TUTORIAL METHODS OF INSTRUCTION
A Course for Problem-Based
Learning Group Facilitators
||209 McKinly Laboratory
Tutorial Methods of Instruction
is a course for junior and senior undergraduates, and graduate students
who are group facilitators in PBL
courses. Students may register for two credits in BISC-422 Section 10,
CHEM-467, or special topics/independent study in their home department.
It is offered every semester and taught alternately by Dr. Deborah Allen
(Fall) and Dr. Hal White (Spring). Dr. Harold White, who teaches Tutorial
Methods in the spring semester, will attend course sessions this fall,
and lead several session activities. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org,
Meeting Time & Place:
The first class session is scheduled for Wednesday,
August 30th from 4-6 pm in 109 Memorial. All additional classes
will meet from 4-6 pm in the same location at the dates listed below. As
you can see from this list, the Tutorial Methods course will meet
more often at the start of the semester, and less often as the semester
progresses and you become more familiar with effective strategies. In order
to gain practical experience in guiding PBL groups, you will also be asked
to attend the regular meeting times of one of the problem-based learning
(PBL) courses on campus that uses undergraduate peer facilitators, and
meet on a regular basis with the instructor of that course for more specific
preparation (either this semester or in the spring).
Readings for each class will be distributed
at the previous week's session. The list of readings, session outlines,
and additional information associated with each session will be distributed
in class or posted here as each approaches.
of 1st class session
Outline of 2nd class session
Outline of 3rd class
August 30th - readings are about PBL,
and the status of undergraduate education at research universities (Boyer
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October 18th - first draft of first
case due; discussion of cases
November 1st - final draft of first
teaching case due (as e-mail attachment, or to 209 McKinly Lab), but no
November 15th - second teaching
December 6th - course evaluations; reflection
on the semester's experience
for This and Other PBL Courses:
Learning, according to the constructivist view,
requires active involvement of the learner in an environment where new
information can be integrated with prior knowledge and experience. It recognizes
the uniqueness of each persons understanding and the impossibility that
a learner's construction of knowledge will replicate in every detail that
of the instructor. Too often in education, the ability to remember and
reproduce information has been confused with understanding.
A constructivist philosophy underlies the problem-based
approach to learning. Problem-based
learning (PBL) was formalized in medical school education where
students in small groups were encouraged to learn basic concepts in the
context of a real problem (a medical case study) under the supervision
of a faculty tutor (PBL jargon for "group facilitator"). In 1992 several
professors at the University of Delaware began to adopt and adapt
PBL for undergraduate instruction in both introductory and advanced courses
in a number of disciplines. Due to the larger class sizes, these instructors
were not able to dedicate their entire efforts towards working with one
small group, as was the case originally in the medical school setting when
the method was introduced. Some solutions for this dilemma have been for
the course instructors to serve as roving facilitators who spend part of
each class with each group, or to enlist the assistance of talented undergraduates.
This latter solution (or a combination of the two) has been particularly
effective, from the viewpoint of students, facilitators, and instructors.
As this strategy has become more popular at
UD, the instructors using it have joined together to bring their diverse
perspectives and experiences to help peer group facilitators learn the
needed skills and to support their efforts in the classroom. The result
is the course Tutorial Methods of Instruction, which as indicated
by the title, will focus on inquiry- and group-based methods of teaching
and learning. Facilitators enrolled in the course will learn how to assist
the learning of other students through questioning methods that promote
thinking and discussion, through establishing and maintaining positive
group dynamics, and by introducing students to new resources. The course
is designed to familiarize group facilitators with general methods that
should work in any classroom, and are not confined to a particular discipline.
While facilitators should be reasonably knowledgeable in the subject in
which they will work with groups, and must understand and be familiar with
the material in a particular course, they need not be content experts in
the subject to be effective at guiding groups.
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Roles and Responsibilities
Peer Facilitators in Tutorial
Instructors - Tutorial
To attend and be prepared for every class session
To participate fully in class activities/exercises/assignments
To keep a journal of your reflections/experiences
as a group facilitator throughout the semester. This journal will not be
read by anyone but you, but we will ask you to review it periodically as
the basis for class discussions. There are no absolute rules about the
nature and/or length of your entries, but you will get a good impression
of whether your journal meets the intended purpose during sessions in which
we ask you to look back over what you have written. A general rule of thumb
is to focus most on "critical events"- those experiences during the semester
that really captured your attention in some positive or negative way.
