How Tutors Can Enhance Your Study Skills and Your College Experience

Tutors come in two main varieties and the successful implementation of your study skills at school may very well depend on your relationship with them.

Personal tutors look after your general welfare and ensure that you aren’t drifting off course in your university life in general and your academic work in particular.

Subject tutors are specialists who teach different subject areas in your degree. For instance, within a History degree you could have a subject tutor for Medieval History, another for seventeenth century European History, another for the Industrial Revolution and post-1948 Chinese History. When you have to do written work or exams in their subject areas, they are the experts to call upon. Some will give you tutorials to advise you on your written work.

Personal tutors

You probably have a year tutor or personal tutor who’s notified of any absences and reasons for them by the faculty or school office or by her secretary. This tutor keeps a record of your work and exam marks and generally has the information about you she needs to keep an eye on things.

A subject tutor may inform your personal tutor if you have missed a lot of classes, for instance, and the subject tutor has not been able to contact you or is not happy with your reasons for being absent. They do talk to each other! Subject and personal tutors have formal and informal meetings to check on progress and any problems.

Your subject tutor will probably only suggest a meeting if she thinks that you have a problem with your grades or exam results or unexplained absences. There may be a once-a-term meeting for all personal tutors and their tutees just to keep in touch.

Make sure that your personal tutor knows who you are, as she’s the most likely person to give you a character reference when you leave and the one to call on first if you find yourself in a spot of bother. If you have any concerns about your course, your work or personal matters, she’s the person to contact, sooner rather than later.

Personal tutors don’t go looking for trouble, so be proactive. You may find that she was aware of potential problems but wanted to give you some time to work things out for yourself and didn’t want to push you.

You can visit your tutor during her office hours and if she feels you need more time together or she needs to contact other people for help, perhaps a subject tutor, she’ll organise this and arrange another meeting with you at an appropriate time.

A social gathering with staff and students usually takes place once a term, so use this to have a chat with your tutor in order to get to know each other if you haven’t had reason to seek each other out beforehand.

If you want to switch courses, or even go to another institution, then your personal tutor can help you negotiate this and support you.

You’ll have to provide a reasoned argument for why you want to transfer and consider the practical problems – will you have to repeat a year, can you extend your grant to another year, or can you catch up the lectures you’ve missed without re-doing a year? She talks through the pros and cons of various courses of action with you.

If you have problems concerning the conduct of the course you’re currently attending – for instance, cancelled lectures or lack of feedback on written work – your personal tutor is the person to talk to if you find approaching the relevant subject tutors difficult or unsatisfactory.

To help your personal tutor find the cause of the problem and sort it out satisfactorily you need to provide her with details such as the number of cancelled lectures and their dates, the hand-in dates for work and so on. If you have a learning diary, you need to record this information in it.

Subject tutors

You may have several subject tutors for the various sub-areas of your course of study. Those who set you essays or other assessed work often timetable – in some tutorials to help you through the various stages of the process – they need to approve the title, objectives, methods, help with finding appropriate resources and so on.

Tutorials of this kind may take place fortnightly or at regular periods in term time and continue through part of the holidays, especially the summer. Office hours are for those who don’t have timetabled tutorials and for emergencies.

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