Despite the minimum expectations of tutorial section cited in most subject outlines in the Creative Industries discipline, I have noticed that tutorials across different subjects of Bachelor of Communications and Media Studies (BCM) often abounds with the lack of preparation from students. Regardless how short the preparation process is, very often that there are only a few to no students prepare for tutorials.
“Has anyone read the materials on Moodle?” – a simple question that often sends a room of about 20 people in the awkward silence at the beginnings of mostly any BCM tutorials.
Forming the idea
I hardly raise my hand when my BCM tutors ask me that question unless there are other fellows in the class doing the same. I mean, being the only international student in the room is overwhelming enough for me to get any more attention as an alien in the class. Some BCM friends actually tell me they do not prepare or very little, and I am curious about such a norm in BCM, as I think it affects the tutorial’s efficiency and I rarely face the same situation in other courses, especially when students have moved to second year or higher in their degrees.
Personally, it is interesting to take a closer look at such “fait accompli” that consequently feeds into the Australian education’s grade inflation (McGowan, 2016). This research paper will attempt to throw a light on the matter by investigating the attitudes of students enrolling in BCM212 towards tutorial preparation at University of Wollongong (UOW) and causes of such problem.
Findings for a need
My curiosity on such matter has sent me on a research hunt. The works I found shows that tutorial preparation is problematic throughout the higher education sector (Rodgers, 2002). Students are often found imbalanced between their studies and other commitments (Weaver & Qi, 2005); therefore, it is understandable that they skip tutorial – a small part in tons of priorities they have to deal with, though the importance of tutorials at university has been recognized by many scholars and educators. Preparation enhances students’ knowledge and explore new aspects of thought-provoking problems (McGowan, 2016). Due to the deprivation of prepartion, students cannot fully thrive in their studies (McGowan, 2016; Summit & Venables, 2011).
However, I realize that the debate around tutorial preparation only sparks in subjects that enforce frequent practices and immediate results in the post-tutorial stage, especially in terms of grades, through the methods of testing or quizzing. Financial accounting or engineering courses, in which pre-preparation involves in graded in-class assignments, are frequently under glasses for scrutiny (Dallimore et al. 2010; McGowan, 2016; Schumulian & Coetzee, 2011; Summit & Venables, 2011). In other words, subjects that have tutorials for non-awarded in-class tasks and discussion like BCM are overlooked. This questions me even more:
- Does the rigorous preparation of tutorial tells how serious the subject is and further,
- how worth-doing is a degree?
- Is preparation really a defining factor for high academic achievements for BCM students?
The gap in the literature, which lies in the lack of studies on tutorials with non-graded in-class assessments, has justified my need for conducting research upon what BCM students think of tutorial preparation. This might even further lead to a reflection on how such preparation influences them.
Forming the scope
In most subjects, UOW students are often required to prepare for tutorials rather lectures. While lecture is merely where students receive new information, tutorial involves a set of complex activities: from discussion, explanation to challenge ideas. Thus, my paper will focus on the students’ preparation before tutorials and leave out lecture preparation.
“….the primarily vehicle that provides students the opportunity to actively engage with subject materials, their teachers and their peers”.
Additionally, in order to avoid any misunderstandings, the term tutorial preparation I use in this project refers to content-related tasks. These tasks often appear in forms of text, pictures or audio, online or offline that are assigned to students to complete out-of-classroom beforehand.
My targets for this sample are students taking the BCM212 course (who are studying in 2018 Autumn session and have recently studied), as UOW has a quite large student population to study, consisting of about 32,000 students in total
Thus, these focuses would ensure the implementation of my small project to be relevant and achievable in the given time frame (13 weeks) of BCM212 subject.
Forming the methodologies
In this study, I will initially do some secondary research by examining academic works to seek a top-down approach to capture an overall picture of students’ lack of preparation. Subsequently, I will create a survey to collect quantitative data about my fellows’ thoughts of tutorial preparation and reasons why they think so. Followed this is a focus group to gain a bottom-up approach to identify main challenges that students encounter in before-class preparation and in-class impacts of these problems.
Dallimore, E. J., Hertenstein, J. H. & Platt, M. B 2010, “Class Participation in Accounting Courses: Factors That Affect Student Comfort and Learning”, Issues in Accounting Education, Vol. 25, No 4, pp. 613-629.
McGowan, S 2016, “Prepare or Go: An analysis of enforcing tutorial preparation requirements in an accounting course”, Meditari Accountancy Research.
Rodgers, J. R 2002, “Encouraging Tutorial Attendance at University did not Improve Performance”, Australian Economic Papers, Blackwell publishing Ltd, University of Adelaide and Flinders University of South Australia.
Schumulian, A & Coetzee, S 2011, “Class Absenteeism: reasons for non-attendance and the effect on academic performance”, Accounting Research Journal, Vol 21. No.2, pp. 178-194.
Summit, R & Venables, A, 2011, “The Use of Co-assessment in Motivating Tutorial Attendance, Preparation and Participation in Engineering Subjects”, Australian Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 78-89.
The Specs 2017, BCM212 Research Proposal: How Language Barriers Influence the Academic and Social Life of Vietnamese International Students at UOW, blogpost, thespecsofMia, 13 March, viewed 12 March 2018,
Weaver, R.R & Qi, J 2005, “Classroom Organization and Participation: College Students’ Perceptions”, The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 76, No. 5.
(Featured image at iDreamCareer: https://idreamcareer.com/blog/career-in-media-studies)
(Note: All of my works related to this project have been uploaded online. You can easily navigate these posts by clicking “BCM212” and then “BCM212 Research Project” (or here) for more details on progress and my portfolio.)