Tutors and sessional academic staff play a vital role in teaching and learning.

The University adopts an institutional approach to ensuring all new tutors and sessional academic staff receive high quality teaching and learning training.

1. Before you start

Before you start teaching, your school should provide you with a duty statement or contract, and information about the training and resources available to you.

Duty statement or contract

This should include:

  • the number of hours you are expected to work and how these are divided among your duties
  • whether or not you are expected to attend lectures
  • your particular duties, for example, leading tutorials; conducting laboratory sessions; marking assignments, lab reports or examinations; managing online activities, etc.

Induction and training

  • The school should provide you with information on the type of tutor training, induction and mentoring available to you.
  • The Tutors@UQ program offers five hours of paid training, most of which is conducted before the start of teaching each semester, for new tutors and sessional academic staff. New tutors are encouraged to contact their school’s tutor coordinators to register for the training.
  • All UQ staff, including casuals, are required to complete mandatory OH&S and HR staff training online modules.

Planning for the semester

  • The coordinator of your course should inform you of how you will be supervised, for example, weekly meetings, or regular email correspondence.
  • The coordinator of your course should provide you with a tutorial plan for the semester.
  • If relevant, the coordinator of your course will enrol you as an instructor on the course eLearning (Blackboard) site.

Resources for tutors

As a staff member, you will have staff Library borrowing privileges.

Your school will inform you of the resources available to you. Resources may include:

  • textbooks, lecture notes, references/readings, or lab manuals
  • office or room to meet students
  • phone access
  • photocopying, printing and stationery allocations
  • staff ID card/swipe access card, room keys.
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2. Becoming a tutor

Applying to be a tutor

Schools handle the tutor application process, which varies between schools. Relevant contact details are available on UQ school websites.

Tutors are normally employed as casual tutors under the Casual Academic Staff Policy.

Salaries

Information about salaries for casual tutors can be found in Academic staff casual salaries. Under a casual tutor appointment, in addition to the salary schedules, the University will also pay a superannuation contribution to Unisuper.

Information for scholarship holders and international students

  • In general, scholarship holders have employment restrictions, which may limit the number of paid hours worked.
  • International students are not automatically given the right to work when they are issued with a student visa. Check the conditions of your visa.

Employment and payroll information

Schools are responsible for making sure that tutors get paid. To this end they provide forms for necessary information, such as tax file numbers and banking details. Schools either request this information from tutors with a letter offering a position, or distribute forms during induction sessions.

Claiming payment

  • To claim payment, staff are required to submit a timesheet on a fortnightly basis for hours worked. Your school will provide you with information on how to do this using the online myAurion timekeeper system.
  • Pay day at UQ is every second Thursday. It takes at least two weeks for the University to process the necessary forms, so the first pay may take longer than two weeks to be deposited.
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3. Preparation and planning

Preparing material

  • Read and think about the material you need to present. In general, your course coordinator should provide you with class lists and some preliminary guidance and/or material to be covered in the tutorial.
  • Write down three or four learning objectives you want to achieve or cover in the class.
  • Do a lesson plan of specific activities that will help achieve the objectives. Include a rough breakdown of times to be spent on each activity, factoring in time for discussion.
  • Think about questions to ask the class to promote discussion.
  • Think about ways you can learn student names. For example, on the first day of class get students to write their name on a piece of paper in front of them. Also consider taking a roll at the beginning of each tutorial. (In some schools, taking a roll is a requirement to monitor attendance.)
  • Prepare an icebreaker activity to get to know the students, and let them get to know you.
  • Keep a record of how much time you are spending on class preparation.

Be organised

  • Identify where you will be teaching and make sure you have access to the room.
  • Have all the papers and materials you will need on the day.
  • Make sure you can operate any equipment you plan to use.
  • Dress appropriately for a member of staff.
  • Arrive early to give yourself time to set up.
  • Where possible, set up the room to encourage equal participation (for example, students sitting in a circle facing one another).
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4. Presenting and facilitating

Student feedback suggests that a ‘good’ tutor is one who:

  • is enthusiastic, confident and well prepared
  • is approachable and accessible for consultation
  • is encouraging and supportive
  • is knowledgeable of the relevant course topics, course details and organisational issues
  • uses a variety of teaching and learning methods to engage students
  • manages the group well
  • uses the knowledge and experiences of the group to facilitate learning
  • treats students equitably and fairly
  • reflects on their own performance as a teacher
  • seeks to continually improve.

Effective presentation and facilitation of tutorials involves:

Structuring your tutorial appropriately

Always start with an introduction, then move to the body of the information you want to cover. Finish your tutorial with a strong conclusion. If you are going to use PowerPoint, use it well.

