Developing a tutorial system at Earth Sciences
Tutorials bring teachers and learners together and leave a lasting impression. To make them work, careful planning is necessary. This lowers the burden of preparation and ensures the desired learning outcomes. Here, we propose to investigate whether a tutorial system based on the British tutorial system could work at Utrecht and, if so, to design, develop, and prepare a tutorial system for teachers and learners at the Teaching Institute Earth Sciences that enables students to become active participants in our academic community and gives them the tools to solve problems in the 21st century.
The design of curricular lines with the purpose of the development of academic and transferrable skills is difficult in undergraduate programs that afford students significant freedom of choice and personalization, such as is the case at the Teaching Institute Earth Sciences in Utrecht. A tutorial system can serve this purpose and offer students a rare level of personalized learning. At the moment, at Utrecht, we have a tutorial system that consists of three not mandatory sessions in year 1 only. The chief task of the tutor is to provide curricular guidance and pastoral care to students. Since the tutorials are not mandatory and their framework is broad and informal, there is no way to know what is achieved by students in these sessions. Additionally, there are no tutorials at higher levels during the program.
In the first phase of the project, we will investigate the approach taken at the departments of Earth Sciences of the three British collegiate universities (Cambridge, Durham, and Oxford). At Utrecht, we will interview current (and past) tutors as well as students to learn about their experiences with tutorialsas well as their ambitions and needs.
In the second phase of the project, we will investigate which themes for tutorials will be prepared via feedback from tutors and students. Then, a program for the tutorials across the three years of the undergraduate program will be planned with attention to building links to the remainder of the curricular program, as well as to reflection components.
Finally, we will train tutors in mentorship of students—including members of minorities in higher education—and in supporting student learning of academic and transferrable skills.
- Study the characteristics of the Durham tutorial system. We will travel to Durham to observe how their system works in practice and toget acquainted with their activities and materials.
- Investigate whether the Durham system fits the Utrecht teaching model and whether (and which) modifications are necessary.
- Determine the investment that is needed to develop a new tutorial system.
- To develop a tutorial system for teachers and learners that adopts and adapts current practice in the British collegiate system to our own needs and reality.
- To design activities and materials to be used by tutors and tutees.
- To train tutors to become better mentors and in supporting students learning of academic and transferrable skills.
The intended result of phase 1 is a short report on the feasibility of a tutorial system based on the British collegiate system at the Teaching Institute Earth Sciences in Utrecht. The intended result of phase 2 is the design of a set of teaching and learning activities and their materials to be used by tutors.