PGT Student Support

courageouscellistΤεχνίτη Νοημοσύνη και Ρομποτική

29 Οκτ 2013 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 8 μήνες)

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PGT Student Support

Two models of providing additional
support to Masters students at the
University of Southampton

Sarah Rogers (Student Transition to Living and Learning Project)

Jean Leah (Learning and Teaching Coordinator, Management)

Professor Darren Bagnall (Director of PGT Programmes, Electronics
and Computer Science)


January 2011

Overview: The
Masters student


Key features of the transition to PGT study
for all students

Intense period of study

Can be a new discipline for the student

New University environment for most


Particular challenges for international

Different education system (ways of learning, size of

Not first language for many

New country and culture; adapting to life outside of studies

Some who have undertaken pre
sessional may be
complacent (eg. some do not participate in induction

Asking for help is not something that many students,
especially international, are comfortable doing


Common challenges being faced by ECS
and Management Masters students

Sharp increase in Masters student numbers in short period of time

ECS: 100 to 330 in three yrs

Management: 586 to 694 in one year

Very high percentage of international students

ECS 5% UK students

Management 12% UK students

Students not necessarily taking full advantage of existing support
available (e.g. personal tutors)

UK and EU students can feel in the minority and struggle to integrate
effectively with their peers

PGT Peer Advisors
in Management


Outline of the Pilot Scheme

Peer advisor schemes are known to work successfully at UG
level. However, at Masters level, it is difficult to introduce
such a scheme because of the programme length.

Decided to employ two recent Masters graduates for two
months after they had submitted their dissertation

One placement student was from China, the other from the
UK, in order to offer different perspectives


Peer Advisor Brief

Enhance the existing support structures in the School and
University, signposting them to where they should go to get the
information they need

Provide personal insights into what they found the experience to be
like and provide reassurance

Provide a bridge between the social and academic, and the students
and staff

Help build a sense of a Masters student community in the School
(ManSoc seems to predominantly focus on UG interests)

To use a variety of communication methods to reach out to all
students (face to face, email, Facebook, Twitter)

Maintain a log of every query and how it was dealt with



Conversation between School L&T Coordinator and TP, identifying
what could be done to improve the experience of transitioning to study
at Masters level in the School. Peer Advisor idea emerged.

TP Director agreed to fund Peer Advisor scheme if School wanted to

School approval of proposal for two peer advisors, lead by School PG



Job descriptions* and MSA Board approval
(TP lead)

Recruitment in September (email ad*, interview, appointment)

(TP lead)

Office space established
(School lead)

Induction for candidates in October
(School and TP)


See job descriptions and email advertisement for the placements in pack



up communication channels (email, Facebook, Twitter). Also set up
spreadsheet for capturing all queries.

Start of term: Advisors run integration events, weekly social events,
support Bridge the Gap, presentations in classes, gauge interest in and
set up day trips

Ongoing signposting of support available to students by Advisors



Weekly meetings between LTC, TP and the Advisors. In early Nov the
PG Rep* joined these meetings.

Beginning of Dec: Advisors write report on the experience and notes for
next year’s candidates

Mid December: Online survey asking for student feedback to gauge
impact of Peer Advisor Scheme

*This is the first year that a PG Rep was elected, to coordinate all 15 PGT Course


The Peer Advisor Perspective (short film)


The Peer Advisor Perspective (short film)


The Student Perspective (short film)


Online survey feedback (first 100 responses)

How did you feel at different points in your first term here, on a
scale of 1
5 (1 being anxious and unsettled, 5 being relaxed,
comfortable and confident studying here)

1 2 3 4 5

Week one 21%

16% 16% 14%

Around week four 4% 13%

26% 16%

This week 4% 13% 22%


Here are some examples of what the students had to say…


Online survey feedback (first 100 responses)

I was very curious about how things happen in this
university and school in the first week, but unfortunately
the classes was a bit boring and we got a assignment so
soon, and most of us didn’t make it well since we never
settled personally outside the university. But in the later
weeks I really got good friends and classes were especially
good, especially organisational effectiveness, which made
me love my school and university. (I really love the way
they teach us).”


