationship between personal tutoring and coaching

You can see the common ground and also the subtle distinctions between these two terms. More often than not, definitions try to harness all of the component parts into what is usually quite a clunky and awkward sentence or series of sentences (but not our definition of the personal tutor ... of course!). With this in mind, Table 1.3 provides our interpretation of the two elements divided into approach, core focus and context, along with how it helps learners. The jagged line illustrates the close relationship between the two.

Personal tutoring focuses on developing a trusting longer-term relationship with a learner through listening and regular communication. It can take the form of being directive and non-directive, focusing on working with individual learners over a significant period of time to advise and help them acquire new skills and improve their approach to learning – for example, developing their focus, motivation and skills in independent learning and reflection – as well as counselling them to nurture their emotional well-being and development.

Coaching skills and actions lend themselves more towards regular one-to-one conversations you have with learners either within a class, in the corridor or while having an arranged one-to-one meeting, in order to influence a more immediate improvement in performance and the development of skills.

To avoid confusing personal tutoring and coaching, we need to view them as related to each other but not the same. A personal tutor may include elements of coaching if the need arises, but a coach is not a personal tutor. Personal tutoring leans more towards being relationship based with the learner, while coaching is a more functional process to create an immediate improvement in learner performance.

Critical thinking activity 1

1. How well do the definitions of personal tutoring and coaching fit with your own experience, whether that is through 'doing', being on the receiving end or from observing these activities in practice?

2. From your own experience, how would you define personal tutoring and coaching? Make a note of your definitions so that you can see whether your definitions change as you read though the rest of the book.

As a trainee teacher, reading definitions of the two roles to develop your understanding of what a personal tutor is can be a good starting platform. However, let's now explore the definitions further and put the roles, as defined, into situations you can relate to.


Sarah's story

Sarah is a trainee teacher who is on her second teaching placement at a sixth-form college.

Week 1

Sarah has been given the job of meeting a large group of level 3 extended diploma business learners each week, on top of her teaching commitments. Her head of department has tasked her with delivering engaging group sessions focusing on CV writing, researching employers and universities as well as developing learners' employability skills. She must also work with each learner individually to review their individual learning plans (particularly focusing on assessing how each learner is progressing against their target grades) and to review and set new SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related) targets regularly. Her head of department has asked her if she could track and monitor the learners' progress throughout her placement and give feedback on their progress to the rest of the teaching team during the weekly departmental meeting. Sarah has found that she has been speaking to parents on the phone a lot when some learners have been late, absent or not meeting assignment deadlines. She has found this work challenging but rewarding.

Week 2

In her second week, while delivering an AS business studies class where the learners are working in groups to develop presentations, Sarah finds that she has time to work with learners individually to discuss their learning and progress. Paul, a learner in the class, confides in her that he is finding that he cannot keep up with all of the expectations of the course and he feels he is falling behind. It is obvious that he feels anxious. Sarah allows Paul to express his concerns and questions him to find out whether he is actually behind with his work and what reasons he believes there are for this. As the conversation develops, it becomes clear to Sarah that Paul isn't actually too far behind with his work but that his recent unexpected poor exam results have knocked his confidence. Sarah steers the conversation more towards Paul's strengths and enables him to explore the potential actions he could take to regain his confidence and get back on track. They agree some small next steps for Paul to take and decide to review the outcomes of Paul's actions in the class the following week.

Week 3

During her third week, Sarah has arranged to meet learners from her extended diploma group regularly for one-to-ones. She explores with each learner how they are feeling and encourages them to discuss what issues they are facing both within and outside the college. Sarah asks questions and challenges the learners to think about and express their issues a bit more deeply than they might normally, while providing encouragement and guidance if needed. Her main aim is to give the learners a chance to look at themselves more closely, to explore new ideas and help build their confidence. She encourages the learners to take the initiative, and any actions resulting from the meeting that contribute to their learning and progress remain their responsibility. She helps them to think about potential outcomes of the actions in more detail and how long they think it would take for them to show progress. Sarah has found working with her learners one-to-one is rewarding and a welcome change from normal classroom delivery. She has discovered that the learners tend to behave differently compared to when they are in a normal classroom or corridor setting and that for the remainder of the placement she is looking forward to this aspect of her role.

Critical thinking activity 2

[much greater than] Having read through this case study of interactions between a trainee teacher and learners, and drawing on your own knowledge and experience, decide which aspect of the role is being described in each instance – personal tutoring or coaching. Then compare your answers with those offered in the discussion below.


Week 1: more personal tutoring than coaching; Sarah worked on monitoring and developing the learners' academic performance and their employability skills, which will continue throughout her placement.

Week 2: more coaching than personal tutoring; through questioning and discussion Sarah helps Paul to explore the reasons behind his drop in academic performance and helps him to set his own actions and the dates to review.

Week 3: personal tutoring (however, there are strong elements of a coaching approach); Sarah starts to develop a long-term trusting relationship with the learners individually through regular communication to develop their emotional well-being as well as develop new knowledge and skills.

Other useful ways to understand the role of the personal tutor

Let's now try to unpick the role of the personal tutor and recognise the different types of help and support you can give to your learners. To do this, it will be useful to look at the diagram developed by Clutterbuck (1985) which should start to provide greater clarity. The diagram was designed to explore the role of the mentor in FE, but it is also a useful one to apply to the role and functions of the personal tutor.

As a trainee teacher, your whole day is devoted to helping learners, but the help you provide can take many guises. Figure 1.3 provides typical personal tutoring examples related to Clutterbuck's 1985 model.

As you can see, as a personal tutor you may be called upon to show an abundance of skills and perform a variety of roles within one lesson, group tutorial or one-to-one conversation.

To delve a bit deeper, let's put the above model under the microscope and look in more detail at the four main areas of helping learners (see Figure 1.4). In 2002, Klasen and Clutterbuck developed a more detailed model which helps us consider this further. Like Figure 1.2, this diagram was designed to explore the role of the mentor in FE, but we also find it useful to apply to the role and functions of the personal tutor.

Critical thinking activity 3

Take a detailed look at Figure 1.4: Klasen and Clutterbuck's (2002) model as adapted by Gravells and Wallace (2007).

1. Pick the two styles you feel you carry out the most in your current position (if you are yet to start teaching or your personal tutor role, from your own knowledge, choose which two you think you would do the most) and note down specific examples of when you have had to, or might have to, exhibit these styles of helping.

2. Using the examples you provided for question 1, list the qualities and attributes you:

a. feel you displayed well which benefited the learner and the situation;

b. feel you did less well and you feel you would like more opportunity to develop.


Excerpted from Becoming an Outstanding Personal Tutor by Andrew Stork, Ben Walker. Copyright © 2015 Andrew Stork and Ben Walker. Excerpted by permission of Critical Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: What is a personal tutor?

Chapter 2: Core values and skills of the personal tutor

Chapter 3: Setting boundaries

Chapter 4: The Learner Experience - key activities

Chapter 5: The Learner Experience – key procedures

Chapter 6: Using solution-focused coaching with learners

Chapter 7: Observation

Chapter 8: Reflective practice

Chapter 9: Measuring impact

Chapter 10: What next?


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