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Students prefer tutorial-based teaching, a new study shows

11 April 2014

Clare Goudy reports on a study into student attitudes to small-group teaching, presented at the UCL Teaching and Learning Conference 2014

Tutorial teaching

Andrew Dawson, UCL Information Studies, wanted to understand whether using small-group tutorials would improve students’ understanding and engagement with their subject matter. His solution was to turn a module originally delivered in three-hour blocks of lectures and exercises into one-hour group tutorials supplemented by a three-hour information session at the start and a three-hour revision session at the end.

The experiment also included having 50 per cent of the assessment for the module delivered via open peer assessment, with students working together to develop their own criteria.

At the end of the module, students completed a 34-question survey to capture their reaction to the new module. Here is what Andrew found:

The results

  • The experiment saw 100 per cent attendance at tutorials and 100 per cent feedback return
  • All the students enjoyed the tutorials – 3/5 was the lowest mark for enjoyment
  • Two thirds felt they learned more broadly and more deeply
  • Three quarters of students felt that the tutorial approach was better or much better
  • 80 per cent said they would actively prefer this approach (only one wanted something different)
  • Peer review was generally felt to be fair, as fewer than 15 per cent had reservations, which tended to be doubts about the grading they had given others
  • There was some grade inflation, as students tended to mark more highly if in doubt
  • At the end of the course, students indicated that they wanted more detailed peer review reports – and that they wanted these anonymously
  • There were some issues with inhibitions, but a huge improvement in students’ attitudes to peer review; 4/5 felt it was useful and positive, compared with just over 3/5 at the start of the module.

Further information

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