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Personal Tutor Resources - Building Community

Building community

Taking time to build relationships and a sense of community is really important for students to have a positive experience and successful outcomes. This page gathers resources and case studies for new and experienced Personal Tutors on how you can build community and develop rapport with your tutees.

Conversation Starter Resource

We know that Personal Tutors play an important role in helping students to feel welcome in their department and at the University. From the very first meeting with your personal tutee, you can help to set the tone for the rest of their experience at Warwick.

The following Conversation Starter resources have been created by students and are intended as inspiration for a productive meeting in your tutee’s university journey. Students at Warwick come from a range of backgrounds and will have different interests and needs so your conversation should always be tailored to the individual tutee.

You can download and use them as they are, or adapt them to fit better with the model of personal tutoring being operated within your department. Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Access Personal Tutor Meeting ChecklistsLink opens in a new window

How could you build community/rapport between a tutee and a tutor?

  • Icebreakers e.g. Egg drop challenge
  • Group Tutorials
  • Taskmaster activities
  • Heads up game with post-it notes
  • Virtual Escape Room
  • Human Bingo
  • Team or group study project
  • Vertical Group Meetings - Year 1, 2 and 3 together
  • Weekly academic tutorials to increase opportunity for rapport development
  • Social events with food/speakers

Case Study 1: Managing expectations

In Applied Linguistics, colleagues play a game during Welcome Week with all their first year students to help clarify what is and isn't the responsibility of a Personal Tutor.

In groups, students need to work through 12 problem statements and determine which are true, and which are false. This is done using to make it interactive.

Find out more and watch a video on how triptico plus works.Link opens in a new window

Case Study 2: Building community through study skills

In Psychology, the team organise an informal meeting with all their first year students in Welcome Week with food and drink. This is to help introduce everyone and learn names. They then have tutor group sessions every two weeks in term 1 and 2 covering key topics such as:

  • Academic Skills
  • Plagiarism
  • How to use feedback
  • Critical thinking

They also arrange 1:1 meetings at the end of each term with all their students.

Case Study 3: Icebreakers

Icebreakers are fun activities to help people get to know one another. Tutors can use them to help acquaint students with course content and expectations. Icebreakers can also be designed to help 'warm up' tutorials and orient students with the University.

The World at Warwick Team have created a number of icebreakers which they use during their events and with their Global Connections CommunityLink opens in a new window.

View and download the icebreakers here.Link opens in a new window

Case Study 4: Recipe Swap

Consider setting up tutee groups that include tutees from different levels of study – this provides another layer of support and connection for your students. Structure these group interactions with ice breakers and activities that facilitate student-to-student interaction.

A fun ice breaker activity could be a recipe swap. You can encourage students to report back on their attempt at creating the dish. A similar activity could be done with music, favourite places on campus etc. These ice-breakers encourage students to get to know one another and find commonality through differences.

Case Study 5: Egg Drop Challenge

In Life Sciences, students are given the chance to develop their problem solving and observation skills by working in tutor groups to protect an egg from breaking after it is dropped from a height.

The students have to work with interesting tools and materials (e.g. tissue paper, string etc.) and learn how to work as a member of a team.

It's a memorable activity that works well to build community and break the ice.

A similar idea is adapting TaskmasterLink opens in a new window style activities. You can find some examples of these on the Scouts websiteLink opens in a new window.

Case Study 6: Meeting Etiquette

In the Wellbeing Pedagogy LibraryLink opens in a new window, a group of colleagues have produced some guidance on inclusive personal tutor meetings.

Their strategy focuses on being available and conscientious of student needs by setting up the meeting space to remove power dynamics and ensure everyone is comfortable.

Similar principles can be applied to any online Personal Tutoring meetings.

Find out more and watch their video online. Link opens in a new window

What can you do to make a personal tutee feel welcome?

  • Get to know your tutee and find out about their previous experiences (not just academic). Ask open questions. Use their name. Check their pronouns. An easy way to do this would be to introduce something personal about yourself (if you feel comfortable to do so), that way, your tutee will feel more at ease, creating a familiar and welcoming environment. 
  • Every single interaction with your tutee matters and sets the tone for their time at Warwick. Use a warm tone to ask about what challenges they have faced over the past few years, particularly during the pandemic.
  • Ask your tutee about their expectations and fears and reassure them that there will be students at Warwick with similar concerns and worries. Highlight how diverse Warwick students are and enforce the idea early on that there will be students who have the same thoughts and feelings.
  • Explore what tutees want to achieve for themselves during their time at Warwick to identify how you can best support them.

University of Leeds Belonging Toolkit

The University of Leeds belonging toolkit is designed to support students and staff to facilitate a sense of belonging.  

There is a section on Academic Personal Tutoring which includes things you can do to embed belonging into your tutee meetings.

Leeds emphasise that it is everyone's responsibility to make sure every student feels they are seen, respected, and that they belong.

Building community amongst Personal Tutors in your department

During a recent Senior Tutor networking session, the following ideas were highlighted as ways to build community amongst Personal Tutors within your department:

  • Teams Network - A space to ask questions, share resources etc.
  • Away Day - Time to focus and collaborate on ideas, processes and practice
  • Coffee Mornings
  • Have a physical presence on campus
  • Personal Tutor Mentor/Buddy Scheme