Ask and you shall receive.

The topic of how and when to approach a Lecturer – or Tutor – about academic issues has come up in both of my mentoring sessions so far. While the queries were of a specific and easily answered nature, in these instances, I felt it worthwhile to write up a small summary in response to the more general question for future reference.

All students know that Tutors give lectures and classes, set and mark student assignments, as well as organize course content. Beyond this, it is my feeling that too many students are unaware of how much more guidance Tutors can offer. It almost seems taboo at times to go and ask for clarification on a topic just covered, or to find out specifics about an upcoming assignment.

Not only, then, are students possibly missing out on this important resource, and not making the most of the University fees they’re paying, but they also risk their academic success and their future for want of knowing that it’s absolutely ok to ask for help sometimes.

So what is a Tutor’s office hour for?

It’s the time that Tutors have allotted solely for their students’ individual needs. Appointments are not required, though this means, of course, that other students may need to see the Tutor too. Therefore, if it is a long complicated matter, or of a very serious nature, it might be best for students to make an appointment rather than simply dropping by.

What is a Personal Tutor?

A Personal Tutor will be assigned at the beginning of a student’s course. The role covers advice and support on both academic and non-academic matters. This includes help with managing issues that are current or crop up during the course, which will ultimately affect concentration, study timetables and extensions, as well as the quality of work handed in for assessment. They can assist with module choices, signpost for further information or resources, and encourage students to become more active in the academic community and in building their career. They can also write letters of recommendation for job applications.

What is a Course Tutor?

Beyond simply teaching a module, these Tutors can offer confirmation of module document and assignment requirements. They can answer specific questions about the material taught on the course. They can discuss feedback for improvement purposes, or discuss student outlines for upcoming essays. They can also give advice on background and wider reading. It may be tricky to catch them immediately after lectures, though, due to busy timetables and rooms. So students are advised to pop in during office hours, or to send an email with a quick overview of the issue. This allows the Tutor to prepare, and to arrange a convenient time for you both to discuss the topic properly.

Things to remember when asking Tutors for help:

• Ask about the problem right away. It gives Tutors plenty of time to help and it gives the student less time to worry about it!
• Tutors are authority figures to be respected, and their office hour is just that – not round the clock service for any individual. But they are very happy to offer guidance and would much prefer students ask about something they’re unsure of than the problem be left to grow unchecked.
• Be prepared for the meeting with a particular question or a list of specific points to discuss, a notepad for any advice or suggestions the Tutor may have, and a relevant module document or textbook etc. This makes the most of the time.
• Appreciate that a Tutor will not discuss actual answers for assignments, but will elaborate on what the word limit is, how many references they expect and so forth.
• Don’t hesitate to request a follow-up meeting if there is a need to check back on the matter or if the information does not sink in. There are also no stupid questions, while it’s not a Tutor’s job to judge at any rate.
• Give feedback on the help where possible, especially which parts are most appreciated and how the help can be utilised. This is not just a sign of respect for the Tutor but enables them to cater their service to other students who approach them too.
• And remember that, while Tutors are more than willing to guide, teach, and repeat, independence in study and in living is one of most vital lessons to learn at university.

Any questions? Just ask your Tutor!

On a side note, whilst browsing for this blog, I came across a handy little service run by Bangor University: In the University’s words: ‘Who better to answer your questions about Bangor life, the courses, accommodation or location than our very own experts…our students. Choose a student…and click on “ask a question” to send them an email.’ It’s very positive to know that Bangor offers so many different kinds of support for its students!


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