P. Catarino, A.P. Aires

University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (PORTUGAL)
Several institutions have in their structure the existence of a Tutoring Program to guide the academic progress of their students.
Usually, when a Tutoring Program is implemented in higher education, one of the main mission is to promote the students’ academic success, helping the students in the transition from upper secondary education to high school, where, sometimes, they find some difficulty.

This kind of programs contribute for the integration of the students in higher education, helping them throughout their career in the academy. There is an involvement of teachers – Tutors – and also the contribution of students – Mentors – (later year’s students).

The tutor is a teacher with experience in the course attended by the students involved in the Tutoring Program. He is responsible for supervision of a mentoring team, following the academic course and the academic performance of the students and promoting mentoring and integration activities and seeks solutions to problems detected.

The mentor is a student who attends a more advanced year of the same course of tutoring students and he helps the academy in the reception of new students, supporting the development of a culture of participation and involvement in academic life of these new students. The promotion of the social and academic integration of new students, as well as the promotion of the participation of the tutoring students in training actions and activities organized by the Academy are also of the responsibility of the mentor.

In this paper we present the results of a first year experience (and also a first experience) of a Tutoring Program implemented in a Portuguese University, in north of Portugal, with five undergraduate students of first year of the Degree of Biomedical Engineering.

This program took place over a year and spent five meetings with all students and the tutor and one meeting with all students, the tutor and the mentors. We claim to investigate what are the advantages and the disadvantages of the implementation of this program and what kind of help was offered to the students in the academic life.

The methodology adopted was qualitative, following a case study design and the data collection instrument was the questionnaire survey, applied in end of the academic year 2015/16, after one year of the implementation of this program.

Data analysis was focused on the students' responses to the survey implemented, using content analysis through the formulation of categories.

It was found that the program exceeded expectations, manifesting as advantages a great help in student integration in higher education, a great support to academic and personal level, help in solving problems in an effective way, in helping to obtain and understand better the information on the operation of higher education institutions. It should be noted that the participants of this study do not point to any disadvantages in the mentoring program. However, it was mentioned the low participation of mentors during the program.