Our Thinking Behind the Tutorials

On the very good advice of Mr Wong, I thought I would take some time to explain our thinking behind the tutorials. I did so at the beginning of the semester, but should probably have done so again after the course shopping period.

Because of my own experience with the American and British education systems, I view the tutorials as an opportunity for students to speak their mind. Of course, I would love to have comments and questions at any time during the lecture, particularly when we have guest speakers. But the tutorials are for you (I can go on a bit, I know). When I took an introductory Economics course as a freshman in the U.S. 26 years ago, we had over a thousand students in the course. During the lecture, the professor spoke and we listened. It was in our "section" meetings of about 15-20 stude nts that we really learned the material through free-for-all discussions of the lectures and the readings.

Later, I had a chance to experience the British tutorial system. I will never forget one of my first tutorial sessions - it was with Joseph Raz, a bearded legal philosopher and scholar of jurisprudence who was quite intimidating. I had done the week's reading and was sitting in an armchair in his study, reading my paper to him. After about ten minutes, he interrupted me, looked me deep in the eyes and said: "That's all very well, but what do you really think!" It was then that I appreciated the value of the tutorial system. It was not meant to rehash what you had heard in lectures or read in books; the tutorial was the time to shape your own thoughts and ideas and defend your own opinions, using what information you had gathered. And it was a time to learn from the exchange of ideas between student and teacher, between students.

This is why we are trying to encourage free-flowing discussion in tutorials, rather than make them too structured. It is perhaps more difficult to do so when there are a dozen or two dozen students in class, but it can be done, and we appreciate your participation so far. Speaking for myself, I have found the IBGM sessions to be quite lively and interesting. I have learned a lot.

So that's the thinking behind the tutorials and what might be viewed as a "less-than-systematic" approach.