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Student Case Studies: Tutorials and One to Ones

Look at these scenarios illustrating how a student’s needs can be impacted by their university experience.

Katarina

Katarina is a first year Chemistry student with a hearing impairment. As a part of her course she takes part in regular tutorials.

Read Katarina’s case study

Consider these two versions of Katarina’s story:

Version 1

Katarina has some hearing and has a hearing aid but relies on lip-reading to ensure that she had full understanding of what is being said.

As a part of her course, Katarina takes part in regular tutorials aimed at exploring key themes within each module of her course. Though Katarina has declared her disability to the university and has had some reasonable adjustments recommended, she is not participating fully in the tutorials she has had to date and feels that she is not benefitting from them. In fact, in fact she is considering not attending her next tutorial due to her experiences so far.

Though the tutor ensures that she speaks directly to Katarina and clarifies key points, Katarina has found herself unclear about the purpose of some tutorials and has struggled to take much from them. She also finds the process of lip reading challenging, particularly when it is her fellow students speaking and Katarina misses out on lots of what is said. Katarina therefore prefers to keep quiet in discussions rather than appear unknowledgeable. This is compounded by her speech being mildly affected adding to Katarina’s lack of confidence in these situations.

In one tutorial the group watched a short film clip without captions and subtitles. This further compounded Katarina’s feelings of otherness.

To work around this Katarina tries to focus on taking notes, but again finds this difficult because she isn’t always certain about what the key points are plus everything feels a bit rushed so she always seems to be playing catch up with her notes. Thankfully, in her last tutorial, this tutor had circulated some notes in advance plus Katarina’s friend, who is aware of her difficulties, was a part of this group and prompted Katarina on occasions and also provided her with a set of her notes.

After her three tutorials to date, Katarina has had to ask for notes from classmates and try to work her way through what was discussed. She has tried to ask some questions one to one with tutors and they have been helpful in offering answers. But Katarina feels that key opportunities to deepen her learning in the tutorials have been missed. 

Despite her last tutorial proving a slightly better experience for her Katarina is increasingly anxious about her next tutorial and is considering not attending.

Version 2

Katarina is a first year Chemistry student with a hearing impairment. Katarina has some hearing and has a hearing aid but relies on lip-reading to ensure that she had full understanding of what is being said.

As a part of her course, Katarina takes part in regular tutorials aimed at exploring key themes within each module of her course. Katarina has declared her disability to the university and has had some reasonable adjustments recommended and her Personal Academic Tutor has discussed these with Katarina. Katarina has said she is happy for some guidance to be sent to all her tutors on how she can best be accommodated in lessons and other situations.

In her tutorials to date the tutors have discussed general ground rules with the group before they start including one person speaking at a time and the option to record the session if anyone wants to (on the proviso that this is only used for supporting note-taking afterwards). They have set up discussions so that everyone can clearly see each other. Information about the purpose of the tutorials and some key learning materials and terms are circulated in advance.

Katarina’s experience is that tutors speak directly and clearly to her and make sure that they clarify key points, by writing on a board on occasions. The tutor has also introduced a short comfort break and Katarina finds this useful. Though Katarina still has some lack of confidence due to her speech, she is contributing more, particularly as she no longer has to worry about taking extensive notes as well.   

At the end of the tutorials her tutors check in with her and ask if there are any issues. She highlights the lack of captions on the video after one tutorial and guidance to all tutors was changed to ask them to do this in future (with instruction to help). On another occasion, Katarina has been a bit concerned by background noise from outside the classroom, so in the next tutorial the tutor had put a Quiet Please notice on the door which had some effect.

Katarina is enjoying the tutorials despite occasional glitches and everyone seems to be benefitting from the structure.

Pause for thought

  • How does Katarina feel in each of these scenarios?
  • What do you think are the issues faced by Katarina in the first version of the scenario?
  • Are these as a result of Katarina or the environment?
  • Would other students also benefit from the differences illustrated in the second scenario?

Sean

Sean is an autistic research student with dyslexia. He has not declared his disability to the University where he is undertaking his research. He has regular one to one meetings with his supervisor.

