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Peer Tutoring In Materials Science

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.442.1 - 3.442.8



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Paper Authors

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Robin Grimes

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Caroline Baillie

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1364

Peer Tutoring in Materials Science

Caroline Baillie, Robin Grimes Department of Materials, Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine

Abstract In the Materials Department of Imperial College we have introduced a peer tutoring scheme for the first year subject of crystallography. It is a subject which students find difficult since it involves new concepts, in particularly the use of three dimensional lattices and structures. Formally the subject is taught through lectures, classwork and general tutorial sessions. We have trained peer tutors over two days, to understand the need to draw out students so that they work through and think out for themselves some of the more confusing aspects of the subject. Within a very short period of time, the tutors had developed so that, rather than seeing their role as a surrogate teacher, they now understood their role to be that of a facilitator. The fact that the peer tutors could use real scientific concepts in their role plays helped to provide a focus. It also ensured that the tutors realised that they really could use group process and discussion to solve even technical problems. The scheme, with its possible pitfalls and solutions, is discussed in the context of materials science.

1. Introduction

Peer tutoring schemes have been successfully implemented in many Universities world-wide to promote student learning1-4. Peer tutors help younger students to learn by holding group sessions in which certain topics are discussed. The aim of the scheme is not to provide text book answers to set problems or even to provide formal supplementary teaching, rather it is the peer tutor’s job to act as a focus for the group and thereby make it work for itself. More specifically, the group provides a supportive environment for new students to: test out their understanding of difficult concepts introduced in lectures; gain confidence in dealing with the volume and complexity of material; use the staff run tutorial system effectively; take more responsibility for their own learning; encourage co-operative problem solving methods; promote a deeper approach to learning. It has been shown in some situations5 that, hour for hour, tutoring is as effective as teaching by trained teachers. In the Materials Dept. at Imperial a peer tutoring scheme was established in Oct 1997 for the first year crystallography students, with the above aims - focused on the learning of crystallography.

2. Principals of peer tutoring

The principles of peer tutoring, as given to the tutors, are as follows:

x Training - two days training required for the tutor to learn effective small group tutoring methods. x Focus - students in the group ask and answer questions, fielded by the tutor. x Help new students - to get to grips with University life and studying.

Grimes, R., & Baillie, C. (1998, June), Peer Tutoring In Materials Science Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--7337

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