How we teach
The lectures and practicals held in the Department of Chemistry provide a good overview of the important concepts a student needs to master. However, generally much additional reading and thinking is required in order to master a topic at a conceptual level, followed by extensive practice at solving problems in order to make sure this new knowledge can be applied in ‘real’ situations. It is during this stage that tutorials can make a real difference.
Tutorials are absolutely not a form of ‘extra lectures’. By the time they arrive at a tutorial, tutors will expect their students to have achieved a good level of understanding of the topic under discussion, and will aim to ‘put the icing on the cake’, consolidating students’ understanding, explaining how the topic under study fits in with other parts of the course, and bringing the subject to life with examples from recent state-of-the-art research or consequences for the world around us. Tutorials are an opportunity for students to clear up any points they haven’t understood, to receive help in solving tricky problems, and to have their ideas and understanding challenged both by their peers and by their tutor.
Chemistry students at Hertford are fortunate in that they have three tutors (covering organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry, respectively), who follow their progress through the entirety of the first three years comprising the taught part of the M.Chem. course. Tutors become collaborators in learning as students progress through their degree course, and come to know how best to help and to provide sometimes much-needed encouragement (in a range of forms!) when required. The individualised teaching offered by the tutorial system is perhaps the most important factor that sets Oxford apart from most other universities.