What are the necessary ingredients for effective tutorials?
There are many components to a successful tutorial, as there are many essential elements to effective teaching. One such need is the ability for an instructor to have a strong and potent combination of knowledge in content area as well as the ability to connect with students. Individuals who are attempting to run effective tutorials must understand that the students who come to them already are familiar with the content, and require another level to its explanation. I would think that the tutorial instructor has to be able to understand the content well enough to be able to differentiate it to the exact level of student understanding so that success can be evident. Instructors who are able to know their content and be able to diagnose where the challenge lies within their students' learning will be effective in their role. At the same time, I think that effective tutorials must consist of another potent combination of drill and practice as well as enrichment. I believe that the best tutorials are ones where students leave feeling better about their particular content and also feel that they have a strong grasp of the material, in general.
An effective tutorial includes content knowledge and awareness of the students needs. For example, the content is not the only factor in tutoring. The tutor needs to be able to recognize the student's weak points and help him or her develop those weak areas. Often a student will ask me to help them with a paper but not be willing to do the research. I realise that they are weak in research skills and help them learn how to do research.
Before we attempt to identify the ingredients of effective tutorials, we need to be clear about what is a tutorial. This is particularly important because many tutorials today tend to be no different from normal class room assignments.
Tutorial, in comparison to a normal class room are intended to be more interactive and with greater attention to individual needs of the student. In tutorials the students need to be provides help and guidance in specific area where help is sought by the students. Also, tutorials provide help to student to complete specific tasks they are required to perform as a part of gaining practice in concepts learnt.
It is quite clear that there are some common requirements of class room lectures and tutorials - for example subject knowledge. In addition a good tutorial should be such that it enables the student to apply the knowledge acquired in the class room or through individual reading, and in the process identify the areas where he or she lacks clarity. This of course needs to be followed up with opportunity for the student and tutor to interact so that tutors can judge the specific strong and weak points of the student and guide them accordingly.
Also tutorial should offer some flexibility to students to get in to greater depth of topics that are of greater interest to them. For example a tutor may recommend extra reading material to students based on their individual needs and interests and provide them guidance in understanding these better.