The investigation discussed in this paper was motivated by a finding revealed through analysis of the dissertation grades of final year undergraduates on an education honours degree. A third of dissertations received grades equating to third class honours or fails and this was viewed by the Faculty as being unacceptable. As a Fellow of the University’s Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning with a focus on personal development, I was asked by the course leader to identify possible causes and suggest changes. My critical reflection on the dissertation suggested that its creation is predicated upon Personal Development Planning (PDP) processes practised through the mediation of the tutorial. I am investigating the effectiveness of the tutorial to support learner development over a two year period, contributing to an overarching action research project undertaken by the National Action Research Network (NARN). This paper presents the outcomes of the first cycle of my action research, involving the collection and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from students and dissertation supervisors. At this stage it appears that the design of the dissertation meets the needs of some students but not all, particularly the lower third of the sample cohort. Furthermore some students, including a number of thirds and fails, do not perceive tutorial support as essential for the successful completion of their dissertations. Overall, it appears that the tutorial process requires review in order to support the autonomous and/or collaborative learning needed for effective learner development.