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Introduction of academic mentors and an e-portfolio to support students personal and academic development

Lookup NU author(s): Professor David Kennedy, Dr Kenneth McKeegan, John Moss, John Peterson, Dan Plummer


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Background:Newcastle University has an intake of 343 medical students per year which creates difficulty in forming an effectiveworking relationship between students and staff. Pastoral support is primarily offered via a University-widepersonal tutoring scheme, which is supported by a Senior Tutor. A small number of core staff offer academicsupport when students are identified as being in need. The personal tutoring scheme has proved ineffective for anumber of reasons including:1. Tutors were drawn from a large pool of staff across the Faculty, many of whom have little involvement withthe delivery of the MBBS programme.2. Tutor meeting were deemed to have little focus or value by many students leading to poor uptake ofmeetings and no relationship being established.3. Access to Tutors was problematic for many given the distance to where they were based, particularly forstudents in the clinical years of study.Through our curriculum review process, we wanted all students have a personalised point of contact within theschool who would not only support them pastorally, but also their personal and academic development. Theacademic mentor scheme that has been developed is akin to education supervision in Foundation and has beenintroduced from the Year 1 intake in September 2017. The scheme will roll out across all years as our refreshedcourse is implemented.Methodology:An academic mentor is an appropriately trained member of staff within the School of Medical Education who is thestudent’s first port of call for advice or direction to further support on academic and pastoral matters. Academicmentors listen to and support students in difficulty, monitor students’ engagement with learning and teaching,support students in their development of learning plans and provide guidance in relation to University and MBBSpolicies and procedures. To facilitate academic mentors in supporting their mentees we have developed an eportfoliowhich provides both parties with a range of tools including:1. Access to information held on the student record, including attendance2. Access to assessment results and feedback3. Access to clinical skills and mandatory training records4. Ability to share reflections, learning plans and comment electronicallyAcademic mentors may direct students to relevant support within the school (e.g. Senior Pastoral Tutor), or toUniversity wide institutional services and support such as the Careers Service or the Student Wellbeing Service.A schedule of meetings with purposeful agendas has been timetabled around key events including induction,assessment results, end of semester 1 and for an end of year appraisal. Each scheduled meeting is preceded by amentor training session facilitated by the Senior Mentor and Senior Pastoral Tutor.Results:In Semester 1, all student have had at least 3 recorded meetings within their academic mentor. Mentors andmentees are engaging with the e-portfolio with 98.4% of mentors signing off students’ evidence of completedmandatory training by the end of Semester 1. Students have been using the reflective tools more than ever beforewith 2541 individual reflections being recorded in Semester 1 alone. Health, personal and academic issues are beingidentified early and students signposted to relevant support by their mentors. Results from the evaluation ofintroducing this scheme will also be presented.Discussion:The introduction of academic mentors and the supporting e-portfolio has enabled staff to engage in meaningfuldiscussion to support students not only pastorally, but to also support their personal and academic development.Students and mentors are engaging with tools with the e-portfolio that demonstrate discussion around academicprogress is taking place. Purposeful, regular and informed meetings between staff and students will help develop aprofessional personal relationship between staff and students despite the large cohort size. It will also help toidentify and remediate any issues early.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kennedy D, McKeegan K, Moss J, Peterson J, Plummer D

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Association for the Study of Medical Education Annual Scientific Meeting

Year of Conference: 2018

Pages: 353-353

Online publication date: 11/07/2018

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

Publisher: Association for the Study of Medical Education