Pedagogy as Transition: Student Directed Tutor Groups on Foundation Years
This paper explores the use of student-led tutor groups, viewed as central to the delivery of the Foundation Year in Social Sciences at Newman University. Aimed at ‘non-traditional’ undergraduate students, the programme in design resists the dominant deficit discourse of undergraduate transition. This means that we do not assume that students have failed in the education system, but that the formal educational and/or societal structures and systems within their experience up until the point of university study have failed them. We argue that foundation years should thus seek to support the perpetual process of our students’ becoming; the constantly dissolving, diffusing and recreation of their subjectivity that is engaged in a perpetual process of flux (Quinn, 2010, pp 18-22). Mediating and working through these experiences thus requires an approach that enables teaching staff to respond according to the needs of a student group in any given moment. Our approach is influenced by a combination of the Swedish Folk High School Grundtvig model of education, critical pedagogy and Tavistock experiential group work. This has translated into a three-hour student-led tutor group that is responsive to student need, rather than requiring delivery of pre-determined, set content. Evaluations and student partnership work reveals that students see this as one of the transformative elements of the course that makes their experience coherent and provides a space for them to work through their previous and current constructions of themselves and their education. The paper goes on to explore the underpinning theoretical frames of these tutor groups, tutor roles, skills and experiences and student perspectives.