As you become more comfortable with the experience of tutoring, you will want to improve your techniques, which will in turn enhance the learning experience of your students.

Here are some ideas to help you develop your skills as a tutor, and counteract some common classroom problems.

Developing a portfolio

It is recommended that you keep a record of your teaching, often referred to as a teaching portfolio, to assist when making future job applications.

Your portfolio should include:

  • your name and contact details
  • academic qualifications
  • any formal training in teaching.

For each course in which you have been a tutor, you may wish to record:

  • course name (and course code for UQ purposes)
  • mode of teaching (tutorial, laboratory class, etc.)
  • number of students
  • your role, if any, in course development and administration
  • your role in developing and/or marking assessment
  • the type of assessment (essays, short question, etc.)
  • the manner in which feedback was delivered
  • assessments of your teaching
    • students’ assessment
    • supervisor’s assessment
    • peer assessment.

Keep copies of teaching materials and course evaluations as evidence of your experience and skills.

Teaching resources

Many resources are available to help you as a tutor.

The University Library

  • The Library provides access to a wealth of print, online and multimedia teaching resources.
  • Your subject liaison librarian can assist you with locating existing resources and strengthening the collections to support your teaching program.

Key UQ websites

The key UQ websites that you'll need to use are:

Other resources

Skills development

UQ Human Resources conducts courses relevant to tutoring through its Staff Development Program. You will need to find out from your course coordinator whether you will be paid to attend these training activities.

ITaLI resources

In the Resources section of this website you'll find information about teaching methods, assessment, and other topics of interest to tutors.

Teaching evaluation

Good teachers reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, and identify areas in which they can improve.

There are many ways to evaluate your teaching practice, and different types of information you can collect.

Evaluation methods

There are four key sources from which you can collect and evaluate data about your teaching practice – yourself, your peers, your students’ experiences, and your students’ learning.

Self-evaluation

  • Self-evaluation will help you prioritise areas of teaching to focus on for evaluation and/or improvement.
  • Keep a journal to record, reflect on and learn from your experiences.

Peer evaluation

Ask another tutor to sit in on your class and give you feedback. Be specific about the aspects of your practice that you want observed and commented on.

Student experiences

  • At the end of the semester you can use the Student Evaluation of Tutor questionnaire (SETutor), a standard tutor evaluation tool used at UQ. Please note that you need to order these questionnaires online ahead of time. The feedback from SETutor is important for your professional development and for use in your academic portfolio.
  • Ask students, “What did you find most useful about the session today?” and, “How could the session be improved?” to collect fast, relevant data on your tutorial.
  • Use a 'suggestion box' to get feedback on how a session went, or how classes are going in general.

Student learning

  • Get students to self-report on their knowledge – getting feedback from students about their learning is a useful way of getting feedback about your teaching.
  • Observe students and student work – you can get an idea of your students' learning from their performance on assessment, in-class or out-of-class activities.

Some general principles

  • Don’t overuse students as sources of evaluation data.
  • Get feedback early on in the semester, so you can address any aspects early.
  • Always be prepared to respond to feedback.
  • Don’t ask specific questions about the course or your teaching if you don’t intend to, or can’t change it.
  • Guarantee anonymity.

Responding to classroom challenges

As a tutor, you will encounter students with different personality types and learning styles. Establishing ground rules, providing explicit instructions, and monitoring group dynamics will help you identify potential problems early on and enable you to take steps to manage and defuse them.

Silence

If the group is silent or unresponsive, here are some methods to encourage discussion:

  • Asking open-ended questions - "What do we already know about...?" "Explain how...?" "What is the meaning of...?" "What might happen if...?"
  • Pyramiding or Think, Pair, Share - Ask students to think about their ideas or response to a question or problem on their own, then after a couple of minutes, turn to a partner and share their response. Each pair then joins with another pair, and the group shares their responses and negotiates a common set of ideas to report back to the class.
  • Buzz groups - Students discuss ideas in pairs or small groups, and one student acts as reporter and/or scribe. Groups then report on their discussion.
  • Debate - Divide students into groups that represent particular points of view on a controversial topic. Each group works to develop an argument to support its allocated point of view.

If individual students are silent, try to draw the student out by picking up on something relevant to them and the topic being discussed.

Non-listening

If students are not listening to each other, try using a listening exercise, e.g. where one student has to paraphrase what another student says.

Dominance

If one or two students are dominating the discussion:

  • Use hand signals, and verbally ask them to let others speak.
  • Assign roles for the group discussion, e.g. timekeeper, scribe, summariser, reporter.

Derailing

If the discussion goes off track, or becomes irrelevant:

  • Set a clear topic at the start.
  • Draw the group's attention to the situation (e.g. “I’m wondering how this is related to our topic of discussion?”)
  • Ask a clear question or make a clear statement to direct discussion back to the topic.

Exclusion

If you get the sense of a clique among some students, or a private joke, don’t use sarcasm, but confront the students. Invite them to share their discussion with the group. (Adapted from: Gibbs & Habeshaw, 1989; Smith, 1997.)

Anger

If a student is angry, remember the anger resolution process:

  • Listen - give full attention, and stay silent.
  • Paraphrase - wait three seconds, then summarise your understanding of what was said.
  • Empathise - acknowledge their feelings and point of view (“I do want to help”).
  • Apologise - if applicable.
  • Ask questions - “What would you like me to do?”
  • Explain - explain what you can and can’t do.
  • Take action - get their understanding and agreement on a plan of action, and follow up on this.

The expert student

These are students who seem to have a comment or opinion about everything.

  • Don’t openly show your frustration.
  • Sometimes people who appear to be ‘experts’ are over-compensating for a lack of self-esteem.
  • In class discussion times, allow them to respond, but use techniques such as ‘redirecting’ to encourage other students to have a go.
  • If you can’t work around the person using subtle directing and redirecting, then talk with them before or after class.

The negative student

You may also experience different kinds of negativity, either overt (such as challenging the class discussion in a negative manner) or covert (such as remaining silent and not participating).

  • Try methods such as those above (‘the expert’) for dealing with the overtly negative student.
  • Attempt to bring the covertly negative student into the group activity by asking directly for their opinion.

The disruptive student

  • Try using silence to direct the student’s attention to you and to the situation. Politely ask for their co-operation, using the ground rules set up by you and the class as a way to direct your request.
  • If this doesn't work, talk to the student after class about how disruptive their behaviour is to you and to other students.