Online survey feedback (first 100 responses)

Week 1

Didn't really know people well enough to ask
them questions, didn't know who to approach etc.

Week 4

You've met all your classmates, you know who
your friends are, some places around campus and in the city
become familiar territory, you've worked in groups so you
are not shy anymore

Week 6

No one's a stranger anymore. Especially in a class
of 30 students , by week 5 you know everyone by their first
name, and since are class is very supportive of each other,
we have had a lot of socials where the entire class gets
together to relax, de
stress and have fun.”


Online survey feedback (first 100 responses)

First it was very difficult in listening the class and making friends here

The following weeks I feel better but there were lots of assignment

felt pressure

Now it is close to the holiday

and nearly courses have finished

I feel
quite happy

However there are still mountainous homework during
the holiday


“When you come from a foreign country, you need some time to adjust
yourself in the different everyday conditions you have to face. What
influenced me personally to change my feelings is the fact that I got
socialized with people really fast, even without knowing anyone before
arriving here, and also the fact that we are all students and we can
understand and provide any kind of help to each other in order to
'survive' into this new environment.”


Online survey feedback (first 100 responses)

93% of students were aware of the Peer Advisors

92% of students said yes, the School should appoint peer
advisors in the future, and here are some examples from the
student feedback about why they should be in place next


Online survey feedback (first 100 responses)

yes, because we need people that are trustworthy to ask
about something outside the university things”

“They should appoint PGT Peer Advisors. For pursuing
masters, students from different countries come here.
They may feel home sick, feel lonely and left out.
Specially in those cases, the Peer Advisors would be
useful to them.”

“Because they have been a friendly and helpful point of

“they helped students to integrate”


Online survey feedback (first 100 responses)

“Well I feel it’s easier for students to talk to students
their own age with questions they might have, they get
the feeling that the Pg Advisor has gone through the
same time and will hopefully be able to sort the issue.”

“They are useful because they have recently finished
their Masters program and are really familiar with what
is going on around the Uni. In addition, we can
communicate with them in our informal way and feel
free to talk to them anytime; they have more free time
than our secretary of personal tutors :)”


Online survey feedback (first 100 responses)

“As far as social life and activities for postgraduates are
concerned, you need some motivators who have spare
time to organize and set things up. Otherwise, there
would not be that much participation and most likely
nothing would really happen.”

“I think they are very helpful for new students since the
age gap is not so much . Normally, new students are
afraid to talk with their tutor directly because of
language barrier.”

“We can’t disturb or approach doctorates or professors
every time for our silly doubts, (like were do we get flip
charts in Southampton) so they are really useful.”



£11k from the Transition to Living and Learning budget to
cover salary costs of placements (this was for the lvl 3
candidate to remain until Feb which didn’t happen, so real
salary cost iro £6

An additional £3k was contributed by the School to support
the cost of running events



The degree to which the two individuals developed as a
result of the placement, and the enhancement to their CVs

The high level of interest in day trips

How easily this scheme integrated and enhanced existing
structures, in particular the Course Rep set

50% of students (350 students) joined the Facebook page



By week 6 current students were happily responding to
each others queries posted on Facebook

By giving the candidates freedom within the role they felt
genuine ownership and enthusiastic about what they were
there to do

Proof that students really will ask anything at any time

there was no pattern to the nature of the queries


Alternative approaches for consideration

Number of Peer Advisors*

Nationality of Peer Advisors*

Hours of work per week (20 hours v.s full time)*

Length of placement (2 months, whole semester, whole
academic year)*

Potential to broaden the remit to cover additional
responsibilities in the School, appropriate for placement

Faculty team
delivery approach, with an academic
strategic lead assigned

* See full options appraisal provided in pack


Next stages for the Scheme in

Committed to continuing next academic year

Plan to continue with two month placement length

Started discussions with Associate Dean Education and
Student Experience in Faculty of Business and Law in view
of rolling the Scheme out in the Faculty


