Tutorials are central to your education at Oxford and normally involve a pair of students meeting with a single Tutor. In all subjects, you should normally have one tutorial every week or nearly every week and will need to do substantial preparation in advance. The aim of tutorials is to stimulate you to think independently within your discipline. The tutorial will go into depth on certain topics, but will also require you to draw on a breadth of knowledge in your discipline, perhaps making connections between the focus topic and other areas studied. Some subjects will also have meetings in larger class groups.
It is acceptable to take a few notes in tutorials, e.g. to an additional reference source, but note-taking is not the objective. Your aim should be to engage in discussion of the material you have been studying with your Tutor and to develop your own understanding of the subject area. Your Tutor may ask you to explain the material you have prepared and will question you to probe your understanding and to help you think more clearly. You will only be able to engage properly in this process if you have done sufficient preparation. That does not require you to be entirely clear about the material, to have completed all problem sheets correctly or to have written the definitive essay on the topic. You may have had great difficulty with the set work and this would not be unusual! Your tutors do not expect you to have complete mastery of the topic, they simply expect you to have given sufficient time and effort to the attempt. If you find you are spending hours without progress, move on to something else or contact your tutor for advice.
A tutorial is an opportunity for you to have any questions answered; however, if you have engaged with the confusion yourself you should be able to locate the specific areas you find challenging. A tutorial should not be a ‘mini lecture’. If it becomes one, this can be due to a lack of preparation on your part, and it will be a missed opportunity. The more you put into your tutorial preparation, the more you will get out of it!
Tutors will differ in their requirements for the submission of tutorial work. Some will require it in advance, while others may want you to bring the work with you to the tutorial; some want work delivered to their pigeonholes, and others may accept emailed submissions. It is important to be clear about what your Tutor requires and to comply with this. If you fail to meet the requirements, the tutorial may be postponed or cancelled. If for any reason you cannot complete the required work to the deadline or cannot attend a tutorial, you should always contact the Tutor in advance of the submission deadline.
Lectures and practical classes
Lectures and practical classes or ‘labs’ (in the sciences) are organised centrally by the University. Practical work is usually a required part of a degree course, and records are kept of student attendance and performance. They are often a qualifying requirement for passing the degree. Although attendance records are not usually kept for lectures, it would be foolish to miss any scheduled lectures for your course without the approval of your Personal Tutor. Lectures usually cover the core syllabus material, with an additional perspective beyond the background reading and provide a good grounding for your private study. Lecturers often provide handouts for lectures or copies of their presentation slides. However, these resources in isolation are not a substitute for attending lectures, but this may only become apparent at revision time! Students should use these handouts as a support for their own note taking in the lectures, perhaps annotating them during the lecture itself. It is essential to take an active approach to engagement with lectures, making sure you follow the argument. Students may wish to use the lecture as an introduction prior to reading about the topic, or a consolidation and extension of the background reading completed in advance. If you do not feel you are getting the most out of lectures, please talk to your tutor.
In most subjects, the majority of your work will be based on private study. This does not have to be an isolated activity. It will always be beneficial to discuss academic work with others in the College who study similar (or even quite different) subjects. In addition to information from lectures and classes, there are extensive libraries both in the College and in the University. Study at University level requires you to do more than simply regurgitate the material presented to you in lectures, so do take this wonderful opportunity to delve into the libraries and possibly find something beyond the reading list to surprise your Tutor!
A major challenge for many freshers will be learning how to manage your time appropriately. This is particularly true for arts subjects where there is relatively little timetabled activity and a large amount of reading to be done. If you have problems with managing your time, do ask your Personal Tutor or the Senior Tutor for help and advice, or look at the excellent study resources available on the University counselling service website.
LMH is committed to providing the best possible learning experience, and offers a great deal of help and support for you to succeed in your studies. All students will be invited to attend group meetings on time management, exam techniques and stress reduction. It is not unusual to need a little extra help or clarification from time to time, so if you have questions about managing your academic work please do ask for help and advice.
Your first port of call will be your subject tutors whom you will see frequently within tutorials. You can also talk to your Personal Tutor or the Senior Tutor about academic issues or difficulties. Tutors may refer you to the Study Skills Lecturers, Dr Thomas Player and Dr Edward Sutcliffe, who can assist with a wide range of matters such as time management, essay writing, laying out problem sheets, note-taking, and strategies for revision and exams. Students of LMH can attend group workshops, drop in for quick advice at specified times, or make an appointment for a longer one-to-one meeting for confidential support tailor-made to suit the your individual requirements.
For more details, contact the Study Skills Lecturers at firstname.lastname@example.org.