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WELS Tutor Awards 2021- an analysis

A trophy lies on its side, with golden start confetti spilling out. A headline reads- WELS Tutor Awards 2021

In 2021, the Faculty of WELS introduced the WELS Tutor Awards for the first time, as a follow on from the established teaching-related awards: Teaching Awards, judged by students, and Student Awards, nominated by tutors. The new WELS Tutor Awards provided students with the opportunity to recognise the dedication and skill of their tutors, who are the backbone of student tuition. Following the awards, analysis was carried out on the nominations to better understand what students valued from their tutors.

All the WELS awards are aligned to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) which requires that good teaching is not only recognised but also rewarded, and so the WELS Tutor Award judging, which included representation from students, tutors and central academic staff, was based on TEF criteria for Teaching Quality.

The online nomination form asked two key questions: what did your tutor do for you, and what impact did it have? Students then had the opportunity to add additional comments. In total, over 850 nominations were made by students, representing more than 460 WELS tutors across all of the Faculty’s Schools. Ten tutors received a WELS Tutor award, and a further five were highly commended.

All of the nomination information was brought together, and many of themes were as anticipated. Specific comments referred to the value of additional support and guidance throughout the difficulties of the pandemic, and tailoring support to students’ individual needs, particularly disability support. Students also told us that their tutors were approachable, encouraging and inclusive.

Here is a summary of the themes emerging from the nominations, with their corresponding impacts:

  • Proactively initiating early contact with each student on their learning journey, as a start to the development of a tutor/student relationship that will be supportive across the presentation. The impact is that each student feels known as an individual and 'not just a number'.
  • Building on individual knowledge of each student to tailor communications appropriately through emails, forums, and tutorials, as well as providing detailed, balanced, and helpful feedback on TMAs. The impact is that students feel valued and in consequence are encouraged and motivated to keep studying and often to improve their grades.
  • Listening carefully when a TMA is failed, helping students understand how specific marking criteria could be met in future. The impact is that students feel heard, valued, and believed in, which can help boost their belief in themselves and their abilities. This can result in better performance as well as in a student deciding not to give up.
  • Making tutorials informative and engaging as well as helping to break down TMA tasks into manageable chunks. Showing a sense of humour is another valued asset. The impact is that students develop enjoyment in their subjects alongside understanding the requirements of individual assignments.
  • Understanding when life events compromise the best laid study plans and offering help with extensions and/or additional support. The impact is that students feel they have a reliably supportive tutor who is at their side to help them through.

For additional comment and further detail on the analysis, please see the full article on The Hoot, by Professor Joan Simons, Associate Dean, Teaching Excellence.

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