Chapter 4 Vertical tutoring

We are currently piloting a vertical tutoring (VT) system for undergraduate students. VT is already widespread in secondary education, (Barnard 2010; Drury 2013) but as far as we know has not been widely used in higher education.

Extending the idea of Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) pass.manchester.ac.uk, vertical tutoring creates tutorial groups with a representative from one of each year of undergraduate study combined with alumni.

Conventional horizontal tutor groups (shown in black) bring together a group of students in the same year. For example, year 1 students meet as a small group once per week during term time with their tutor. Vertical tutor groups (shown in red) are made of of one student from each year and an alumni. Vertical tutor groups extend the idea of PASS, to full stack mentoring, crossing all levels

Figure 4.1: Conventional horizontal tutor groups (shown in black) bring together a group of students in the same year. For example, year 1 students meet as a small group once per week during term time with their tutor. Vertical tutor groups (shown in red) are made of of one student from each year and an alumni. Vertical tutor groups extend the idea of PASS, to full stack mentoring, crossing all levels

4.1 Full stack mentoring

A vertical tutor group will typically contain five members as shown in Figure~4.1. The group meets physically where possible, or virtually via a slack channel which consists of:

  1. One first year student
  2. One second year student
  3. One penultimate year student (out on industrial placement)
  4. One final year student (returned from placement or summer internship)
  5. One member of our alumni, recent graduate or via network.manchester.ac.uk

Vertical tutor groups meet twice per semester. It is very unlikely that a free timetable slot for all years and alumni can be found during normal office hours, because of the complexities of timetabling. So evenings will be likely to work best. Where possible, tutor groups will meet face to face, with remote members (e.g. placement students and alumni) typically joining virtually by slack or similar.

4.2 What is it good for?

Vertical tutoring is an attractive idea but does it actually work? If so, how? What is it useful for? We would like to find out:

  1. If there is any appetite for vertical tutoring amongst students and alumni
  2. How it could work e.g. with slack.com or discord etc?
  3. How many times can/should vertical tutor groups meet? Twice per semester? More frequently? Less frequently?
  4. What are suitable topics for discussion in a vertical tutorial? Careers, wellbeing, networking etc
  5. What kind of specialist groups could be useful e.g. all female groups, research focussed tutorial groups (with MSc & PhD students), ordinary “vanilla” groups etc
  6. How much can we breakdown entrenched year groups that persist throughout education (Robinson 2006)
  7. What might the benefits be? (Robinson 2010)

As this is an experiment, students have been selected on a voluntary basis. If you’re a student or former student and would like to get involved, let me know.

4.3 How long will all this take?

We ask that tutees commit to:

  • two one hour sessions per semester
  • some setup and administration, slack channels, scheduling suitable times and dates with your group
  • Two hours of time for feedback and review after each semester, by email survey

References

Barnard, Peter. 2010. Vertical Tutoring: Notes on School Management, Learning Relationships and School Improvement. Grosvenor House Publishing Limited. https://www.verticaltutoring.org.

Drury, Emma. 2013. “A Guide to Vertical Teaching: Advice from Experts and Teachers Who Use Vertical Teaching in Their Schools.” The Guardian. London. https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/jan/08/vertical-teaching-guide-early-exam-entry.

Robinson, Ken. 2006. “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” TED Conferences LLC. https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.

Robinson, Ken. 2010. “Changing Education Paradigms.” TED Conferences LLC. https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms.