Retention of college tutors is a challenge that has faced the UK further education sector for a long time, not helped by the reduction in funding that colleges have contended with for a number of years. In fact, despite the 6.5% increase in student numbers, Sixth Form Colleges have reduced the number of staff by 11% since 2010/11. The reduction in the teaching workforce has resulted in a 28% increase in the average learner-to-teaching staff ratio across the sector, and therefore the workloads of each member of staff. Yet, with increasing pressures on the sector to meet targets and excel performance, something needs to change.
Excessive workloads are cited as a key frustration from college tutors, with many saying there are simply not enough hours in the day, despite it being common for tutors to work up to 70 hours a week. More than half of a tutor’s day is said to be taken up by non-teaching tasks, such as marking or lesson planning - which are essential but time-consuming.
With not enough hours in the day as it is, tasks such as building reports or analysing student performance can often fall to the bottom of the list. However, not only does this create a far bigger job for tutors when it comes to the end of the term or academic year, but it can also mean that underperforming students, poor attendance rates or engagement levels go unnoticed. When this happens, situations can often escalate which makes it far harder for remediating actions to be put in place.
Using data analytics can save tutors valuable time and give them the ability to report on critical elements to support other tutors, students and the entire college.
Assessing the to-do list
Whilst marking and lesson planning are the primary tasks for any tutor outside of lesson hours, analysing and reporting on student performance and attendance is just as important. Usually pushed to the bottom of the to-do list, reporting and analytics aren’t seen as fundamental to a tutor’s job, whereas in reality, it can make their lives much easier.
However, data analytics doesn’t have to be another lengthy task. When a data dashboard is already set up to show all of the important elements for a tutor to evaluate - exam results, attendance, behaviour, extra-curricular activities - one quick glance is all it takes for the tutor to get the information they need.
Having this data at their fingertips means that tutors no longer need to spend hours trawling through spreadsheets or databases to find the right data to make sure the lesson plan will cater to all of the students in the class. Instead, a quick look at the performance dashboard will tell the tutor if the lesson has been planned at the right level based on previous student outcomes and performance.
Additionally, when it comes to reporting, tutors can benefit from being able to simply draw any information they need from the dashboards and collate it for each student, and when reports need to be pulled together in an instant, the last-minute scramble to prepare can become a thing of the past. Lengthy planning meetings after hours can also become drastically shorter. With all tutors given access to the information in dashboards and reports that are easy to digest, decisions can be reached quickly and the meetings can become far more actionable and productive as a result.
A tutor’s time is spent on so many different moving parts: from planning to marking, teaching the lessons and organising activities, so it can be a juggling act to get through each term. However, by making small changes that encourage efficiencies whilst still completing vital tasks, college tutors can save valuable time to make their jobs just a little bit easier.
Jacob Kemp, Head of Direct Sales, Dynistics