Whether you love them or hate them, tutorials are a key component of most university courses and are vital to your academic development. Some students say: “I just try to survive them!” Others say: “They’re the highlight of my week!”
But how can you get the most out of your tutorials? Here are four strategies suggested by the Learning Skills team and WriteWISE leaders Amanda Fernandopulle and Michelle Vo.
1. Get connected
Uni can be an isolating experience. It’s possible to go through the whole day without speaking to another person. That’s not ideal – not only because it makes you lonely, but because a surprising amount of learning at uni occurs via peer-to-peer interactions. Tutorials, therefore, are a great place to connect with and learn from fellow students.
To do this, try to get to know your classmates while you’re waiting for your class to start, or arrange a study group with others from your tute. Who knows? Aside from supporting one another in your studies, you could be making some lifelong friends.
2. Prepare yourself
Have you ever gone into a tutorial ‘cold’ with no preparation? If you’ve done so, you may have found it’s much harder to keep up with what’s happening, and you may even get bored.
Preparation helps you get the most out of your tutorials. Block out regular times in your week to complete the readings, questions, exercises, worksheets, and mini quizzes that are set for your tutorials. Your commute to uni may be an opportune time.
Make your preparation active. If you just skim over your readings, you probably won’t take in much of what you read. Take notes; put the information you learn into a table; use a mind map to sketch out how your readings help you understand a key concept. Visit our guide to tutorial preparation for more ideas.
When you come across something in your readings that is fascinating, highlight it so you can raise it in a class discussion. Not sure how to approach a problem? Make a note so you can ask about it in class. Preparation not only helps you understand and participate in your tutorials but will probably also help to improve your marks.
3. Participate in class
Participating in tutorials helps you and develop your skills in critical thinking and to stay focused so you can fully engage with your course material. But while tutorial participation, especially speaking in front of a group of people, is painless for some, others find it a daunting experience.
If you find it daunting, it might help to arrive at your tutorial with a pre-prepared (and perhaps even pre-rehearsed) observation or question so you have at least one thing that you can confidently contribute. Try to say something in the first tutorial of each subject. This will get you into the mode of speaking in that specific setting. And check out this advice if you’ll be discussing controversial issues.
Also note that you don’t need to wait until you have a knock-down idea before you speak. You can contribute to a discussion by building upon another student’s idea or asking another student to clarify his or her comment. Listening carefully is also an important part of participating.
4. Make the most of your tutor
Your tutors are experts in the subject you’re studying and their role is to help you in your academic development. Make the most of your time with your tutors.
Many tutors start their classes with question time. Do you have a query about a concept from the previous week’s lecture, the next assignment, or something you’d like to know about the discipline? Arrive on time so there’s time to ask your questions.
If you’re struggling, don’t be slow to approach your tutor for assistance. Make the effort to drop in or call during your tutor in consultation hours, or to make an appointment to see him or her.
We hope that these strategies will help you not only survive, but also enjoy, and get the most out of, your tutorials this session. for more information, visit the StudyWISE web pages.