Case study: Plenary tutorials

Encouraging discussion between tutorial groups can help students to also see their course experience in a more coherent way – rather than a series of disarticulated encounters.  The idea of a plenary tutorial works very well in large courses and is another way to turn the large lecture into a positive experience.  In their normal tutorial groups students work on a common problem, issue or debate and then prepare a presentation or poster.  The next scheduled “lecture” can then be turned over to a plenary tutorial in which each tutorial group can present or perform their response to the common task. 

You can then also harness the technology available in the lecture theatre to stimulate discussion and debate.  Take photos of the presentations and put them on the big screen.  Use a text wall so that students can text in comments on the presentations, or questions, for the whole group to see.  As a lecturer you can then help to pull out particular issues that you want to highlight – demonstrate the way in which different tutorial groups have taken their own approach to a common problem, thus reinforcing the notion that there is no one, right way to engage.
Questions that emerge from the plenary could then be taken back the following week to individual tutorials – thus forming a clear link between the lecture and the tutorial for students to see.