EAP Tutorials

One of the topics I’m really interested in at the moment is tutorials, not just in EAP but in any class that is not one-to-one. In one-to-one classes, which are created to address an individual student’s needs: discussing progress, addressing areas of difficulty, talking about goals and aspirations, and finding methods that work for a particular student are all interwoven within each class. After teaching one-to-ones for a while, you begin to appreciate the difficulties involved in bringing that individual attention to each student in larger classes (although, larger classes offer many other benefits for students, and teachers). If organised well, tutorials should offer students in larger classes some of the one-to-one attention lacking.

I don’t feel I’ve found the right approach to tutorials in the pre-sessional courses I teach. In each 8-week course I’ve had up to 15 students and the time-pressures and amount of material to be covered doesn’t leave a lot of time for individual tutorials.

Current Approaches

During the CertPT in EAP course we discussed current practice in the universities we work for, it seems each one has a different approach to tutorials. Some preferring one-to-one tutorials, others pairs or small groups, some allocating 20 minutes per tutorial, others 5 to 10, some holding tutorials once a week, others twice a course. Interestingly, no-one felt they had the perfect formula.


First of all, it’s essential to define the purpose of the tutorials. Is it to provide feedback on assignments, offer remedial support, set goals or foster learner autonomy? Perhaps it’s all of the above? It may be possible to have tutorial sessions with different aims throughout the course. It’s important that your goals are clearly defined for both you and the students.


Time constraints are obviously the big issue. Many students welcome the chance to chat one-to-one with their teacher, and if you’re not careful, this can derail your whole timetable. Letting students know the purpose of the tutorial session and helping them prepare their thoughts ahead of time should help avoid general chat.

Although a lot of students want to chat, there are those that have no idea what they want to say. Again, setting out clear expectations should help.

If organised well, tutorials should help the teacher save time in the long run, rather than add to the work load.


You need to decide how much time you have for tutorials and consider your syllabus. Perhaps you can include Pastoral Tutorials towards the beginning of the course to address learner needs and interests, and introduce strategies to promote learner autonomy. Then, maybe, further on in the course you can include Academic Tutorials to discuss particular pieces of work, general progress and/or prepare for final projects. Perhaps project preparation tutorials can be done in groups, if the students are working in groups.

It’s also important to give students enough time to prepare for the tutorial. Make sure they understand the purpose of the tutorial and have targeted questions to answer/notes to make.

Be Organised

You also need to be very organised. Have a file for each student which contains the grades gained, any work you want to discuss, notes of any issues you want to bring up. I also think it would be great to have a list of common issues and links to direct the student to e.g. online dictionaries, thesaurus, exercises for particular grammar points, learner training strategies etc. Giving students links in tutorials helps save them the time and effort of finding things themselves and makes it a little more likely they’ll take your advice.

Learner Autonomy and Reflection

Learner autonomy should be central to any language course, but is arguably even more important in EAP. I think tutorial sessions would work better if students are familiar with reflecting on their own work and progress. Weekly reflection sessions in which students consider their work and create aims for the next week, could be very effective. I’m thinking of introducing ‘reflection groups’, so after students have considered their own progress, they have an opportunity to discuss issues and offer each other support and advice before asking you. Groups can be doing their reflection sessions while individuals attend their tutorials. Encouraging students to share their thoughts and solutions on a class Padlet would benefit the whole class.


Below are some of the worksheets I’ve put together for tutorials. As I said, this is very much a work in progress and I expect to evaluate, adapt and refine these as I go along. Any suggestions would be very welcome.

Weekly Reflections doc

Pastoral Tutorials doc

General Academic Tutorials doc

With thanks to the EAP Departments at Manchester University and Goldsmith’s, University of London for their contributions.