Comments on the tutorial system received from tutors in the Physics department in answer to the Crimson's questionnaire are printed below.
The Crimson regrets that due to lack of space it will not be able to print all the comments from each department.
I would be delighted to see tutorial work absorb a larger portion of the time of students than it does now, because it develops more independence and does not stiltify students' minds by predigesting everything for them. Also it is far more flexible in dealing with individual students' needs than courses. However, trying to tutor an apathetic student is a ghastly job. No one profits by it. So I am in favor of tutoring only those who want. it, as signified by being out for honors or otherwise. The temptation to allow tutoring to develop into cramming for divisionals is all too strong and should be stoutly resisted. This, however, requires the building up of a tutorial tradition rather than the perfecting of a system.
Ideally the tutorial system should offer an unlimited opportunity to the student to get at the meat of a subject with as little hampering as possible, but it requires, and for that reason develops, maturity and interest. At present it is badly cramped by course requirements. These courses tend to prolong an immature and perfunctory attitude and seem to me thoroughly at odds with the spirit of tutorial work. A good deal of what is wrong and inadequate with the tutorial system is due to the fact that it is regarded as being merely an afterthought and distinctly secondary to the requirement of course work.
I hold occasional conference with students who are qualified to do special tutorial laboratory work in the Cruft Laboratory field, thus supplementing the work of their regular tutors. This type of tutorial work is decidedly interesting, and it is not primarily concerned with the general examinations. In should estimate that 20 percent of the student body are qualified to do this sort of work in some field. The other 80 percent are interested only in passing the general examination with the least possible effort.
The one trouble with the system is not with the tutorial work but with the importance of grades in course work. A student will always lay aside important and interesting tutorial work to spend time getting ready for the too numerous hour exams. Change the grade system to let a man do what work he wants and make it so the tutorial system does not have such unfair competition in the course work.
I can only state what I think are the benefits of the system:-Practice in separating out the components of problems, of a complexity that is pedagogically poor for course work. Fewer of them, of course . . . . Opportunity to learn the resources of the past and how to profit by the experiences of others, and criticize and compare methods of attack. This is impossible in course work, from the mess of facts that must be crammed . . . . Chance to do experimental work that is individually appealing, and to learn self-criticism from thinking it over . . . . The pace is individual, and extra time can be put on individual difficulties . . . No mention of undefined "benefits" from "contacts," or "attitudes of mind," esteemed by hyper-extroverts.
These are apart from factual knowledge or understanding tested by generals. These should not be restricted to men trying for, "honors," in my estimation. I would suggest that definite recognition be given for the time students spend in tutorial work, and that the course requirement be changed-otherwise there'll be a tendency for students to be expected to do tutorial work in "spare time," which I consider a mistake.
I feel that the most serious handicap which the tutorial system has to work against is the domination of a student's mind and attitude by the course system and the high school point of view which it seems to prolong.
My impression is that very few sophomores and a great many juniors are so occupied with getting grades in courses that they have very little time for educating themselves. The course system with its emphasis on closely specified grades and definite units of credit definitely prolongs the worst evils of high school well on into what should be a University career. Many men never really get over the desire to be told what to do next-and worse-to have some grade put upon their every attempt at a separate work. I feel that great progress could be made if in all second year or higher courses, first formal November and April grading was eliminated and second final grades were returned as good pass or fail. (It seems that the use of grades in judging scholarship awards is not sufficient for the intellectual outlook which such emphasis on them causes in general. There may be other justification for such detailed grading-I don't know.