• Site Map
  • FMHS Teaching Portfolio
  • Feedback about this website

Support and supervise students

An important part of the academic role is to provide effective academic and pastoral support to students through tutoring and supervision.

Support includes activities such as: working with students (often individually) to help them in setting educational objectives; providing guidance to individuals about the definition, execution and communication of research projects; defining and agreeing learning contracts; academic tutoring; one-to-one advice; and supporting students with special needs. Being aware of support agencies and understanding the processes for referring students to these agencies is also an important aspect of student support.

Research student supervision includes supervising students on a research degree (at honours, masters or doctoral level) as well as providing supervision for students undertaking small scale research projects within an undergraduate or taught masters program. Students working in clinical, laboratory or other workplace settings also require educational and sometimes clinical or technical supervision.

What is Effective Academic Support?

Providing support for students on academic programmes is one of the key roles of a university teacher.  

Students come from a wide range of backgrounds and with varying experiences and expectations from their course of study. The support that you provide for students will consequently vary. Some students may require very little support, others (perhaps because of previous educational experiences, if English is a second language or their domestic circumstances) may require much more support.

By academic support, we usually mean supporting students to achieve the learning outcomes of the programme so that they can move successfully into employment or further study. Academic support therefore includes:

  • working with students to set educational objectives;
  • clarifying course content and helping understanding;
  • providing guidance to individuals about assignments and research projects;
  • creating and agreeing upon learning contracts;
  • academic tutoring; and
  • providing one-to-one advice on specific topics. 

Although teachers are not usually expected to provide a wide range of learning support for individual students, you do need to know where and how to refer students who need support. This includes the regulations, guidelines and processes pertaining to your course or programme that students need to be aware of in order to study and graduate. A good first port of call for both you and your students is: 

  • The University's Academic Information page which includes links to general information for current students such as exams, courses, graduation, Summer School, Library and much more.

How Do We Know What Support to Provide?

It is very important that you identify the learning needs of students in order to provide the right level, type and amount of support. 

Being aware of students' educational attainments and experiences prior to entry is a starting point for identifying learning needs. However students entering with what might seem very similar qualifications or levels of attainment can actually be very different. Carrying out early formative assessments or diagnostic tests helps to identify areas of weakness or where students may struggle. Making yourself aware of assessment results throughout the course or programme and speaking with students who are borderline or failing early on so that you can make a learning plan also helps to identify students who may be struggling.

Many students, particularly those studying at university for the first time, mature students or those who have come from overseas, may be in particular need academic support. Typical areas for support may include study skills (such as revising, planning learning, time management, using the library and online databases), academic writing, numeracy and data handling and writing in English.

You may like to see the section on this website about how to determine the learning needs of diverse student groups for more information about identifying learning needs. 

Services available to students

The University provides workshops and sessions for students to improve their skills:


You may find that you have to deal with disputes in your role of providing student support, guidance and supervision. 

In spite of the best efforts by both staff and students, disputes, disagreements and conflicts do arise in a university context. They may be between individual students or between students and staff.

The University's Dispute resolution page provides resources to help in resolving non-academic disputes. 

Colleague's view

Sanjay Garg talks about academic support

Kate Snow talks about the services offered by the FMHS Student Support Centre

Glenis Wong Toi outlines the types of assistance the University's Student Learning Services offers staff and students

Portfolio Possibilities

Effective Academic Support



Do I...

  • Relate well to and provide effective academic support?
  • Know the resources to draw on to develop supervision skills?

Edit page