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As Generation Z enters higher education, they are bringing with them service quality expectations that have often been viewed as a pejorative in higher education. Additionally, many of these students will be first-generation college students, many of whom will enter college academically underprepared. As a result, academic support services, particularly tutoring services, will play an increasing role in ensuring student retention, progression, and matriculation, which directly affects institutions’ prestige and rankings.

This action research study sought to assess the gap between students’ expectations and perceptions of a university tutoring center’s service quality using the SERVQUAL survey. Pilot data suggested that students perceived the tutors as unknowing of their subject matter and apathetic. The intervention used to mitigate the gap in students’ perceptions of the tutoring center was staff training informed by academic capitalism and steeped in politeness theory and self-directed learning theory. Throughout the fall 2019 semester, students who engaged in a tutoring session were invited to complete a survey measuring their expectations and perceptions of empathy and assurance. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used to assess pre- and post-training gap scores. While the mean gap scores did shift in a positive direction, the Wilcoxon signed-rank test results indicated statistically significant changes in two of the assurance attributes and zero statistically significant changes in the empathy attributes.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
19 Jul 2022
866 kB



  • Advisor
    • Andrew Pearl, Adam Jordan, Katherine Rose Adams

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Keywords