Student engagement during tutorials

Posted by Rob Mestrom, on Oct. 16, 2023, 6:49 p.m.

Rob Mestrom

Department of Electrical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), The Netherlands


Challenge and goal

Lectures of bachelor courses nowadays contain activating and interactive elements for students, which makes for relatively high attendance rates and good appreciation by students. However, student participation and attendance in tutorial sessions, in which they work on problems in a hands-on way, is often much lower. 
How can we change the way tutoruals are set up to engage and motivate students to participate and to get the most out of the tutorials?

Topic of the user case

Methods to engage students during tutorials

Local context (specific)

Throughout our bachelor courses at TU/e, specifically with larger courses (> 150 students), we see that students do show up at lectures or plenary activities in which information is conveyed to them. These already contain activating and interactive elements, which are well-appreciated by students.

When it comes to applying the subject matter, tutorials are offered, during which students work in smaller groups (30-50 students) in an informal setting on problems that are provided to them. They can discuss their solutions with fellow students and/or ask help and feedback from teaching assistants. Answers to the instruction problems are typically made available after the tutorials with some delay. Although teachers deem tutorials to be a very essential part of the learning methods, a large fraction of students often do not attend them. We feel that students simply wait for the answers to become available and merely look at them, without active practice themselves.

We experience that students who stay away from tutorials often do not put the mileage in to practice and prepare themselves for tests and exams. This results in lower passing rates and frustration, both on the students' side and the teachers' side.

Local CPD goals

Provide lecturers at TU/e with best practices (and evidence) on forms of tutorials that keep students engaged to practice with the subject matter throughout a course.

Needs defined in STEM-CPD Roadmap

9 give prompt feedback and support students during learning
18 design problem solving sessions
4 engage students and arouse interest for the discipline in the class
8 develop critical thinking by students
7 read literature about teaching and learning in higher education.
13 analyse the effect of teaching and introduce changes in an evidence based way.
8 discuss teaching with their colleagues.
2 attending presentations about teaching approaches.
11 collaborating with a peer-lecturer on a redesign of a course.
18 giving workshops to other lecturers.

CPD activities at the local university

Present user case as a workshop in the Academy for Learning and Teaching (TU/e-wide) and at best practice lunch sessions at the Department of Electrical Engineering.

Teaching and learning materials

  • Evidence/results from a pilot of the engaging tutorial approach during a first-year BSc course, in which tutorials have been improved/re-assessed using contructive alignment and techniques suitable from a students' perspective rather than a teacher's perspective (presentation)
  • Concrete examples of tutorial setups (document/studyguide)
  • Do's and don't's and lessons learned from the pilot (presentation)

Sustainable implementation

  • Material (mentioned above) made available on Teacher Support Canvas page.
  • Yearly sessions at department level, in which others share their experience with the approach.

Expected impact of the CPD User Case

Improved forms of tutorials that engage students better for courses offered by the Department of Electrical Engineering. 

Plans for eventual continuation of the CPD within the same topic

Will be updated after implementation of the user case.

Competence teaching, Problem solving (design and teaching), Engagement and motivation, facilitation discipline specific learning, Deep learning (type P1-2a, P1-3a, P1-3b, P1-3c)

This CPD scenario describes a User case in which lecturers develop their competence in teaching in higher education and facilitating problem solving and how to engage and motivate students and how to facilitate discipline specific thinking and how to facilitate student’s deep learning and development of higher cognitive skills and develop attitudes in practicing teaching and learning in an evidence informed way and knowledge sharing.
The approximate duration of a User case that follows this scenario is several hours.
In this CPD scenario the participants professionalize in a close connection to their own teaching practice (at their workplace) and meet in person on location with the training staff and with other participants.

Learning environment
Several hours

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See also