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May 29, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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Tutoring Review Reveals Discrepancies

A review of tutoring at VUW has revealed issues with the current system and made recommendations for changes.

A working group was formed in October 2016 to undertake the review. Prior to this, no systematic review of tutoring had previously been conducted by VUW. However, in a 2016 survey conducted by VUWSA, nearly half of the 250-tutor sample group raised concerns about marking loads, time allocation for marking, and remuneration.

Many of the issues raised by the current review appear to be rooted in wide discretion, and cross-school and faculty inconsistencies, with recruitment and practice.

The report revealed a lack of guidelines around the qualifications and experience required for tutoring, and that “variable recruitment practices — from transparent recruitment practices to shoulder tapping — presented further inconsistencies.”

A 100-level tutor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences described their employment process as “arbitrary.”

“There was no interview — you just handed in your application, and if the Head of School liked you, you got the job.”

Alternatively, a 100-level tutor in the Faculty of Law described a more rigorous process of responding to an advertisement, applying for the position with a CV, and an interview with the course coordinator. However they added, “I think the process with selecting head tutor is quite arbitrary at times, and there’s always people who slip through the cracks […] but overall, it’s a more structured system.”

The data gathered throughout the review process highlighted inconsistencies around workload, recognition, and reward. The report found that core paid training for first time tutors was minimal and insufficient for the role they play in VUW’s teaching and learning context.

The tutor from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences reflected on the disparity between what they were paid and what was required of them in supporting students. “I get paid for 25 hours a week, and do 12–14 hour days every day.”

“Last week I sat down at my desk at 10.00am and I was there till 5.00pm, just answering student emails. I have 120 students this trimester; if they each send me one email every week, and it takes 10-15 minutes to reply, […] it adds up.”

“I don’t have any problem with replying to student emails, it’s more that I wish I got paid for it.”

Conversely, the tutor from the Faculty of Law reflected that while there was a high volume of student contact around the examination period, their experience was very different.  “I’ve never felt like we were undervalued, and I think the tutors in the Law Faculty are really well supported.”

The report sets out a range of recommendations, including an invitation for the Vice Provost (Academic and Equity) to work alongside academic groups to develop pan-university guidelines for tutoring.

VUWSA President Rory Lenihan-Ikin said VUWSA looked forward to the outcomes of the report. “Having been involved in the review, VUWSA was pleased with the report and felt that it illustrated an accurate picture of some of the issues that exist within the tutoring system across the university.

“Tutors are an incredibly important part of the student experience. It is essential that they are well trained, supported, and remunerated, and that this takes place consistently throughout the university.”

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