Improvements to be implemented next year

Recruitment should start in Easter of the previous year (the
MSA Board approval delays last year impacted on
recruitment schedule)

Induction will be more structured (candidate this year was
very well informed about University processes and support

Transition from Peer Advisor responsibilities to PG Rep
responsibilities will be built in from the beginning

Incoming students will be informed about the Advisors pre

Essential that the Advisors have their own room

PGT Study Support
Scheme in ECS



Peer Assisted Study Schemes (PASS) or Supplemental Instruction (SI)
have been operating very effectively at undergraduate level in a number
of universities

This Pilot Scheme in ECS uses a similar structure but for MSc students,
using PhD students as facilitators and employing a Graduate Intern to
coordinate the Scheme.

The Scheme is overseen by the Director of PGT Programmes.

The School had recently introduced MSc Project Monitoring whereby
PhD students were supporting MSc students with their projects over
the summer, and the two schemes seemed to complement each other


Outline of the Pilot Scheme

25 PhD students are the (paid) facilitators of weekly
sessions of peer assisted study support to ECS MSc

Numbers of students in each session can vary from 4 to 15
depending on the subject

The facilitators provide a weekly report to the Graduate
Intern, and keep attendance sheets and notes of issues
raised for all sessions.

The Graduate Intern oversees the smooth running of the
sessions, and feeds any common academic issues and
general areas of concern raised by the students to the
Director of PGT Programmes.


Outline of the Pilot Scheme

All 330 MSc students are expected to attend, and if they
miss three sessions the Graduate Intern will be informed. If
some students are already identified as “at risk” they are
approached if they miss just one session.

Each PhD student facilitator works with one
two different
groups of students

The emphasis of the Scheme is around helping all MSc
students to fulfil their full academic potential.


Outline of the Pilot Scheme

Each session covers:

introduction to key topic (if one has been assigned),

review of the previous week and looking ahead to the
next week.

During the weekly sessions students:

compare notes

discuss the course and course materials

compare what they’ve read around the subject

analyse, criticise and seek verification of ideas

raise any non
academic related issues with the


Outline of the Pilot Scheme

The PhD students facilitate these discussions rather than
teach, guiding them through and providing the benefit of
their own experiences.

The PhD students are allocated to student groups that
relate to their research group.

The MSc students benefit from better access to PGR
research and gain insights into life as a PhD student.


Outline of the Pilot Scheme

If issues emerge that are beyond the facilitator brief, the
students will be directed towards the appropriate support
provider (personal tutor, Senior Tutor, School Manager,
SSC (esp First Support), SUAIC, and so on).

PhD students are trained in effective facilitation skills, and
are informed of the full range of support available to
students at the University by the Intern and Director of
PGT Programmes.

The Graduate Intern attends SSLC meetings to be aware of
broader issues that are being raised, and to feed in common
issues that are raised through the Study Support Scheme.


Semester One

Topics covered in sessions

First stage


Second stage

Coursework prep, referencing, software,

Third stage

2 week break where attendance is optional
and focused on coursework

Fourth stage

Exam preparation, how to manage time
and stress

Christmas stage

Review of where students are at, go
through past exam papers, prepare
students for lower marks than they might
be expecting…

Content of the Study Support Sessions



Deputy Head of
School Education

Director of PGT

Student Support
Coordinator (Grad

PhD SSS Facilitators

MSc students

Director of UG

Senior Tutor

School Manager


Staff Student




£28k for Graduate Intern

£15k from Transition to Living and Learning Project

£15k from ECS

All costs covered by ECS for the PhD Facilitators at
standard PGTA rate


Examples of how the Scheme has made a

The School is able to respond to student needs and
concerns much earlier than they have done in the past:

Student suspensions have been encouraged earlier,
rather than after first semester exams