To write two teaching cases (the first due on October
18th, and the second due on November 15th) based
on your experiences as a group facilitator. A well-kept journal will be
particularly useful for this assignment. The second case does not need
to be a new one - it can be an extension of the scenario from the first.
To provide and accept feedback (to and from students/instructors
and other facilitators) gracefully
To participate fully in evaluations of course sessions
and of entire course
The course instructors will have many of the
same responsibilities listed above for the facilitators, and in addition
will provide individual feedback and guidance during the semester. They
will be available to facilitators for consultation outside the Tutorial
in the PBL course in which you will tutor:
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To serve as a guide for one or more student groups.
The number of groups you will guide will vary with the number of students
enrolled in the course.
To attend every class
To work towards improving the thinking and problem-solving
skills of the students in your group(s), and on promoting a positive atmosphere
To be available to the instructor and students
To meet once a week (or as often as required) with
the instructor to go over the plans for the next class meetings, and review
successes and disappointments
To read the assignments in preparation for each
class and planning session
Other responsibilities, as negotiated with the
instructor of the course
Anticipated Topics for
Many of the sessions will use trigger tapes - videoclips
that will show student groups in action in a PBL classroom. The clips typically
end with a "critical incident" that will serve as a launching point for
class discussions of the peer facilitator role and how groups function.
These tapes are based on teaching case studies written by the course instructors
and former peer group facilitators.
Creating a positive environment for learning in
a PBL class
Ethical aspects of teaching
Guiding students in finding resources
Behaviors that undermine optimal functioning of
a group (I)
Fostering even group participation
Giving and receiving feedback (I)
Helping students to refine their presentations
Recreating a good environment for learning as end
of semester "overload" approaches
Presentation and discussion of teaching cases I
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Expected Benefits of
the Tutor/Facilitator Experience
For the students:
Having a peer who has had the course and who knows what lies ahead in the
major can be a tremendous asset to students who are relatively new to the
college experience or to a particular subject. This type of network can
have profoundly positive effects on the performance of students in subsequent
For peer group facilitators:
The experience will allow you to help other students in a formal way. For
students who may be interested in a career in teaching, it provides an
opportunity to experience the role of teacher using some of the educational
approaches that are likely to continue to be important. It also will be
a multidimensional learning experience (helping others to learn as you
learn). There is no better way to really learn a subject than to teach
For the instructors:
It allows us to explore ways to improve the learning of all students, both
tutors and PBL course registrants. It requires us to think of the more
global issues involved in teaching and learning - that is, those that transcend
"coverage" of the content matter of a discipline. It helps us to maintain
enthusiasm for teaching by providing an intellectually stimulating pedagogical
Current or former students
in Tutorial Methods of Instruction have served as tutor-facilitators in
the following courses:
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To Biological Sciences Home Page
BISC-207, Introductory Biology I (Dr. Allen, Dr.
Donham, and Dr.
BISC-208, Introductory Biology II (Dr.
Allen, Dr. Dion)
BISC-472, Principles of Infectious Disease (Dr.
CHEM-342, Introduction to Biochemistry (Dr.
CHEM-647, Biochemical Evolution (Dr. White)
EDUC-335, Elementary Curriculum-Mathematics (Dr.
GEOL-105, General Geology (Dr. Thompson)
NURS-212, Pathophysiological Concepts (Dr. Cannon)
PHIL-241, Ethical issues in Health Care (Dr.
PHIL-246, Philosophical Perspectives of Medicine
PHYS-201, Fundamentals of Physics I (Dr. Williams)
PHYS-202, Fundamentals of Physics II (Dr.
POSC-105, The American Political System (Dr.
SCEN-102, Physical Science and Technology (Dr.
Last updated August 30th by Deborah Allen,
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Delaware.
Support for development
of the PBL peer facilitator program at the University of Delaware has been
provided by the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement
of Postsecondary Education, and the National Science Foundation. The Howard
Hughes Biomedical Institute, and the previously mentioned funding agencies,
have provided stipends for students serving as peer facilitators in the
development phase of the program.