The First Tutorial

The first tutorial sets the tone for the rest of the term. With some preparation you can make it an excellent opportunity to establish your expectations for the term, and get your students motivated.

  • Establish a rapport with students with informal introductions. First, tell them about yourself, such as your academic background, and why you’re keen on this course and subject area. If you’re comfortable, also share one or two personal details: do you play an instrument? Have you lived in several countries around the world? Are you a gourmet cook?
  • Ask students to introduce themselves to the group, stating their names and program of study and why they are interested in this course. A better idea: have students interview each other and present their partners to the rest of the class.
  • Remembering names can be challenging! Ask each student to make up a name card out of scrap paper, or to state their name before answering a question.
  • It’s normal to be nervous the first day! Use introductions as a way of letting both you and your students get comfortable with the tutorial environment.
Setting Expectations

  • Do you have a tutorial grade to assign? Consider how you will be evaluating your students. Tutorial grades can be determined through attendance, weekly performance, submitting questions about course material, or written assignments. Check to see if your instructor has any preferences.
  • Take a few minutes to discuss these expectations with your group. Emphasize that the tutorial is a different learning environment from the lecture, and students are here to contribute to discussion. Suggestions on how to “learn how to learn” in the tutorial setting can help. Set ground rules for discussion, ensuring everyone can take part.
  • Ask students what their expectations for the course are. Learning what their goals are can help you get to know your audience.
“First Day” Assignments

  • Give students a general question to introduce them to the material. Ask them to write a short response to submit to you: return it at end-of-term as a reflective exercise.
  • Toss out a “playground” question for them to answer in groups, or for you to put answers on the board. Ease them into contributing with a friendly assignment.
Using a Tutorial Syllabus
It can be helpful to distribute a syllabus to make sure students have important details in writing. This also helps you avoid confusion or disputes later in the term. Some things a tutorial syllabus can include are:

  • Your contact information: state your email, and office hours, if you are holding them.
  • Your email policy: what kinds of questions will you answer over email? How soon can students expecta reply?
  • Deadlines, guidelines, or grade breakdown for any tutorial grades or assignments you will be giving over the term.
Martha Harris, Trainer, TATP – © 2006