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Understanding what practice tutors in the Faculty of Business and Law need and want in their induction

By Angelique Johnstone

This blog post is the first part of a 2-part blog series exploring scholarship in the area of student retention.

In an environment where student retention, completion and satisfaction are key measures of a successful programme, do we really equip our practice tutors with the right tools and training to ensure they are confident in their role in supporting apprentices and contributing to their success?

In 2017, a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey highlighted that more than 80% of organisations struggled to retain staff. With a cost of over £30,000 to replace a member of staff (HRreview, 2014), a comprehensive induction programme could be an effective way to improve staff retention.

Starting a new job role, whether in the same or a different organisation, requires a comprehensive induction to ensure that staff are fully equipped to handle all the responsibilities of the position. This becomes even more crucial when new skills are necessary. The introduction of the apprenticeship levy and the approval of higher and degree-level apprenticeships have resulted in traditional lecturers taking on work-based learning (WBL) tutoring roles, known as ‘practice tutors’ (PTs). In response to the Richard Review of Apprenticeships (Richard, 2012), the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education approved the first management apprenticeships at level 6 and above in 2015.

The existing research on induction for educators mainly focuses on the traditional teaching and lecturing roles. However, when it comes to PTs, it is essential to consider the diverse range of knowledge and skills required for supporting apprentices (Goodman, 2019, p. 11). Hence, qualitative research was conducted in 2022 for my Master's dissertation via focus groups to understand the perspectives of tutors and their line managers regarding the induction process, before embarking on redesigning the current induction for PTs delivering level 6 and 7 management apprenticeships at The Open University (OU).

The focus groups comprised four PTs and four Student Experience Managers (SEMs) from the level 6 and 7 management apprenticeship programmes. The focus groups took place in early 2022 to understand if what was being said in the literature about induction for traditional teaching posts was the same or similar to those in PT roles. I also wanted to include the line manager's perspective to ensure all areas were covered, as some may have been missed from only the tutor's perspective.

Bush and Middlewood (2013, p. 167) suggest there are three primary purposes of induction: ‘socialisation’, ‘achieving competent performance’, and ‘understanding the organisational culture’. These concepts are also echoed by Huber et al. (2011, p. 13), Schein (1978, pp. 94–102), and Wong (2002, p. 52) and are clearly not new. From the focus groups of tutors and line managers, this was also echoed, especially within an organisation that is predominantly online, where trying to balance these elements has been difficult with many of the tutors highlighting the differences in their experiences, with some feeling isolated and only finding out what they should be doing months later.

Joiner and Edwards (2008, pp. 44–48) have identified three key areas to consider when designing an effective induction programme: tailoring the programme to meet the needs of the organisation and the individual, creating a positive climate and culture, and managing the costs involved (financial and human resources).

It is important to remember that not all staff starting a new role or joining a new organisation are brand new to their profession, and therefore a one-size-fits-all approach should be avoided. Instead, the programme should be tailored to ensure that existing knowledge and skills are taken into account, and that staff receive the training they require to meet the demands of their new role.

While a tailored induction programme is ideal, it can be expensive, and organisations need to consider balancing the needs of their staff against restricted budgets.

Establishing a positive culture is crucial to the induction process as it supports any mentoring and collaborative activities. A successful induction ensures that the organisation's culture is are well-understood (Iordanides & Vryoni, 2013, p. 77), which fosters a collaborative and community-oriented work environment. This sense of community is particularly beneficial for teams that work remotely or virtually, as it allows them to learn from one another. Experienced team members can guide newer members, providing a social aspect to the work (Cherian & Daniel, 2008, p. 9; Wong, 2004, p. 50). In the literature, mentoring was linked heavily to the induction of new staff but was not the main focus of this research. The focus groups identified that mentoring was one method used to aid in socialising staff and building that sense of community, but the current approach was insufficient in giving the time and space to do this (this would need to be a separate project).

During the focus groups, one concern was regarding the duration of the induction process. Ideally, the organisation recommends a four-week period to complete the induction activities and any mandatory training before the PTs start teaching students. However, some tutors were given this time while others were not. In the interviews conducted, including the line managers, everyone agreed that the induction and training activities should not be confined to this four-week period. Not all the information provided during the induction is needed immediately. This approach overwhelms the work-based learning tutors, without considering the learning elimination curve (Shackleton-Jones, 2019, p. 109). Considering that the further away the PT needs the information, the more time and money is spent on their training. Therefore, it is important to provide the training when needed, based on necessity, instead of providing everything at the start.

Although the research uncovered more areas, these were the most prominent to consider when redesigning the induction programme:

  • Aligning what information, training and tools are needed.
  • Consideration should be made of when these are needed.
  • Increase the length of the induction.
  • Ability to tailor the induction to meet the needs of the new staff member and the organisation.
  • A more prominent mentor role is required for new staff.

The current induction for PTs is inconsistent in the approach and information disseminated. Not all tutors are given enough time to digest the information so a longer and tailored induction would be more suitable. This research has outlined recommendations to redesign the current induction, taking on board the findings from the research, especially those highlighted above.

This research led me and a colleague to bid for funding to bring together a group of PTs to redesign their induction using a co-design approach (with input from line managers) to ensure all aspects of the job role are accounted for and also adjust the timings so this becomes more of an induction and training programme. You can read about the process we used for this and the final outputs in Part 2 of this blog.


Bush, T., & Middlewood, D. (2013). Leading and Managing People in Education (3rd ed.). Sage Publications Ltd.

Cherian, F., & Daniel, Y. (2008). Principal Leadership in New Teacher Induction: Becoming Agents of Change. International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 3(2), 1–11. Accessed at

Goodman, D. (2019). The Apprenticeship Experience at university: an exploration. E-Organisations & People, 26(2), 12–24. Accessed at

HRreview. (2014). It Costs Over £30K to Replace a Staff Member. Accessed at

Huber, E., Hoadley, S., & Wood, L. (2011). Teaching induction program: Framework, design and delivery. Asian Social Science, 7(11), 13–18. Accessed at

Iordanides, G., & Vryoni, M. (2013). School Leaders and the Induction of New Teachers. Journal of the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration & Management, 41(1), 75–88.

Joiner, S., & Edwards, J. (2008). Novice Teachers: Where Are They Going and Why Don’t They Stay? Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education, 1(1), 36–43.

Richard, D. (2012). The Richard Review of Apprenticeships. Accessed at

Schein, E. (1978). Career Dynamics: Matching Individual and Organizational Needs. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

Shackleton-Jones, N. (2019). How People Learn. Kogan Page.

Wong, H. K. (2002). Induction: The Best Form of Professional Development. Educational Leadership, 59(6), 52–54.

Wong, H. K. (2004). Induction Programs That Keep New Teachers Teaching and Improving. NASSP Bulletin, 88(638), 41–58. Accessed at

About the blog author

Angelique Johnstone photoAngelique Johnstone currently works as the Lead Student Experience Manager and Qualification Lead for the Senior Leader Apprenticeship programmes. Awarded Senior Fellowship of Advanced HE and Chartered Manager status with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Currently she works with approximately 25 Practice Tutors (PTs) to support the apprentices and ensures that they have the best student experience possible on the programme and with The Open University. Her background is in Finance, Leadership and Management and Project Management. She has been working within work-based learning and apprenticeships for over 15 years which has led to using her experience in contributing towards developing learning materials and in leading the PTs. Recently she has completed her Masters in Education (Educational Leadership) and her scholarship interests lie in the induction and development of tutors supporting apprenticeships and work-based learning.

You can find out more about Angelique's thesis by emailing your request to: for a digital copy to read.