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How to Prepare for a University Tutorial

How to Prepare for a University Tutorial

Tutorials provide a unique opportunity directly to exchange ideas with educators and peers. As such, they represent a valuable instance of interactivity and dialogue within what is otherwise a largely individual and self-directed environment. This is not a time for passively absorbing information; instead, this is a chance to actively engage with the subject matter. You will be able to talk directly and in depth with your tutor, allowing for a more finessed approach to learning. The intention of a tutorial is to enable students to attain a deeper understanding of a specific issue within their discipline. Hence tutorials are the perfect time to address subject matter that you do not understand or about which you have questions. The small, interpersonal nature of a tutorial allows for more focused and precise treatment of the topic. 

Make the Most of the Tutor

While there are no set rules for tutorials there are nonetheless a few useful guidelines that will help you get the best out of the experience. First off, be prepared. Plan ahead, research the tutorial topic; this way you will be able forward your own ideas and opinions. You will be proactive instead of reactive and this is essential. By considering the topic in advance, you are more likely to have a meaningful contribution in the tutorial and thus to get more out of it. This is a really good chance to go into detail on a particular issue with an academic expert. You will not have many opportunities in your university career to spend such close and personal time with a lecturer. Make the most of it. Be critical and thoughtful, ask questions. Teachers want you to challenge ideas. Furthermore, this is the best time to get comprehensive answers to your questions. Effectively, you have a captive audience.

Take the Initiative

Perhaps the best thing about a tutorial is that it allows you to take the initiative. Oftentimes, you will be encouraged to provide, or at least suggest, subject matter; to bring up issues you feel are important. Tutorials are not intended to be micro-lectures; instead, students are supposed actively to contribute to the learning environment. For this reason, in a certain sense, you set the topic and the tone. The educational purpose of a tutorial is to cultivate the knowledge you have developed in other parts of the course. This means critical thinking: being able to demonstrate an analytical approach to the topic at hand. Depending on the constitution of your tutorial, this might include debating with fellow students or even the teacher. This can be a fun and dynamic way of tuning your critical skills. Healthy academic debate is a cornerstone of the university experience.

Speak Up

Make sure you are ready to discuss and debate the topic. Even if you are shy, it is highly unlikely that you will be permitted to sit silently through a tutorial. A good part of tertiary education involves participatory learning. This does not mean you have to be able to speak constantly on everything; it only means you should prepare to make contributions. Everybody has an opinion on what they are studying; this is the chance to air it. If you feel anxious about articulating your ideas, do so in advance. The best way to do this is to jot down important points beforehand: arrange these points into questions and statements which you will be able to bring up in the tutorial. Another helpful tip is to discuss relevant topics with friends outside of the classroom. This will allow you to refine your ideas and to alight upon the most important aspects thereof. Do not be nervous about speaking your mind. The lecturer is not there to judge you; they are there to help you.

Do the Reading

Most tutorials have set weekly reading. Some may even assign writing tasks or presentations to be delivered during the tutorial. It is in your best interest to devote adequate time to these tasks. At the very minimum, you must do the reading. Otherwise you will have nothing to say. This will prevent you from engaging in a meaningful fashion. Also, it deprives you of a vital opportunity to deconstruct the topic with your lecturer and to put your views across. Tutorials are an important part of university study and should be taken seriously. It is generally quite obvious when somebody has not prepared for a tutorial. This impairs the experience everybody. If, however, you do the required research, it enhances the experience for all. 

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