Tutorials Receive Major Makeover

In the face of curricular changes, tutorials focus on methods instead of material

Since the move to give students an extra semester to declare concentrations, departments have shuffled requirements and abbreviated tutorials—intense, introductory seminars that have long defined undergraduate study at Harvard.

But in spite of the condensed curriculum, department administrators stress that their course offerings have not been watered down.

The majority of humanities and social science concentrations—including African and African American studies, government, and history and literature—will offer a one-semester sophomore tutorial in the spring, instead of the traditional class spanning sophomore year.

“We have to be a little more selective in what we include,” said History and Literature Lecturer Amy L. Spellacy, emphasizing that the point of the tutorial was not to cover a specific set of material, but rather to teach students the skills required of history and literature concentrators. “This is a methods course,” she said.

She added that this semester Hist and Lit offered a range of new seminars to offset the lack of a fall tutorial. Similarly the history department has added research and reading seminars, which are designed to replace the sophomore spring and junior fall tutorials.

This year, Social Studies and East Asian studies are the only concentrations to offer full year tutorials for sophomores.

Next year, the East Asian studies concentration will push their entire tutorial program back by one semester, so the sophomore tutorial will effectively become a sophomore spring and junior fall tutorial, according to Director of Undergraduate Studies, Wilt L. Idema.

However, Social Studies will continue to require a year-long tutorial beginning sophomore fall.

“The choice to continue requiring two semesters of Social Studies 10 was a response to an overwhelming chorus from students and faculty who felt a year long sequence was really important to the Social Studies curriculum,” said Anya Bernstein, director of undergraduate studies.

“It is the one common experience for Social Studies concentrators,” said last year’s course head, Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences Tommie Shelby.

The new concentration policy, approved in the spring of 2006, is part of a larger transition in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as the Core Curriculum is jettisoned in favor of a new general education program.

Current sophomores will likely be the first class to have the option of fulfilling General Education requirements instead of Core requirements, according to the Gen Ed’s committee’s chair, Jay M. Harris.

—Staff writer Carolyn F. Gaebler can be reached at