The person-centred approach in maths skills development: examining a case of good practice

Russell Delderfield, Helen McHattie


The development of students' mathematics skills in Higher Education is often the topic of professional debate in learning development circles. Less prevalent are discussions taking place around the interpersonal dynamics that occur during one-to-one (tutorial) sessions. This case study explores these dynamics. It arose from the continuing professional development activities of an adviser (learning developer) at a UK university. As a result of recording one-to-one mathematics sessions it was found that the adviser was unconsciously competent and that, although she was adept at identifying her areas for development, she struggled to articulate the considerable strengths of her practice. We wanted to find a way of describing, analysing and evaluating her competence and alighted upon the person-centred approach.

The aim of this paper, therefore, is to present the synthesis of maths skills practice with this approach in the hope of stimulating further research and professional conversation in the learning development community. The report offers novel idiographic findings through the application of person-centred theory to one practitioner's experience of delivering maths skills development. We conclude by suggesting that focusing on the relationship between adviser and student can help to create conditions conducive to successful one-to-one education.


Learning developer; maths support; person-centred; maths advice; one-to-one; academic skills; congruence; unconditional positive regard; empathy.

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ISSN: 1759-667X