Hist. and Lit. Drops One-on-One Tutorials

Juniors 'aren’t as ready' for intensive junior

For the first time in recent memory, the History and Literature concentration will no longer offer full-year one-on-one tutorials to this year’s junior class.

After Faculty voted to move concentration declaration to the middle of sophomore year, History and Literature decided to change individual junior tutorials to small groups of up to three students assigned to a tutor for the first half of the yearlong course.

Faculty described these fall seminars as a “transition” to the one-on-one tutorials, which will continue to be taken by second semester juniors and by seniors writing theses.

“With the postponement of the declaration of concentrations by one semester, sophomores no longer have a whole year of tutorial experience,” said Jeanne Follansbee Quinn, the director of studies in History and Literature. “Students aren’t as ready as they used to be to do one-on-one work.”

The change to the junior tutorial, described by some faculty as the “heart” of the History and Literature concentration, elicited mainly positive reactions from tutorial leaders. Many saw the small group tutorials as beneficial for both themselves and their students.

Tutors said that leading fewer tutorials meant that they could spend more time preparing for each class session. They also said they expected students to have a more dynamic experience participating in group discussion and analysis.

“I think it makes the conversation better and creates a more lively environment,” said Peter Becker, a History and Literature tutor. “[The students] see what their peers are doing, and there’s a certain incentive to push themselves.”

Becker noted that the intellectual intensity of the one-on-one tutorial could be daunting to some students faced with the prospect of two-hour conversations with their tutor.

But Leslie E. Nightingale ’09, a History and Literature concentrator, praised the strengths of the one-on-one tutorial experience she had last year.

“I really enjoyed the personal attention, knowing that you had an amazing person to yourself for two hours a week, that you were doing something totally different depending on your interests,” she said.

For Nightingale, the time spent with her tutor passed quickly, but she admitted that a student’s junior tutorial experience also depended on his or her “chemistry” with the tutor.

Although Nightingale said that concentrators would probably be well-prepared for their theses despite missing half a year of tutorial-style learning, she said she still “felt a little bad” for them not having an entire junior year of individual attention.

“I’m sure they’ll still have a great experience, but it just won’t be exactly the same,” she said.

—Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached at ajiang@fas.harvard.edu.