Using your body effectively

  • Dress appropriately
  • Smile
  • Establish eye contact
  • Use gestures

Speaking with confidence and authority

  • Speak with enthusiasm, with and not at the audience.
  • Pronounce your words correctly and clearly.
  • Avoid words that create doubt, such as – kind of, sort of, I hope, I guess, perhaps.

Starting your tutorial well

  • Introduce yourself, and tell your students a bit about yourself (e.g. if and what you are studying; your qualifications and/or research expertise).
  • Write your name clearly on the board, as well as your UQ email address for contact.
  • Call students by their first name.
  • Initiate an icebreaker activity - ask everyone to introduce themselves to the group, or to the student next to them, and say what they'd like to do after graduating.
  • Establish an open, welcoming atmosphere; students should feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions with the group.

Establishing ground rules

Problems can arise with students because of unclear expectations. Establishing expectations or ground rules at the beginning of semester helps maintain good working relationships. Ground rules might include:

  • Any compulsory attendance requirements.
  • No mobile phones in class, and media devices only when necessary.
  • Respect other people’s opinions, and don’t speak over others.
  • Be punctual.
  • Outlining when and how you will respond to student emails. Some general tips are to only reply to emails during business hours; and suggest students consult the ECP and Blackboard site before they email you with a query.

Conducting a successful tutorial

  • It's important to ask questions skilfully and frequently, to promote discussion and clarify understanding.
  • Repeat questions to make sure everyone has heard and understood.
  • If a student asks you a question that you don't know the answer to, be honest. Throw the question back to the group, and if they don't know, tell the students you will find out and let them know.
  • Encourage discussion. (For ideas on how to provoke discussion, see Responding to classroom challenges.)
  • Make sure you try to include all students; ask non-participators for their views.
  • Show students how to approach a problem: you can use a series of questions to progressively reveal the solution to a problem.
  • Provide assistance for student presentations.
  • Consider using group work to help facilitate engagement and learning.

Ending on the right note

  • Summarise the key points that arose during the tutorial.
  • Ask if there are any further questions or concerns.
  • If necessary, tell students what you expect from them outside of tutorial hours.
  • Tell students what will be covered in the next tutorial so that they can prepare.

Don’t forget to reflect on your first tutorial session. Identify what went well, what didn’t, and how to prevent that happening next time.

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5. Assessment, marking and feedback

Most tutors will deal with course assessment tasks as part of their duties. The following information provides some background to assessment, as well as some practical suggestions on marking and feedback. More specific guidance will be provided by your course coordinator.

The Electronic Course Profile (ECP)

Assessment requirements must be provided in writing to students in the ECP, including the weighting of each assessment, and its due date. A description of course profiles can be found on myUQ.

The UQ Policy and Procedures Library includes The Course Profile Policy.

You should be familiar with the course assessment requirements so you can explain them to students at the start of teaching.

The UQ Policies and Procedures on Assessment stipulate that the assessment approach used at UQ is criterion referenced assessment, whereby ‘judgements about the quality of students’ performance are made by reference to explicit or predetermined criteria and standards, and not by reference to the achievement of other students'.

For more information about Assessment at UQ, visit the Assessment page under Resources.

Marking students’ work

UQ's grading system can be found in the Teaching and Learning Policies and Procedure Library under Curricula and Assessment: Grading System. In particular, Section 5 lists descriptors of each grade category from 1 to 7.  

When marking assessment:

  • Be sure the assessment criteria you use meets the standard set by the lecturer in charge of your course. In most cases, your course coordinator will meet with you and explain the marking system for each piece of assessment.
  • Check back over your marking of students’ work, particularly if the length of time between marking the first few and the last few items was quite long.
  • It is the responsibility of the course coordinator to ensure that your marks/grades for each assessment item are moderated across a course.

Assessing group work

Assessing group work can involve assessing group process, assessing the group product, or a combination of both. This can be assessed at an individual and/or group level.

The criteria by which each group is assessed may be decided by the lecturer, students or both. Assessment criteria should be linked to the intended outcomes of the work. Assessment criteria may include:

  • meeting attendance
  • equity of contribution
  • behaviour within the group
  • development of competencies
  • peer feedback/criticism.

How marks will be assigned must be determined prior to the commencement of group work.

A shared group mark encourages group participation, but does not necessarily reflect individual contributions.

A group average mark may provide more motivation to students to work both individually and within the group. This does not necessarily take into account the individual’s contributions.

Assessing each individual within a group may be a fairer method of assessment. Individuals may be assessed for an allocated task within the overall group task, or on individual reports. Peer evaluation can be an integral part of allocating marks, however may be subject to bias.

Providing feedback to students

The provision of feedback is outlined in the Teaching and Learning Policies and Procedure Library under Assessment Procedures: Provision of Feedback.

The way in which feedback is provided is dependent on assessment submission procedures. Your course coordinator will provide you with more guidance on this.

