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The world through an academic lens

When assessing the quality of teaching in an educational Program, the information provided by students on their course evaluations is often considered very relevant information to take into consideration.

In a programme as International Studies where tutorials play a fundamental role both in the practice of didactic skills and application and discussion of content, the information gathered in particular the mid-term evaluations often leads to questions that help critically assess the structure of tutorials. Does the number of assignments still resonate with the number of ECs determined for the respective courses ? Do the activities held in class still leave enough time to address content in a thorough way? Do the selected readings offer sufficient reflection on content?

The answer to these questions is often part of the discussions held by coordinators and colleagues on the structure of tutorials before the start of the semester. It eventually results in making necessary changes in this structure, such as the revision and adjustment of the activities held in the respective sessions, the decrease of the number of assignments, and/or the selection of more recent and more adequate readings to enhance the discussion of topics in class.

After the implementation of these adjustments, and once the tutorials effectively start, the next question arises whose answer we hope to find in the mid-term evaluations. Will these adjustments result in the improvements aimed at?

We are happy to acknowledge that this is indeed the case.

In general, the feeling shared by students is that tutorials are well-structured and academically challenging. As a Foundations of Political Economy student comments: “ The tutorials are well structured and give me space and challenge me to develop academically”.

Students have also acknowledged that decreasing of the number of assignments introduced in some courses has given them the opportunity to process information in a more extensive way. As another student writes about Global Political Economy: “… the current format inspires me to take the time to dive into the content as we are given the time to. I very much like talking about international topics in the tutorials to build on the importance of the global political economic theory we are getting from the lectures. I think this helps to see the connections on a broader level.”

Not all changes introduced seem to have met the expectations of students, though. Just to give an example, some of the comments provided on International Relations show that students still find difficult to find the necessary documents on the respective Brightspace environment. However, with a proper consultation of the respective student guidelines and additional guidance of tutors, this has proved a problem easy to resolve.

On the whole, there is the realization that the activities and discussions held in the tutorials sessions of Politics, Philosophy of Science, Global Political Economy, and International Relations are highly relevant to understand the complex and changing world we are living in.

Reflecting on and discussing the world through academic eyes has therefore become less of a ‘simple’ theoretical exercise and more of a way of being and living.

Paula Jordão
Head of the tutor team

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