Traditional tutorial system - fit for purpose or past its sell-by date? University students' pedagogical experiences: leading article

04 Feb 2016

Universities in South Africa and elsewhere have seen a significant increase in student enrolment resulting in large class sizes. Consequently, the potentially detrimental effects of large classes on student learning have become a permanent feature that needs constant monitoring. An increase in student enrolment without a proportionate increase in teaching staff and resources arguably compromises the quality of teaching and learning. The tutorial system is a teaching strategy employed to minimise the negative consequences of large classes, but in the post-apartheid era, concerns have been expressed about its effectiveness. The context of this article is a compulsory Bachelor of Education (BEd) module, The History of Education at a higher education institution (HEI). In 2013, 820 students had to be accommodated in a tutorial system of 27 groups taught by 12 tutors. If the same formula is to be used, the projection for 2014 is 1 100 students divided amongst 44 tutorial groups of 25 students each. The article is concerned with the pedagogical value of the tutorial system viewed from the students? perspective and, therefore, focuses on the experiences of students as participants in a tutorial system as a supplementary and consolidating teaching strategy. The data were extracted from quantitative sections of the student course evaluation forms (N = 60) and a qualitative questionnaire (N = 50) administered to a random sample of students. Excel spread sheet and content analysis were employed to analyse the data sets. Using as a conceptual framework Shulman?s pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and Wenger?s concept ?community of practice? (COP) the findings revealed arbitrary, contradictory and unequal participatory learning outcomes. Given the diminishing ?fit for purpose? between learning objectives and outcomes, recommendations are made to make tutorials more meaningful and productive in the immediate future