Tutorials on a 1 to 1 basis between a student and a lecturer are the bedrock of art, design and media education. With a large class size, you may feel you can’t get enough time with each student. This resource looks at tutorials that circumvent the lecturer and puts the emphasis back on the student.

Tutorials mean that students get personalised feedback that can help set SMART targets, which stretch and challenge them in a way that differs from any other kind of feedback. Written feedback cannot replicate the tone of voice and passion that a lecturer can enthuse in their direction. It can also miss the subtleties of body language that suggest disappointment or being let down. These are all valuable responses that enable the students to understand their progress.


Yet, with so many skills and processes to deliver and so many students to see, it can be really difficult to manage a balance between allowing students to work independently through 1 to 1 guidance, and deliver structured lessons for the whole group. Many lecturers will leave 1 to 1 tutorials for projects until towards the end, where students will be able to present drafts or prototype ideas for discussion.


Peer feedback

Peer feedback really helps students learn about their strengths and areas for development. A well managed critique, with some directed questioning and guidance, can outline areas of a portfolio that are lacking in development as well as suggesting ideas to pursue. The issue is that the scenario of tutor led feedback is they depend on the lecturer to have free time to provide this almost on demand.


However much I love critiques, and I make sure that every project ends with one, it is difficult to give valuable production time over to them. Especially when at most points they are only focusing on one student at a time.


Peer review

More and more lecturers are turning to peer review to fill the gap and allow for more continual input on individuals’ work by others. This is really valuable for students that might be in a group of diligent students that aren’t reluctant to participate, but for others the feedback from peers might be more disappointing.


To ensure a minimum standard of feedback from peers, lecturers can use simple structured formats that demand responses to questions about others’ work. These might include a question like: outline an area of strength and an area for development? These are useful questions, but hardly as in depth as a tutorial might be in supporting the full development of a portfolio of work covering the creative cycle in its entirety.


Peer tutorials

The idea for peer tutorials is an attempt to increase the effectiveness of peer feedback and to enable students to get high levels of personalised input without it being compromised by students’ lack of participation or ability to make qualitative judgements about artwork.

Alternative Tutorial Methods

An issue that kept arising when doing peer assessment of portfolios was how many students would rush the process, just to get it done. Some students didn’t feel comfortable giving each other feedback and discussing areas of weakness, within a portfolio, of a friend in the class. Others would simply tell their peers that everything looked great, which almost defeated the whole process entirely. Almost feeling it was a waste of their time to be discussing someone else’s work.

In the worst circumstances, and most lecturers have probably experienced something similar, students that had missing areas in portfolios or had neglected to cover portions of the creative process would make excuses about the absence of work. This makes it difficult for anyone to give constructive criticism, let alone a student that is already slightly apprehensive about criticising their colleague’s performance.

The aim is to design a system that minimises the potential of these issues to sabotage a fantastic opportunity for students to help each other.

Alternative Tutorial Methods

Peer tutorials process

1. Create a proforma of questions that you want the students to consider when reviewing others’ work.

2. Make sure students are aware there will be a review of work beforehand to maximise the chances of the work actually being available to review. Otherwise they might turn up empty handed.

3. Divide the class up into pairs. Be careful not to pair close friends or those that normally work together. It’s all about fresh insight and new perspectives.

4. Ask each pair to swap portfolios and then find a quiet spot on their own to go through it. Make sure the pairs are not sitting close together. This will increase the chances of the observations being more objective. Students can get really self-conscious.

5. Give students time to go through the proforma and portfolios. Sometimes, going round and giving supportive feedback on the review is useful, but it takes time. These things can’t be rushed.

6. Ask students to put in post-its in relation to their comments. They can put these directly into the sketchbooks or on the work. If they see that there is missed opportunities for creative practice like evaluation, reflection or experimentation then they should highlight it in the portfolio for their partner to get a concrete example.

7. Once the review has been done, ask students to find their partner again and feedback. To avoid excuses being made and for objective opinions to be heard, ask students that are getting feedback to listen without interrupting. This can be tricky and will need input and management from the lecturer.


The worksheet

These re some worksheet questions that have been used with Foundation Diploma students, but they can be easily adapted to suit any level across art, design or media. The format uses a Diploma set of grading, but it is just a way of defining a standard. You may prefer to use numbers graded from 1 to 5 or simple qualitative phrases like: needs attention or excellent practice.

Alternative Tutorial Methods

Circle: Pass / Merit / Distinction



  1. Research from a wide range of artists and designers within the specialism? Pass / Merit / Distinction
  2. Does this include analysis of the work – more than just description? Pass / Merit / Distinction
  3. Is there research from other specialisms with analysis and explanation of how it relates to the project? Pass / Merit / Distinction
  4. Is there non-art and historical research? Pass / Merit / Distinction



  1. Is there evidence of drawing and photographs from observation? Pass / Merit / Distinction



  1. Is there evidence of each aspect of every lesson: analysis, experiments, development, final responses? Pass / Merit / Distinction
  2. Are these well documented – through photographs or directly in sketchbook? Pass / Merit / Distinction



  1. Is there evidence of extending the work outside of the lessons? Pass / Merit / Distinction
  2. Have a wide range of materials been used to experiment with? Pass / Merit / Distinction
  3. Are the designs and ideas repeating what has been seen in others’ work? Pass / Merit / Distinction
  4. Have a range of ideas been developed for a final response with clear reflection and direction? Pass / Merit / Distinction



  1. Is progress being reflected on consistently? Pass / Merit / Distinction
  2. Are reflective logs just explaining what took place or are they making critical judgments and plans? Pass / Merit / Distinction



  1. Which area would you say needed the most attention?
  2. Which area of the sketchbook and portfolio do you find the most exciting and like to see taken further and why?

Download the Worksheet: Pearson Portfolio_The New Face of Tutorials – Peer tutorial worksheet.doc


Further Reading

Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Editor for Pearson Portfolio. danfreaker@pearsonportfolio.co.uk