Lectures are lost in discussions Tutorials are losing their purpose and lectures are taking on more than they should be


Lecture should not be a place to ask assignment questions, have long discussions receive participation marks. If attendance in both tutorial and lecture is mandatory and graded, what’s the point of having both sections take up time in my schedule?

Not all students enjoy tutorial-style scenarios. They are meant to be a smaller setting for facilitating group discussions and for the students to clarify concepts and ask assignment questions as a whole.

Unfortunately, tutorials have been losing their purpose. With the diverse requirements of certain classes in different programs and the rise of technology as a resource for students, tutorials may not be as necessary as they used to be. This is not the case for every class, but some course structures need to be reassessed.

With the increase of resources that eliminate the need for social contact, it is becoming harder for students to find the motivation to attend tutorials. Anyone who uses Khan Academy and relies on proffs to post lecture slides online can tell you the same thing.

This is why the incentive of participation marks exists; where, though attendance is not mandatory, it might as well be if you are interested in getting a better grade. However, certain undergraduate classes are beginning to use the participation mark incentive to forcibly influence students to attend lecture as well.

Students who have class in the new “active rooms” in L.R. Wilson Hall have experienced this. One of my mandatory English courses weighs each two-hour lecture to be one per cent of my final grade and solely bases this on the forced group participation portion of the lecture. Yes, lecture. Not to mention that this full-year course also has a full-year tutorial that uses the participation marks incentive. This lecture is one of the “learning pod” classes in L.R. Wilson.

With the diverse requirements of certain classes in different programs and the rise of technology as a resource for students, tutorials may not be as necessary as they used to be.

The active learning classrooms are “high-tech” classrooms with multiple TV screens that students sitting in the “learning pods”, also known as the round tables in the classroom, have access to using an HDM port.

In addition, the room also has a microphone at each seat and each pod has a complimentary white board at each seat. Sounds like the perfect tutorial room, doesn’t it?

Tutorials are beneficial for certain classes, however a lecture like the one I just mentioned does not need an additional tutorial. In this case, the integrity of the lecture-tutorial dynamic becomes obsolete.

However, in certain classes, the three hours of graded participation might be beneficial, especially for classes that are heavily dependent on discussions for grade achievement.

Though McMaster has a reputation as a university that practices the lecture-tutorial dichotomy, some classes have been straying away from this strategy of learning.

Some classes have been adopting the “flipped classroom method”, where students study at home using voice-over videos or modules that the professor has provided, and lecture is used to ask questions and expand on content that students learned about at home.

For certain classes like economics and psychology courses, this strategy works because it extracts the need for forced participation and encourages students to participate at their own pace, based on their own knowledge and understanding.

It also gives students more time to study concepts in the week by getting rid of a tutorial slot, and allows students to learn based on their own learning methods.

Just because McMaster has a lecture-tutorial dynamic, doesn’t mean that all courses need to hold true to it. Courses need to be assessed based on their structures and purposes. If tutorial is not beneficial for me as a student, then it doesn’t need to be one more reason for me to worry about my grade.


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Author: Reem Sheet

Reem Sheet's name alone indicates she is meant for a career in journalism. A second year English and Philosophy student, she is the Opinion Editor for Volume 88. An avid writer and volunteer (to the point of volunteering for an organization that organizes volunteers), Reem is firm in her opinions and takes great pride in having a lot of them.

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