3.6.2 Face-to-face tutorials
Many STEM modules offer face-to-face tutorials or day schools. These are an opportunity for students to meet and chat, informally, about their study experience in addition to covering topics from the module. As with online tutorials, details of what will be covered are available to students and they are encouraged to book in advance so that tutors can plan how to use the time and how many students might be expected. Working face-to-face means that students have wider opportunities for peer-engagement and tutors should shape the tutorial to allow students to chat with each other.
You are now going to read a personal insight from Nigel Gibson, a tutor in the School of Computing and Communications, who shares his experience in the role with you.
"In a typical tutorial, I will always start by asking students how their studies are going and whether they have come across anything which surprised them or challenged what they thought they knew about a particular topic. I tend to avoid asking what students found difficult as that is not always something which students will feel comfortable discussing in a group; that’s a one-to-one conversation. Nor do I ask specific students questions about the materials in a group – I might ask if anyone in the group knows the answer, but we don’t put individual students on the spot. As students become more confident and familiar with their peers, they will often share their study difficulties, but this has to be at their pace rather than being forced.
"We might work together to develop an algorithm and a program based on a defined problem. I work on a level 1 computing module so there will be a range of skills represented and this is an opportunity for some collaborative work. I can contribute by nudging or directing as needed.
"I always make sure that there is a break so that students can have a chat without me being involved, they can use a different tone of voice and linguistic style here. We’ll often spend some time talking about broader study skills, again, this is where students can share study strategies. Tutorials are a chance for students to see that they are not the only person struggling with an area of the module and they are where tutors can bring their knowledge and experience into play to illustrate and expand on the concepts under discussion. They are also where tutors can share their own experience of working in industry or as researchers or theoreticians. OU tutors are no more a homogenous group than our students and we bring ourselves to our work as another way of supporting our students. We can use our own experience to link the module concepts to 'real-world' examples."
Tutorials are interactive and inclusive rather than didactic lectures, they recognise the experiences of the students and they are (hopefully!) fun.