Read Sean’s case study

Consider these two versions of Sean’s story:

Version 1

Sean has a meeting with his research supervisor. Sean is increasingly apprehensive about the meeting on his one-hour train journey to campus as the meeting is in a coffee shop and he finds these meetings less useful than those that are held in his research supervisor’s office. This is particularly as he gets distracted by noise and other interruptions and finds it hard to fully express his questions and concerns when surrounded by other people. Sean is also unclear whether these are official supervisory meetings or a more informal touch base.

Sean’s research supervisor has planned the meeting in the coffee shop in an attempt to provide a more informal environment in which to meet after Sean had appeared uncomfortable and monosyllabic in his previous meeting. He hopes that this will help reduce Sean’s anxiety and enable him to get into greater detail about Sean’s progress.

Sean arrives late at the meeting having not been clear where it was taking place and then going to another coffee shop instead. Once there though he thinks he is clear about what he is supposed to bring to the meeting, when he gets there, he is surprised to find out that he is expected to have brought more detail on progress with his research. If he had known he would have shared this by email with his supervisor beforehand. Due to the distractions and his growing anxiety, Sean finds it difficult to discuss his progress despite his supervisor offering helpful prompts throughout. Sean asks if he can record the session as he finds note-taking difficult and his supervisor agrees but the recording turns out to be poor due to the flow of the conversation and the background noise.

The meeting ends more quickly than had been planned and Sean leaves feeling that he has failed to meet some vital component of his research. His journey home is not a pleasant one and he is unproductive for the next few days. He doesn’t feel that he benefitted from the meeting and he has as many questions now as he had before. He feels demoralised.

Sean’s supervisor contacts Sean a few days later with some notes of the meeting and suggests to Sean that they book another meeting on the phone or in person. They assure Sean that they recognise the meeting didn’t go well and want to discuss how they can make things work better moving forwards. This offers Sean some relief after a difficult few days for him.

Version 2

Sean is an autistic research student with dyslexia. He had not declared his disability to the University where he is undertaking his research until his supervisor sent him some details of the Disability Service after a previous supervisory meeting proved difficult for Sean. Sean’s research supervisor had asked at the time how he could improve the experience for Sean and Sean disclosed his disabilities and the impact that they have on him in a meeting environment and they agreed some measures to support Sean moving forwards.  

Before Sean’s next meeting with his research supervisor, he is offered the opportunity to meet online so that he doesn’t have to make the one-hour train journey to campus for the meeting. However, Sean wants the opportunity to discuss things face to face, plus he will have the opportunity to access the University library at the same time. Sean’s supervisor and Sean agree an agenda for the meeting a week in advance. Sean’s journey to campus is relatively smooth, particularly as he has discussed this with his Specialist Mentor and they talked through the travel plans together. Sean is clear from the conversation and the written agenda he has received that this is a formal supervisory meeting and there are some key issues that need to be covered.

The meeting is in a study room close to the library and is in an environment that Sean knows well and is also free from external distractions. The research supervisor has sent directions to the room in advance and Sean finds it with no difficulty. One of the first things they do is check that the room is suitable and once they have agreed that it is, they decide to hold all future meetings in this study room at or around a similar time of day.

Sean has prepared his answers to the questions that he knows will be asked and they have a productive meeting. He records the discussion and his supervisor makes sure to clarify key points where these are required. At the same time, they agree a future programme of meetings so that Sean is clear about next steps.

Sean goes to the library after his supervisory meeting and does some research that he has been planning for some time. He then returns home and his journey is pleasant with Sean feeling that he has had a productive day and has a clear way forward. 

Sean’s tutor follows up the meeting by responding positively when Sean sends through their notes of the meeting. Sean feels encouraged that the supervisor affirms his record of the meeting and key targets for the next meeting. Sean finds the record of the meeting helpful as he works through the notes and his recording of the meeting to make sure that he has a proper plan for the next stages of his research.   

Pause for thought

  • How does Sean feel in each of these scenarios?
  • What do you think are the issues Sean faces in the first scenario?
  • Are these as a result of Sean or the environment?
  • Would other students also benefit from the differences illustrated in the second scenario?
  • What strategies does the research supervisor use to ensure Sean has a supported experience?

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