By: Tory Dockree, Tabatha May, and Emily Meilleur-Rivers
Tutorials were definitely something we were nervous about. Eventually, however, we came to really enjoy them. We found that tutorials were easier to get used to since structurally they resembled our high school classes.
Tutorials are a space where you engage with the content you are learning, discuss ideas and engage with your peers. Depending on the course, you may have two lectures and one tutorial per week. You can think of these as mini classes where a Teaching Assistant (TA) instead of a professor leads the learning.
Your TA will be a paid upper-year or graduate student who normally has taken the course and received at least an A- (10 on the 12pt scale). TAs will talk you through the course content, clarify any questions you have, facilitate discussions and usually explain assignment, exam and project expectations. TAs are the ones grading your work, so it’s really important that you pay attention to the expectations they highlight. If your TA is okay with it, show them your assignments before you submit them! If they aren’t receptive, ask if they can recommend other supports. Also feel free to contact TAs via email, visit their office hours, or if applicable, see them at one of the help centres.
Tutorials are important because they provide you with an opportunity to delve deeper into the material covered in lectures. These are helpful as they can save you time and frustration when preparing for large assignments or tests because they allow you to think over and process the material learned in lectures. Tutorials are often worth 10-20% of your mark. These marks are based on attendance and participation, and while it may not seem like very much, they can boost your final grade in the class.
Now it’s time to discuss the format of a tutorial! This varies depending on your program. Different faculties and classes will have tutorials that will be structured in different ways. However, there is typically a general format for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and social sciences/humanities classes.
In STEM classes, tutorials are where you practice the various applications of the content covered during lectures. The TA usually works through practice problems that either the professor has assigned or that students have brought to their attention. Students often also ask questions throughout the tutorial and you can feel free to take the time to clarify any concepts that you are struggling with. We’ve found that these often feel a lot like high school math or science classes and can be comforting because of that similarity.
Social sciences and humanities tutorials are typically structured as class discussions where you discuss the content found in that week’s lectures, as well as the assigned readings. However, depending upon the class, there may be other methods of interacting with the course material such as case studies. Since there are fewer people in the tutorial, they are a great opportunity to participate and affirm your knowledge and thoughts about the course.
How to participate in tutorial
- Do your readings and engage with the content before tutorial to better ensure that you are able to contribute meaningful ideas.
- Make notes on thoughts or criticisms that you had of the material while you were initially going through it and bring them with you so that you already have a few talking points.
- If your thoughts build off of a fellow classmate, say “Going off of what ___ said…” This shows that you are an active part of the conversation.
- Listening will not only improve your knowledge of course material but will also prevent you from repeating the same sentiments as your fellow classmates.
- Asking questions in tutorial is another way to show that you are engaged with the material. Never be embarrassed to ask a question; there’s a good chance that you are not the only one who needs clarification.
- A great way to build your confidence in asking questions is to prepare a few questions beforehand and ask them when they seem applicable.
We know that for many first-year students, tutorials are intimidating. They were for us too. Ultimately, tutorials came to be something we looked forward to every week. One time I (Tabatha) even showed up to a tutorial that I wasn’t in and I decided to stick around- and I kinda had a good time. Anyway, we hope that you come to enjoy them too and that regardless, you are able to develop the tools to succeed in them.
About Tory, Tabatha and Emily
I’m going into my third year of Arts & Science with a combination in Philosophy.
I’m going into my fourth year of Social Psychology with a minor in Sociology.
I just finished my undergrad in English and Cultural Studies with a Minor in Women’s Studies. In September, I am sticking around at Mac to start my Master’s in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory.