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REPORT ON THE TUTORIAL SYSTEM

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Following are excerpts from the report published in the May Bulletin of the Cambridge Union of University Teachers:

The purpose of the Committee was to gather data about the conduct of tutorial instruction, and the administration of the tutorial system at Harvard. On the basis of the data (obtained from tutors) conclusions have been drawn and proposals made; but we do not maintain that these constitute an exhaustive critique of the tutorial system.

The tendency has been for an increasing number of students to be tutored by men who have little or no previous tutorial experience, who are doing graduate work, and who are not members of the Faculty. At the moment, one-fourth of all tutees are tutored by men of no previous experience, and one-fourth are tutored by men of only one or two years experience. More than one-third are tutored by graduate students.

Several tutors, and the Tutorial Chairman of one large department, referred to the bad effects of increasing the number of inexperienced tutors. A Tutorial Chairman emphasized a similar point: "One of the difficulties in the system is that the older men avoid tutorial work. As a result there is created a fissure in the department between old and young, between those who defend course instruction and those who defend tutorial instruction."

Wide Divergence Between Departments

There is wide divergence between departments, and within many departments, with respect to the number and length of conferences with various classes of students. Without doubt the length and frequency of tutorial conferences should vary from student to student and from department to department where there are sound educational reasons for such variation.

But there are no apparent reasons for the variations which exist at present. They would seem to be the result of a lack of supervision and coordination in the College as a whole. Certainly it is unfair for some departments to require twice as much work from their tutors as do other departments. Formal standards, at least, should be the same throughout the College for tutors of equal rank and equal salary.

The evidence indicates that opinion as to the value of group tutorial conferences. Is very diverse at present. The Committee feels that groups should be more extensively tried out by the tutorial boards of the various departments, and that their possibilities and limitations for the purposes of each department should be more clearly determined. Clearly, however, they are not an adequate substitute for individual instruction, which must remain the basic tutorial method.

Administration Inadequately Coordinated

The confused idea of the norm for the length and frequency of tutorial conferences, and the inconclusiveness of opinion about the value of group conferences, suggest that the administration of the tutorial system is not adequately coordinated within departments and between departments.

The Committee recommends that the administration and supervision of the tutorial system be more systematically organized for the whole College and within the departments. More frequent meetings of the Tutorial Chairmen as a group and closer contact with the Administration, tutorial lunches or meetings in those departments which do not already have them, were means suggested by the tutors. The means of attaining the desired systematic organization must be worked out by the Administration together with the departments.

The need for better and more experienced tutors, and for members of House staffs who are at the same time tutors, can be met only if the method of appointing tutors and the criteria of promotion are drastically revised:

Revisions in Appointments Proposed

(a)Following the Report of the Committee of Eight, it is possible to give a man four years as a teaching fellow, three annual appointments, and possibly a Faculty instructorship. If the opportunities for keeping men on as tutors in these three capacities are made use of by the Administration and the departments, a large body of experienced tutors can be built up. In order to do this, it is necessary to choose the lowest rank carefully, not haphazardly as is too often the case at present.

For this purpose the Committee recommends, first, that an organization be set up which will make it possible for departments to canvass all, or most, of the major colleges and universities of the country for teaching fellowships and annual instructorships. Young men throughout the country should be encouraged to apply to this office if they wish to be candidates for such positions.

Secondly, the Committee recommends that, as the Committee of Eight and individual tutors suggested, the departments acting as a whole choose men to fill positions in the lower ranks.

Urge Tutorial as Promotion Factor

(b)Finally, as to the criteria of promotion, the Committee does not feel that it would be wise to recommend positively that excellence as a tutor be a main qualification for promotion to a Faculty instructorship and permanent tonure. But the Committee does recommend that the proposal be given serious consideration; it is certainly the most important of the proposals for increasing the effectiveness of tutorial instruction.

Meanwhile, the Committee urges that more of the Senior members of the teaching staff to asked to serve as tutors, and that young tutors be encouraged to feel that their function in the University is an important one.

Both tutors and students are seriously concerned about the future of the tutorial system. The period when neglect was salutary has come to an end. The problem of tonure, the pressure to make young men publish, and the feeling that the Administration is doubtful of the value of tutorial-as witnessed by the effort to reduce the amount of tutoring through Plan B-are weakening the tutorial system. The Administration and the departments must take positive steps if Harvard is to preserve, unimpaired, two of its most important assets-tutorial instruction and the morale of the tutors.

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