In general, feedback should be:

  • timely – feedback lets students know how they are going; what they are doing well, and in which areas to improve
  • constructive – identify strengths and weaknesses, and state how work can be improved
  • balanced – provide both positive remarks and critical comments. It’s always good to begin and end with a positive comment
  • varied – feedback could include discussion as a group, written comments on work, model answers, lists of common mistakes, as well as individual comment
  • self-explanatory – use terms that students will understand, and don’t use symbols without explaining what they mean.

Plagiarism

As a tutor, you need to be familiar with the University’s guidelines on Academic integrity and student conduct. If you suspect a student has not acted properly, you should bring the matter to the attention of your course coordinator.
 

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6. Safety

As a tutor, you are responsible for the safety of the students in your tutorial, and should be familiar with the following:

Medical emergencies

In case of medical emergency:

  • Remove the person from danger IF it is safe to do so.
  • Note that first aid should only be given by a qualified person: either a school- or centre-nominated first aid officer, or any security officer.
  • Call 336 53333 to alert Security (they will call an ambulance for you, if required). State your name and contact phone number; your precise location; the number of persons injured; the nature of the accident/injury; and what action has been taken.
  • Arrange an easily located point to meet the emergency team and guide them to the incident.
  • Delegate people to stay by the phone and people to meet the emergency team.

Fire

In case of fire:

  • Know where the fire exits are in every building in which you tutor, and let your class know where these exits are located.
  • Call 336 53333 to alert Security (they will call the fire brigade for you).
  • Follow the instructions of the building’s Fire Warden.
  • Warn/evacuate people, if appropriate.
  • Ensure the safety of people with disabilities.
  • Confine the fire, if possible (close doors and windows).
  • Do not use lifts.
  • Go to the nearest prearranged assembly point.

Laboratories and workshops

As a tutor, you need to:

  • Familiarise yourself with the particular hazards and safety procedures for the workplace. You should refer to risk assessments that have been performed for any processes you will have to carry out, or on equipment you will have to use.
  • Familiarise yourself with the UQ OHS Guidelines, in particular, those developed specifically for laboratories.
  • Enforce the dress requirements of the workplace.
  • Enforce the conditions of access to the workplace.
  • Alert your supervisor to any potential problems in the workplace.

In the event of an environmental incident (spill, fire, explosion):

  • Call 336 53333 to alert Security (note: do not use a mobile phone).
  • Alert people in the surrounding area/buildings (in case of spill, also those that may be downwind from the affected area).
  • Alert the relevant school/centre/section.
  • If safe to do so, contain the spill, fire, etc.
  • Obey all directions from Security and/or emergency services.

Adapted from the ITEE Tutor's Administrative Handbook 1/2007, and UQ Security's Emergency Procedures leaflet June 2007.

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7. Handling of difficult situations

Working as a tutor, you may encounter a number of difficult situations with your students.

It is very important to let your course coordinator know if you have serious concerns about any of your students.

Students who approach you with administrative problems, such as enrolment, examination issues or changing programs, can be referred online to myUQ, or to the Student Centres for face-to-face consultation.

The Policies and Guidelines page of this website contains links to many of the University policies and procedures which relate to your role as a tutor.

For help dealing with common classroom issues related to teaching practice, visit the Enhancing practice page.

Personal problems affecting students

Students may approach you for help with non-academic issues. While it is important to deal with students empathically, it is not your role to solve their problems.

The best way of helping students is to redirect them to the broad range of support services that the University provides.

The University has a variety of resources for students who need information, advice, or are having problems with accommodation, parking, money, study, career choice, computing or their personal lives. This information can be found in the Student support section of myUQ. You might wish to familiarise yourself with the services available so you can let students know about them.

If a student is experiencing a problem for which urgent attention is required, you should consult with your course coordinator.

If a student has a health or psychiatric emergency, you should call Campus Security on 336 53333, 24 hours a day. Campus Security coordinates the response to all emergencies on campus.

Student complaints about academic matters

Students may have a grievance relating to teaching and learning in the course you are tutoring, particularly assessment. Your school or course coordinator should provide you with guidance about the ways in which these matters should be addressed.

Students with issues relating to the marking of assignments and exams can be referred to the myUQ page Querying a result, which gives guidance on the steps which can be taken, as well as providing links to relevant UQ policies.

Workplace issues for tutors

As a tutor, you may have issues with your course coordinator. You may feel that you are not being remunerated according to University policy or that you have not been given appropriate guidance to carry out your duties. Your school should provide you with advice as to the procedure you should use to discuss these issues.

In general, you should attempt to resolve the problem with the staff member concerned. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, bring the matter to the attention of the Head of School.

The Staff Grievance Resolution Policy outlines the University’s policy and procedures in regard to resolving staff grievances.

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