Happy accidents – re-functioning that spare lecture hour

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Toledo, Spain, June 2015

This semester with my Contemporary Latin(o) Americas subject, I decided beforehand to just deliver the first 2 lectures face to face and put the rest (plus the first 2) up online in advance, in line with my continuing flipped learning experiment. Actually, I never really ‘delivered’ the first 2 lectures face-to-face – I just used the time to get to meet and greet the students, explain the course in detail, ask them to write down what they thought made a good tutorial, what their and my responsibilities were, etc. After the first 2 lectures I then intended to just meet the students for the 2-hour tutorial each week.

I continued that structure for the second week, as several students did not turn up to first week – some were travelling and some seem to have a perception that nothing gets done in the first week (?!) However, UTS has gone onto a 12-week semester and since I don’t do face-to-face lectures anymore, it is vital to fully utilise every week’s tutorial. Anyway, in the second week I invited along one of UTS’s education technologists, Ariane Skapetis, to speak in the lecture hour slot. Since I was instituting an e-learning journal for the first time (in lieu of the end-of-semester test), I thought it might be a good idea to ask students if they wanted to go the Full Monty and establish their own e-portfolios for future employment aspirations. The technologist would explain how to set them up. It is not a requirement to do a general e-portfolio – they only have to do a reflective e-journal for this particular subject – nevertheless, they mostly seemed keen.

A lot turned up and the session went really well. After an engaging demonstration by Ariane  on how to set up a free WordPress site, we got students to do a bit of hands on to get them started. They seemed genuinely enthused. Suddenly the penny dropped: why not use that one-hour lecture time slot, which I was going to abandon after Week 2, as a weekly, casual drop-in hour for individual student work on e-portfolios, assignments, their reflective journals, whatever, and then resume the normal interactive tutorials after that? So this is the happy accident. I am so excited because I know a lot are going to turn up each week. It gives them a chance at a lot of one-on-one with me or my teaching assistant or the technologist if they so desire. I have also now arranged in Week 6 for a campus career consultant to come and talk for 30 minutes in that same lecture time slot on desired graduate attributes by profession, especially since I teach a mixed class from all faculties. This promises to be a great move. I like happy accidents.

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Asking the students – what makes a good tutorial?

Cover art from Mando Mondo album by Daivd Grisman

My ideal tutorial dynamic

As a useful classroom activity, I asked my students to write down What makes a good tutorial and what are the responsibilities of the tutor and the student towards making the tutorial a worthwhile learning experience. I attach the verbatim replies – have fun thinking through the responses. I will return to this post at some stage and say what adjustments I have made in response to the students comments. The comments are coloured slightly by the fact that we had already had our first tutorial and they no doubt modelled a few of their answers based on that first experience. I’d like to believe the varied, interactive and comfortable learning environment I try to create from day 1 contributed to some of the replies, though I did ask them to comment on tutorials in general – not just mine. (thanks Peter Kandlbinder for the activity tip)