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Thursday, June 19 • 2:00pm - 2:50pm
CON6.14 – Transforming the Role of the Tutorial in Large Classes: From Supplemental To Essential (Room A343)

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With increasing enrollment and financial pressures on institutes of higher education, it is clear that high-enrollment courses are not going away anytime soon. Traditionally, the preferred mode of instruction for these courses was the lecture, which presents itself as an efficient way to teach large numbers of students. However, research shows that students often have low levels of engagement in traditional lectures and, thus, do not learn effectively (Deslauriers, Schelew and Weiman, 2011; Crouch, Fagen, Calan & Mazur, 2004), whereas small group active learning has been found to improve learning (Prince, 2004; Springer, Stanne & Donovan, 1999). The question is, how can we engage students and provide opportunities for active learning as large courses proliferate? 

This challenge has led the panelists in this session to reconsider the design of their large, introductory courses, focusing particularly on the role of the tutorial. In past practice, tutorials were treated as supplemental, but they are often the best (and only) small-group learning opportunities available to students in large courses. As concerns about declining student engagement grow, the panelists believe we need to rethink the role of small-group learning experiences within these large classes.

Our panel discussion will examine several ways in which tutorials can be transformed. Each panelist has recently redesigned a large lecture course, endeavoring to increase student engagement by incorporating active learning into a blended model. The “tutorial,” rather than being supplemental, has moved into the very heart of effective course design. Small group learning opportunities now play a central role in increasing student engagement and deepening learning, and have become venues not only for active exploration and application of course concepts, but also for the acquisition and practice of new skills and knowledge.

Audience members attending the panel discussion will be stimulated to reconsider the relationship between lectures and tutorials. They will expand their conception of the role of the tutorial in course design, gain insight into effective ways to use small group contact time in their courses, and develop strategies for managing small group facilitation.

Each panelist will briefly present their perspective on re-visioning the small group learning experience, followed by a moderated audience discussion.

Grahame Renyk (Drama) will focus on reconsidering traditional relationships associated with tutorials: using lectures to explain what happened in tutorials (rather than the other way round), and inviting students to discover a concept first through active experience, followed by explanation.

Jill Atkinson (Psychology) will focus on developing effective approaches to small group facilitation: designing, administering and managing small group opportunities, selecting, training and supporting facilitators, and using facilitators to close the feedback loop between students and the instructor.

Alan Ableson (Mathematics) will focus on ways to design tutorials as places where students strive to connect mathematical theory with real-world applications. Approaches include using tutorials for larger-scale problems than those seen in lectures, and enabling engagement through personal interest by allowing students to choose their subject of application (e.g. choosing a tutorial stream in Math & Finance or Math & Biology).

Thursday June 19, 2014 2:00pm - 2:50pm EDT
A343 McArthur Hall

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