Issues are raised and often dealt with before the next
SSLC meeting

Issues are formally raised at SSLC

Number of issues reaching Director of PGT Programmes
is greatly reduced


Student evaluation

How well have the sessions been run? Rated 4.3 out of 5

Were the sessions enjoyable? 4.0 out of 5

70% of respondents said that the Scheme made a difference
to how they settled in to life at the University

100% of respondents said that the Scheme should continue


Student evaluation: Best feature

“You get to know people who are open to questions of any kind. Good
academic support on a regular basis and discussions about future
options, e.g. PhD, employment etc”

“There are senior students who pass their best experience with living
and study to us, which is really useful. And it gives a more comfortable
and relaxed environment for communication than when we are talking
to our lecturers or even tutors”

“He [the facilitator] has positive energy, he tries to get all students to
talk about their problems and find a solution”

“Opportunity to have a peer chat on issues that need resolving and to be
informed on how to meet certain needs”


Student evaluation: most valuable topics

Time management

Issues relevant to courses


Intelligent Algorithms

How to study exams and coursework

Research topic of facilitator


Student evaluation: suggested improvements

More information about MSc Project

Give more opportunity to share problems privately

Fewer people in group

Greater academic support


Why the Scheme works so well in ECS

Plenty of social space and available rooms in the buildings for the
weekly meetings to take place

Culture of the School

Intense courses

the expectations are so high of the students, they
all find it challenging and are grateful of any additional support

High number of PhD students, many have studied at Masters level
at ECS

School was prepared to contribute half of the salary cost of the
Graduate Intern and all of the costs for the PhD students running
the session

Very experienced Graduate Intern


Next academic year

Dramatic changes in the School as it restructures as a Faculty

Change of roles (Director of PGT programmes, International
Student Officer role)

Where will the Study Support Scheme fit?

Looking ahead and


Looking ahead

University strategy to increase international Masters
student numbers, so it is critical to ensure that we provide
the appropriate support to ensure they are equipped to fully
engage with the learning experience

Opportunities to review student support within new Faculty

Opportunity to develop these schemes further for other
student groups to benefit?


Other developments: supporting international
students with the transition to study at

Extended induction for international students

International student induction redesigned for 2010

Settling International workshops throughout semester one: Making
Sense Of British Culture, Sharing Experiences Of Life At University,
How To Cope With Studying In A Different Culture

Settling International workshop,

November 2010:

“How to cope with studying in a
different culture”


Other developments around supporting
students with the transition to study at

Settling International Newsletter, emailed weekly to all
international students through the first term:

Online pre
sessional in development with the “Prepare
for Success” team led by Julie Watson:


Date for your diaries…

1pm, 16


Room 1019, Building 58a

Carys Fuller (Sociology Teacher, Barton Peverill) and Matt Oakman
(Deputy Head 6

Form, Wellington College) will make a short
presentation each on what the learning experience is like for
students from both a state and private 6

form college perspective,
followed by an open interchange of ideas between all attendees to
improve our awareness of the prior learning experiences and
expectations of our students and how we might bridge any gaps

Key topics for discussion will include:

Teaching and learning styles

Student expectations of feedback on academic learning

Student engagement with research skills

Student preparedness for HE

+ anything else you would like to discuss

RSVP to Sarah Rogers

for catering purposes
(light refreshments will be available)


Contact the Transition to Living and Learning
Project if you would like…

help preparing funding applications

pilot funding for suitable projects

delivery support for pilot projects

research conducted to support education strategy

support in submitting to research journals and

Contact Sarah Rogers

if you would like

to start discussing some ideas


Further examples of Transition to Living and Learning Project activities


Team of trained student transition facilitators available to support

Video streams of example lectures and seminars, for use in induction

Tracked academic performance of international students, based on IELTs
score on entry (ongoing)

SUSU language drop
in for partners of international students pilot

Surveys of the international student experience of transition

In development:

Reviewing the communication plan for the pre
sessional students pre

Developing good practice guide for UG peer mentoring

UG focus groups, by discipline

More detailed course information available online to new students pre