Advice for tutorials

Tutorials are a great way to support group work. Read student feedback about tutorial best practice and see a suggested structure for your first tutorial.

Tutorials are a key part of a course, and if used well they can support group assignments and reduce the likelihood of problems. Below are some tips for how to run tutorials in a way that supports group work.

Recent research into tutorial preferences of Victoria University of Wellington's students yielded the following desired aspects:

  • group work and collaboration
  • class discussions
  • quizzes
  • a friendly/relaxed tutor and atmosphere
  • time to explain lecture content
  • using different types of media (videos, interesting PowerPoint displays)
  • worksheets to be completed before the tutorial generally had positive feedback, although some students disliked the extra preparation needed. There was also feedback that tutorials should cover more than the worksheets
  • exam preparation, including model answers.

Tutorials can be designed to support group dynamics and assist in the smooth running of group projects. Here are some ways this can work:

  • Interactivity. Students should be required to move around and actively take part in the tutorial.
  • Students get to know each other. Through icebreakers and regular opportunities to talk to each other, students should be able to build trust.
  • Discussion. This can be done in small groups or as a whole class. It can involve debates, discussing a video the tutor has played, talking about tutorial worksheets, etc.
  • If groups are organised according to tutorials then most tutorials should be mandatory, particularly for 100 & 200 levels.

In the first tutorial many expectations are set for the semester, so it’s important to begin as you intend to continue. This could involve encouraging students to get to know each other, and making sure that students view tutorials as important and even enjoyable!

Below is a suggested structure for the first tutorial:

  1. Before the tutorial starts, the tutor should make sure that tables are organised into small groups, while still allowing all students to easily see where the tutor will stand.
  2. Start with an icebreaker that involves students learning each others’ names and something about the other students.
  3. Administrative matters (e.g. if tutors need to go over the course outline, the way that tutorials will be run, etc).
  4. In 100/200 level courses there could be a quiz to help students’ learn their working style, and the ways of studying/working that work best for them.
  5. Go over the group assignment question, emphasising the different skills and/or backgrounds that will be needed within a group to produce a good assignment.
  6. Ask students to write down two things that they could contribute to their group (skills, knowledge, experience, etc).
  7. Get into groups, ideally the groups that will be used for the group assignments. This should be done in a way that involves much student discussion—you could encourage them to write on the whiteboard the topic they’re interested in, etc. Make it clear that students are responsible for the groups they choose, so they should ensure they pick people they want to work with.
  8. Run an activity in the groups, ideally something where they compete against other groups to build team spirit. Ideas include a quiz on the first week’s class content, a quiz on the general course content (which also informs the lecturer on how much students know), or an activity based on class content.
  9. If there is time groups could then set the ground rules for their interaction.
  10. Finish the tutorial by congratulating the winning group, and informing students there will be regular check-ins during tutorials to see how their group is going.