Distance Learning and Teaching: Understanding the Importance of Tuition Observations

Chris Douce
The Open University, United Kingdom


Quality of distance learning can be considered in different ways: the quality of the teaching and learning materials that students can engage with, the quality of correspondence tuition given to students in response to their assessments and the quality of online or face to face teaching. The quality of online or face to face teaching is considered to be especially important in terms of helping to develop tutor-student relationships and student motivation.This paper describes a project to capture and understand the practice of tutorial observations from two different perspectives: the perspective of the distance learning tutor, and the perspective of the line manager. The project has a number of linked objectives: it aims to understand what happens during a tutorial or class observation; understand what good observation feedback is; what considerations need to be made regarding the observation of online tutorials; how to observe team teaching and offer feedback that is appropriate and useful for lecturers; how to best influence and develop teaching practice; to understand attitudes of different groups of staff across the university. This short case study begins with a description of a literature review, followed with a brief summary of a series of focus groups that were designed to elicit opinions and perspectives about tuition observations: two focus groups for associate lecturers, and one focus group for their line manager. The focus groups helped to identify a set of practice recommendations, which are shared. The paper then concludes with a summary and pointers towards further research.

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