Overview - University of Wollongong Teaching & Learning Journal

Article Title

Increasing student participation in tutorials


Students learn best when they are actively participating rather than just listening. Yet when I walk by tutorials in progress, all too often it is the tutor who is speaking. Is it a lecture or a tutorial? If students join in, it is often the same few students who do all the talking. The rest do their best to appear inconspicuous, so they won't be called upon to speak. It can be quite a challenge to foster participation by all students in tutorials. I've tried a variety of techniques, with more or less success. Some of the better ones are described below. For the tutor, the hardest part of using techniques that foster participation is relinquishing control and trusting students to keep on track without constant supervision. In the usual procedure of having a discussion with the full group, the tutor can monitor every student. When the students are working in small groups, this is impossible. I don't mark students according to how much they participate on their own initiative, since this discriminates against certain personality types and ethnic groups. Rather, I treat it as my responsibility to ensure participation, using techniques such as those below. The tutorial participation mark then is based on attendance, which thus represents participation. No single method is most appropriate for all groups, topics and purposes. I keep experimenting to see what works. I always explain why I'm proposing to use a particular technique and ask students to at least give it a fair go. Even if they decide they don't like it, at least they will have experienced it.