Working with sessional staff

Communicating with tutors   Tutor support & student learning    Tutor development 
    Assessment matters    Tutor's guide to marking 

The importance of sessional staff

The tutor or demonstrator has a significant role to play in the teaching and learning process. Working closely with your sessional staff will improve the student’s unit of study (UoS) experience through creating a more consistent learning environment and a happier and more effective teaching team.

Communicating with sessional staff

  • Communicate with your sessional staff regularly through meetings and emails. You can also communicate with tutors through your eLearning site. Contact your Faculty eLearning representative for more information on how to do this.
  • Be accessible, through quick response to emails or phone calls, should your sessional staff need to consult with you.
  • Remind tutors when you are available for coordination matters – for example: discussions about marking or planning for practical work.

Tutor development and support

Give sessional staff direction on good practices to facilitate learning. This also ensures equity of teaching and learning methods across tutorial groups.

Working with sessional staff
  • Organise regular support and direction through tutorial meetings to discuss key issues (such as promoting good essay writing skills and academic honesty)
  • Create tutor guidance notes that help them deal with specific issues.
  • Let your tutors know that you are also keen to learn from them and their prior teaching experiences.

Give fair, encouraging feedback on your tutor’s job performance on a regular basis and allow them room to develop their teaching skills.

Encourage your tutors to do professional development courses available within the faculty or through the Institute for Teaching and Learning (ITL). See Preparing sessional staff.

Assist sessional staff in dealing with difficult situations with students. This can be a great opportunity to provide mentoring and support, as well as to bring faculty and university policies to their attention. You can also refer them to our section on Classroom management issues.

Encourage sessional staff to reflect on and evaluate their teaching.

  • This can include informal peer assessment from other team members, and feedback from students on how they are experiencing the learning in tutorials.
  • Allow them to openly discuss setbacks or challenges in a supportive environment so that these can be learned from and addressed.
  • An informal peer observation guide prepared for Arts and Social Sciences tutors by Rick Benitez, can be adapted for use by tutors in any discipline.
  • See University links on the right hand side of this page for more information on reflective teaching and peer observation.

Using tutors’ experiences to support your students’ learning

Tutors are well placed to give you feedback on the effectiveness of the unit of study.
They will know where students are struggling and where they are excelling, usually well before the coordinator does. This can help you to identify individual students with difficulties or, if there are issues for a number of students, you may have to adjust aspects of the UoS to benefit student learning.

Suggest feedback questions for tutors to ask their students. Encourage them to share any feedback they have been given about the unit as a whole, and to support you in developing appropriate responses to it. See Evaluating your teaching.

Assessment matters & marking guides

  • Make sure that your tutors understand faculty and University policy on assessment, extensions, special consideration, appeals, etc. See Assessment policies.
  • A tutor’s guide for presentations and groupwork marking and Five tips for effective marking are examples provided by Rick Benitez in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, which show how you can support your tutors in marking equitably and efficiently.
  • Ensure they understand the importance of timely feedback to students regarding assessments, particularly during the semester, as this is a way to identify and support students with difficulties.
  • Encourage tutors to provide feedback to individual students that is more than just a series of ticks next to grade descriptors or a grade on assignments. See Feedback during semester.