Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tutoring Take Two

There’s something very energising about the start of a new academic year. For those of us not yet jaded by the research process it brings with it the prospect of new and exciting research ideas and results. For others it may invoke stresses and anxieties as you prepare to meet the challenges of yet another fast paced and hectic year. Adding to the excitement and the atmosphere of a new year is of course the return of students, in particular the new cohort of first year students who, this semester, have flooded the department in unprecedented numbers.

Last semester I was given the opportunity to tutor first year statistics and this semester I’m back at it again, out of the lab and into the tutorial room. Although I have no experience with which to make the comparisons, it would seem that tutoring first year students is in some ways quite unique. Unlike students in later years, first year students enter the tutorial room unsure of what to expect, filled with the anxieties of entering a foreign environment yet with an eagerness and enthusiasm to learn.

For a large number of my students, my tutorials represent their first experience in a University learning environment. This lack of experience and freedom from expectation as to the format a tutor and tutorial should follow, affords me a certain freedom to define my role as a tutor and the forum in which I teach.

I believe it’s very important to create an environment where students feel free and confident to question anything and everything I say. I know when I went through undergraduate I always viewed my tutors as exceptionally intelligent people (which I’m sure for the most part they were) but also that they were always right and that they new better than me. Certainly from my experience as a tutor this could not be further from the truth.

So if you’re a student reading this, my advice is to never let your curiosity go unsatisfied. Tutors are there to facilitate your learning not to “teach” you the material. So engage with your tutors and take the opportunity to put forward your own ideas. As well as benefiting the students it’s also a rewarding experience as a tutor when my class engages with me in discussion of ideas.

If I haven’t been made to look silly in front of my class at some stage throughout the semester then my students haven’t done their job. I can report though that I’ve been caught out more than once this semester already and it’s only the second week of tutorials...

All the best for the year folks

Are you studying Psychology@UQ and want to contribute to theuqpsycblog??
Send Will an email to find out how: will.harrison@uqconnect.edu.au

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