A few weeks ago, I gave a 15 minute presentation on ‘Independent Learning – What, Why and How?’ as part of the Level 3 Qualification for Tutors.

In this blog I intend to outline how Live Topic Reviews give a new perspective on the Level 3 content, how reflecting on content more deeply led me to reassess my practice, and how the Reviews are a great opportunity to learn from other educators. I will then emphasise how a clear structure is key to getting the best from participants, and I will talk through how my repetitive but participant-focused structure gave certainty for learners while giving ample opportunity for them to get involved. I will close by focusing on areas for personal improvement, including more focus on supporting independent learners in the classroom and implementing dual-coding to increase the effectiveness of my Review. This blog will therefore summarise what is to be gained both as an audience member and as a presenter of a Live Topic Review.

A Live Topic Review is an opportunity for tutors to share what they have gained from the course by synthesising, linking and expanding beyond the course curriculum. It is not the time to restate how the content has exactly been taught within the sessions, rather a time for tutors to put their personal spin on the subject content to get a deeper understanding of the course. What I loved about attending them was walking away with a fresh perspective on the Level 3; from considering more closely why we need to safeguard children and the regulatory framework to how tutors have gone about supporting adults in prisons learn written English, to autonomy within the classroom and the learning loop, I felt the Reviews I heard really added to my experience of the Level 3 overall.

From a personal perspective, giving my Live Topic Review helped me reassess my practice by focusing more specifically on independent learning. I feel as a result my tutoring practice will be improved. The more I reflected on independent learning, the more I felt it was a crucial centrepiece to any form of teaching or tutoring. Supporting the development of independent learners sets our students up for future success by giving them the toolkit to continually improve and take charge of their learning. You can read my previous blog to hear more detailed reflections on this.

Giving a Live Topic Review is also useful because it is a great opportunity to get feedback from other tutors. Hundreds of years of combined experience were participating in some sessions I attended, so there were rich insights to be gained from the audience. I learnt a great deal from my participants as in my session I tried to model good independent learning behaviours – I placed the participants at the centre of my session by giving them lots of time to share their thoughts. We had a great discussion about how we can develop independent learners in younger students for instance. Additionally, I think it is inspiring to hear such supportive and positive comments from peers who I have been working with for a number of months, particularly those who have tutored for far longer than I have. Hearing their praise was a similar feeling to seeing your students successfully achieve their goals, and it inspires you to continually improve. My Live Topic Review therefore allowed me to hear from other tutors to support my professional development.

I think structure is so important to any tutoring session because a good structure clearly outlines how you intend to move from where the learner currently is to where you want them to be.

Of course, tutors must adapt to learner needs, and we may need to sometimes take a longer route or go on an entirely different journey before coming back later. However, taking into account the progress we already know learners have made, and optimising the pitch and pace to match their learner journey, is a way to optimise learning gains within tutoring sessions. Having done the same course as other tutors, this meant I had a general idea of some of what tutors would know. I then chose to structure my session around three big questions – what are the characteristics of an independent learner, why is being an independent learner important, and how can we develop independent learners within our practice?

From there, I considered what format could maximise the amount of participant involvement while minimising the feeling of it being a lecture. I decided therefore to choose the most direct method, asking these questions directly to the participants, giving 30 seconds for them to think about their answers, and then giving around 3 minutes to hear participant thoughts on each question. When responding to participants, I would try to build upon their answers to show how important and welcome audience contributions were by linking them to other points already raised, or linking to wider points I wanted to make. For example, one of the key points I wanted to emphasise throughout my presentation was how being an independent learner sets students up for success, regardless of their future choices. Being an independent learner at university means they are likely to get a higher degree classification by understanding the subject content deeply, while independent learners who start their own business are equipped to problem-solve so they are more likely to be able to tackle any adversity they face. A repeated structure creates a comfortable learning environment as participants know what to expect, so it means as the session progressed participants became more eager to interact. In our practice, we should aim to minimise uncertainty while supporting and challenging our students as they complete the necessary steps to achieve their goals.

Was it perfect? Of course not!

We should always look for room for improvement as it is the only way to continually develop our practice. In my case, I think I spent a little too long looking at the characteristics of independent learners in the session, rather than how we can develop independent learners in practice. This is where timing and rehearsal are so important, making sure to give ample time to communicate the most important messages. The course facilitators also suggested dual-coding as a way to help my learners digest the content. Dual-coding is where we use images or diagrams to visually show what we want learners to know; for example Qualified Tutor’s Assess, Plan, Teach and Reassess process for tutoring sessions. So using multiple ways of communicating key messages and ensuring the most important messages get the most airtime were where I could have improved my Live Topic Review.

Attending the Live Topic Review sessions was such a usefu l experience. It was insightful to hear others’ presentations and their feedback on my Live Topic Review, particularly because all the presentations and comments provided a new approach or angle on familiar knowledge. From my own presentation, I feel I am far more aware of how I have supported learners to become independent in the past, and new ways of doing this in future. At the same time, giving a Live Topic Review still relies on very familiar skills, including the ability to structure sessions and customise the pitch and pace to suit learner needs. While it can be a little nerve-wracking to speak in front of tutors with so much experience, my experience was overwhelmingly positive and a great way to finish my Level 3 Qualification.


To level up your tutoring today, visit our Level 3 Qualification page below and join in on Live Topic Reviews!