Student Engagement and Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Different Tutorial Formats in the Humanities

By Paul Sendziuk.

Published by The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education

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This paper describes four of the most common tutorial formats adopted in the humanities — large (entire class) discussions, small group discussions, role-plays, and internet-based threaded discussions — and examines student perceptions of their engagement with, and the effectiveness of, each format based on a range of criteria. The information was collected at the end of a semester-length course in which the students experienced each tutorial style on at least two occasions. Students then completed non-compulsory and anonymous questionnaires asking them to rank the tutorial formats against each other (from 1 to 4) according to eight different criteria, including which tutorial was the most enjoyable, which offered the greatest opportunity for meaningful contribution to the discussion, and which most motivated the student to prepare and participate. The responses pointed to an overwhelming preference for small group activities over large (entire class) discussions, and indicated dissatisfaction with online threaded discussions, which were rated last for the majority of criteria. The responses also revealed that students valued the opportunity to role-play, and that such activities motivated students to prepare most thoroughly for tutorial.

Keywords: Student Engagement, Asynchronous Online Discussion, Role-play

The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp.1-21. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 360.114KB).

Dr. Paul Sendziuk

Associate Professor, School of History and Politics, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Dr Paul Sendziuk is an Associate Professor in the School of History and Politics at The University of Adelaide, with particular expertise in the history of post-war immigration, public health and disease. He is the author of Learning to Trust: Australian Responses to AIDS, and co-editor of Turning Points: Chapters in South Australian History. Along with History-related articles and book chapters, Paul has published papers concerned with collaborative learning, innovative assessment and effective feedback, threshold concepts, and the promotion of ethical professional practice. In recognition of his scholarship and teaching, Paul was awarded his Faculty's Excellence in Teaching Prize in 2007 and the University of Adelaide's Stephen Cole the Elder Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2009. In 2011 he received an Australian Learning & Teaching Council Citation for 'Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning'.