PEER TUTORING A VEHICLE TO SUPPORT UNIVERSITY STUDIES: INVESTIGATING A COHORT OF STUDENTS ENROLLED IN AN IMPORTANT ITALIAN UNIVERSITY
The objectives of the European Space for Higher Education are inspired by an educational model aiming to prepare students to play an active, autonomous role in their personal and professional development. Among its many responsibilities, the university has, moreover, that of furnishing services that will assist students in completing their studies.
As far as the current university situation and in view of the different tutoring models, peer tutoring seems to be the model that most efficaciously adapts itself to the current demands and appears to have the greatest potential to give support to and for students and to thus contrast the university drop-out rate (Álvarez, 2005; Arbizu et al., 2005; González Jiménez et al., 2009).
The University of Padova launched its peer tutoring service in 2001 to assist students in their university studies. Defined a “capable and meritorious” student, the tutor - or the Junior Tutor as he/she is called at the University of Padova - is the leading actor in this model.
What is the profile of the student who makes use of this service? What are the personal and professional characteristics of those students who apply for tutoring? Are there differences in the percentage of students enrolled in the various academic programs who make use of the service?
A Computer-Assisted Web Interviewing (CAWI) type of investigation was designed and carried out involving 8,473 students who had enrolled in 101 first-cycle degree courses at the University of Padova at the beginning of the 2006/07 academic year (Clerici et al., 2012). The survey was carried out at the beginning of 2012, or approximately five years after those students began their academic program. Propensity scores were estimated using an administrative database providing the students’ names and addresses as well as information concerning a set of variables linked to their basic structural characteristics (Lee, 2006; Giraldo & Clerici, 2013).
The general aim of the investigation was to elaborate the profiles both of students who abandon or fall behind in their studies as well as of those who complete their course work on time. Researchers in the psychological, pedagogic and statistical fields collaborated together to design the investigation and to construct an instrument with which to investigate. One section of the questionnaire utilized by the investigators was dedicated specifically to analyzing how the support services, including the Tutoring Service, offered by that University, were utilized by the students being investigated.
This work aims to present the peer tutoring model and its operational delineation in a cohort of students enrolled in an important Italian university. We will outline the profile of the students who utilized the tutoring services during the course of their academic career and describe their experiences in relation to personal (socioanagraphic, psychological) and context factors, in particular with reference to the specific study areas (professional health sciences, humanities, social or scientific sciences) the students were enrolled in, to their academic outcomes (degree attained, course changes, withdrawal, delay), and to problems encountered along their academic journey.
This study is part of a larger research project promoted by the University of Padova (STPD08HANE_005) aiming to analyze and to address learning difficulties and to promote student success at the university level.