Youde, Andrew (2013) A Mixed Methods Exploration of Effective Tutors and Tutoring in Blended Learning Contexts. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This study explores the practices of higher education (HE) tutors in blended learning contexts. Their skills, qualities and competences, particularly emotional competences, are investigated. There is limited research into the personal qualities that students value in their tutors within blended learning contexts, and this study takes steps to address this gap. Students’ perceptions of their tutors are explored focusing on those taking vocationally relevant part-time degrees. A mixed methods approach was adopted to conduct a detailed exploration of eight tutors’ practice in relation to blended learning with data gathered from four principal sources. The study used the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) to assess tutors’ emotional intelligence scores and results were compared to their learners’ perceptions of quality, assessed using an attitude survey. Interviews with tutors explored their approaches to delivery and considered factors that impacted on quality. Analysis of virtual learning environment content and communications provided insight into tutor online practice. The study proposes a conceptual framework for understanding the data generated in the form of a model of the observed tutor beliefs and practices. This represents an interpretation of effective practice in a particular cultural context and this framework may also be useful in understanding other instances of blended learning. The study concludes that tutor emotional competences are important in learner perceptions of quality, although the MSCEIT’s utility in identifying effective tutors is called into question. A number of recommendations for tutor training are provided together with factors for HE institutions to consider when delivering blended learning courses. In particular, the study indicates that integrating social constructivist approaches effectively is challenging for tutors using online media. The critical importance of developing tutor/learner relationships throughout courses is recognised as a key component of practice within blended learning.

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