Study Materials & Supervision


Reference: Critical Thinking in Education


The purpose of a Tutorial Class is to encourage students to self-learn directly from materials, and to strengthen that learning by students assisting other students.



The text material for a tutorial class must be written in a language that is easy to understand. It should be supported by dictionaries that consist of easy-to-understand definitions and pictures.

The tutorial class material must present how a subject came about, and the reason why one should study it. The materials should then provide an overview of the subject before diving into the details. The details should be presented starting from the earliest concepts on which that subject is based. The materials then gradually build up the subject on a gradient such that no gaps are created in the student’s understanding.



Given proper study material, the students should be able to self-learn. If a student is unable to focus, it is because the assigned materials do not address his basic confusions in that subject.

The job of the supervisor is to quickly isolate the student’s confusion and give him the right materials to study. Sometimes it may require a bit of troubleshooting in getting the student set up properly.

Here is an actual example of a troubleshooting session.

SUPERVISOR:     “Is there something in math you don’t feel quite comfortable with?”

STUDENT:            “Yes… multiplication.”

SUPERVISOR:     “Alright.  What does the word MULTIPLY mean?”

STUDENT:            “Umm…”

(The SUPERVISOR explained the process of multiplication as “repeated addition.”)

SUPERVISOR:     “I am going to check you out on the multiplication of two single-digit numbers.  What is ‘three times two’?”

STUDENT:            “Six.”

SUPERVISOR:     “What is ‘four times three’?”

STUDENT:            “Twelve.”

SUPERVISOR:     “What is ‘six times six’?”

STUDENT:            “Oh, that’s a big number.”

(The student could multiply with very small numbers, but got nervous when larger numbers were asked.)

SUPERVISOR:     “Six times six would be adding six to itself six times.  Can you do this addition and tell me the sum?”

STUDENT:            (Pause) “Oh! I don’t like adding either.”

(The SUPERVISOR then demonstrated the process of addition as “counting together.”)

SUPERVISOR:     “Adding is counting numbers together. Are you comfortable with counting?”

STUDENT:            “Yes, I can count.  One, two, three, …”

SUPERVISOR:     (Stops her at the count of twenty) “Very good.  Now count for me starting from eight hundred ninety five.”

STUDENT:            (Taken aback) “Oh! That is a big number… (thinking) eight hundred ninety-six, eight hundred ninety-seven, eight hundred ninety-eight, eight hundred ninety-nine (long pause) two hundred, two hundred one…”

The student did not know what number followed eight hundred ninety-nine.  By this time it was evident that the student was shaky in her understanding of the numbering system itself.  The student was then assigned appropriate materials to study. She was then able to focus and make rapid progress.



In the normal course the supervisor applies the principle of gradient to help the student overcome his difficulties. Here is an actual example of assisting a young child write numbers.

SUPERVISOR:     “Is it ok if I ask you to write some numbers for me?”

STUDENT:            “Yes.”

SUPERVISOR:     “Alright.  Can you write six thousand, seven hundred eighty-three?”

STUDENT:            “Umm…”

SUPERVISOR:     “That’s ok.  See if you can write seven hundred eighty-three?”

(The student thinks for a moment and writes “700 83”.  The SUPERVISOR noticed that she could write eighty-three correctly.)

SUPERVISOR:     “Ok.  Can you write eighty-three for me?”

(The student smiles and writes “83”.)

SUPERVISOR:     “Excellent.  Can you write one hundred?”

(The student writes “100” correctly.)

SUPERVISOR:     “Very good.  Now, can you write one hundred one?”

(The student writes “101” correctly.  The SUPERVISOR then asked the student to write “one hundred nine” and “one hundred ten”.  The student wrote them correctly.)

SUPERVISOR:     “Excellent.  Can you write one hundred eighty-three?”

(The student pauses then writes “183” correctly.)

SUPERVISOR:     “That is correct.  Now write seven hundred eighty-three for me?”

(The student feeling more confident writes “783”.)

And so on…

The general supervision is basically devoted to helping the students develop better study habits. The supervisor encourages the student not to go past any word he does not understand the meaning of. He must look up such words in a dictionary.

Usually a dictionary has many definitions for a word. The student selects the definition that fits the context. If the student cannot find the right definition then he must seek the help from the supervisor. But very soon he develops the skill of finding the right definition by himself.

Sometimes the student cannot understand a sentence even after he has looked up the words in that sentence for their definitions. In this case the student should make examples of the meaning of that sentence–how something is that way, or it is not that way—which then resolves the problem. Sometimes it is the wrong definition used for small simple words that causes the problem.



In a tutorial class, the student studies correct materials under proper supervision. He then practices to become a self-learner.

The students may be studying different lessons in the same tutorial class. However, a student must understand a lesson fully before moving on to the next lesson. The supervisor may go around quizzing the students verbally on the sections they have completed to make sure they are not going by concepts that they do not understand.

The supervisor may ask a student, who has completed a section on a lesson, to help another student who is still studying that section. The effort is to help the whole class move forward together as much as possible. When the whole class has completed a lesson, it is followed by a Q&A (Question & Answer) period in which questions from the students are answered by the supervisor. A diagnostic test may then follow to pick up anything that is still not fully understood.

The supervisor also teaches the students on how to help each other.


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