A Defining Moment for Personal Tutoring: Reflections on Personal Tutor Definitions and their Implications

  • Ben W Walker
Keywords: personal, tutoring, intervention for success, students, higher education, tutors


Despite personal tutoring being a highly important area, it has a contested nature. One contention concerns its definition: in simple terms, what personal tutoring is and, by extension, what effective personal tutoring is. A book on personal tutoring (Stork and Walker, 2015) I co-authored entitled Becoming an Outstanding Personal Tutor - which aims to define the role of the personal tutor in further education as well as explain and demonstrate how to carry out the role effectively - raises a number of questions to be explored further. These have been brought into sharper focus by both my journey from further to higher education and as a result of my former ‘practical’ role as a manager of personal tutoring. The most urgent of these questions are centred on the theme of definition. What alternative definitions are out there? Are single definitions sufficient for the complexity of tutoring? When it comes to personal tutoring, what constitutes a definition anyway? The urgency stems from the increased importance placed on personal tutoring resulting from contextual developments and as shown from the findings of key research reports on the retention and success of students. Similarly, if there is a broad consensus that personal tutoring is vital, then further debate around what it stands for, and should stand for, in terms of good practice, needs to take place. Informed by critical pedagogy, this article will consider these questions of definition and the potential implications for organisations, those undertaking the role and students.