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

Professional development

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

If you are a new tutor, you are encouraged to participate in both: 

  • Tutors@UQ, a three-part face-to-face program (a total of 5 hours) run by individual schools and faculties prior to each semester and covering essential tutoring training. Note: you will be paid while attending this program.
  • Teaching Online for Tutors, a 3.5-hour online course that compliments the Tutors@UQ program. This online course is designed to prepare you for:
    • online teaching and learning
    • supporting and motivating students
    • creating an inclusive online learning environment; and
    • using UQ teaching supported technology to enrich learning.
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Before you start

Applying to be a tutor

Schools handle the tutor application process, which varies between schools. Relevant contact details are available on your school’s website. 

Duty statement or contract

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. 

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. 
  • All UQ staff, including casuals, are required to complete mandatory OH&S and HR staff training online modules. 
  • If you are new to tutoring, professional development options include the Tutors@UQ program and Teaching Online for Tutors online course (see above section on ‘Professional development’). 
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Preparing for the semester

Planning

  • 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 Learn.UQ (Blackboard) site. 

Preparing material

  • Read and think about the goals for your tutorial. 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.
  • 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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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 the 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 Electronic Course Profile (ECP) and Learn.UQ (Blackboard) site before they email you with a query. 

Conducting a successful tutorial

  • It's important to ask questions skillfully 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 below)
  • 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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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. 

Assessment requirements

Assessment requirements must be provided in writing to students in the Electronic Course Profile (ECP), including the weighting of each assessment and its due date.  

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

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 

Marking students’ work

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 Assessment Procedures: 3.4 Provision of feedback on assessment

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. 

A set of academic integrity resources (UQ staff login required) are available to teachers including a Guidance for markers to identify academic misconduct (PDF, 163.1 KB).

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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.
  • 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.
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Handling 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 Centre for personalised help.

Please familiarise yourself with the University policies and procedures in teaching and learning that relate to your role. 

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, computer/equipment or their personal lives. This information can be found in the Student support section of myUQ. Please 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 medical 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. 

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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. 
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 Training for new tutors

Tutors@UQ, a three-part face-to-face program (a total of 5 hours) run by individual schools and faculties prior to each semester and covering essential tutoring training. Note: you will be paid while attending this program.

Teaching Online for Tutors, a 3.5-hour online course that compliments the Tutors@UQ program.