There is no agreed definition of a tutorial nor a clear dividing line between academic and personal tutorials (though they need to be kept separate as far as possible). Most students (home and overseas) will have had no experience of either.

Tutorials also present particular problems in art and design, where students will expect clarity and certainty but find unsettling ‘ambiguity’ (Vaughan, 2008: 125); the ‘open-ended tasks [are] accompanied by an associated intensified emotional component’ (Austerlitz et. al, 2008: 21).

Some international students or those with specific learning differences, short-term memory and processing issues may not retain the points raised in tutorials.


Make the ambiguity/uncertainty of HE art and design teaching and therefore tutorials clear to students at the outset. This is important for all students but particularly so for those with mental health issues and those whose experience of education has been as a passive listener.

Before a tutorial, ask the student to tell you what they want to discuss (in advance if possible). Create an agenda, adding your own items if necessary.

At the end, ask the student to sum up the main points and together create a record for future reference. This should ensure that international students as well as those with attention, auditory or processing difficulties will understand what took place in the tutorial.

Notice the points the student missed: did they find the points unimportant (rather than misunderstand or forget them)? Have they maybe misunderstood some aspect of the brief?

© Matthew Tizzard

References and further reading:

Austerlitz, N. (ed) (2008) Unspoken Interactions: exploring the unspoken dimensions of learning and teaching in creative subjects London: University of the Arts

Finnigan, T. and Richards, A. (2016) Retention and Attainment in the Disciplines: Art and Design London: HEA

Vaughan, S. et al. (2008) ‘Mind the Gap: expectations, ambiguity and pedagogy within art and design higher education’ in Drew, L. (ed) The Student Experience in Art and Design Higher Education: drivers for change Cambridge: Jill Rogers Associates, pp.125-148


see also: Presentations and Supporting Students through Crits

For personal tutorials, see: UCA’s Personal Development Tutoring Policy (Quality & Enhancement)

© Matthew Tizzard