P. Catarino, A.P. Aires

University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (PORTUGAL)
Often, higher education offers students some programs that play an important role especially for students of the 1st year, because it is at this time that students have the first contact with this level of education and sometimes they feel some difficulties in their integration.
One of this kind of program is a Tutoring Program to guide the academic progress of their students. With this type of student support in higher education, the institution hope to promote the students’ academic success, helping the students in the transition from upper secondary education to high school. Usually the Tutoring Program is implemented during all the course (3 years) and is not compulsory for the students.

The program has the help of teachers (known as tutors) who are, whenever possible, experienced teachers in the course and students (known as mentors) who are students of the last year of the course.

The tutor is a teacher with involvement in the course attended by the students involved in the Tutoring Program who has the responsibility of supervision of a mentoring team (set of students involved in the program), accompanying the student in his academic career and promoting mentoring and integration activities during the program.

The mentor is a student who attends a more advanced year of the same course of tutoring students and has the responsibility to help the new students in their integration of higher education and their involvement in academic life.

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

This program took place over a year from September 2015 and spent three years, with an average of five meetings per year with all students and the tutor and one meeting with all students, the tutor and the mentors. We claim to investigate what are the feedback of students about the advantages and the disadvantages of the implementation of this program and what kind of help was offered to them during this period.

The methodology adopted was qualitative, following a case study design and the data collection instrument was an open question with several items, applied in end of the academic year 2017/18, after three years of the implementation of this program.

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

It was found that the program has included as advantages a great help in student integration in this level of education, an important support to academic and personal level, helping in to find solutions for the problems and understand better the information on the operation of this level of education. The tutor was seen as a maternal figure who helped them in everything they needed. The meetings were seen as opportunities to address problems, put doubts and apprehensions. It was mentioned the low participation of mentors during the program that we can consider such situation as a disadvantage in the program to be careful not to happen again.