Undergraduate students tutoring undergraduate students


======= Date Modified 27 30 2010 07:30:43 =======
I am from the UK currently studying overseas. Since coming here i've noticed many differences compared to my experiences of university in the UK. One of the differences in that they employ undergraduate students here as tutors. A second year student can be employed as a tutor of a first year paper for instance. I found it strange when I first arrived, because in my second year I really don't think I would have been equipped to do this work. Anyway I just got used to seeing this going on and accepted it. Today I started thinking about it again on hearing about a friend's flatmate who is in her third year and has apparently been given 125 2000 word essays to mark in a week! Now part of me wonders whether this is the flatmate grossly exaggerating. I could NEVER mark 125 essays in a week, it just wouldn't be possible.

It did get me thinking about it more generally though. I wonder if they are being unfair to students and just trying to cut costs through some cheap labour. Is it just me, or does it sound a little exploitative?

I'd be interested to hear other people's perceptions of this...


Sounds exploitative to me too. I wouldn't trust someone with only one or two years more experience than me to mark my work, especially undergraduates. Their judgement would be poor and they'd either be too harsh or too lenient because they wouldn't realise that citing Wikipedia does not count as a reference!


======= Date Modified 27 May 2010 11:02:58 =======
Oops double post! :$


We do this with final year students and first year work. I don't agree with it at all. At the very minimum I would much prefer graduates acting as demonstrators, I'm not sure how much authority you can have when you haven't been through the entire process yourself yet.

They're not given anything difficult, having said that, and it's more or less black and white right/wrong answers for the tutorials, but even so it doesn't sit all that well with me. Plus there is as has been mentioned the fact they have plenty of their own work to do, as the bulk of the marking is at the end of the term when they are submitting their own reports and studying for their exams!

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this does seem a little wrong. I know I wouldn't have liked my work being marked by a 2nd/3rd year - surely there's something dodgy there concerning tuition fees? i.e. I'm paying for someone qualified to assess me!

I would also worry that, even though they are in different years, there's a potential that they could be in the same social circle.


We had this at the uni where I did my undergrad degree (in the UK). When I was first year, we would have a lecture on social theory by an experienced lecturer, but then the seminar would be with a third year undergrad, who also marked our essays for some strange reason. Some of the essays were then second marked by the lecturer, though not all of them. In the end it turned out that the third year undergrad was way more harsh in marking the essays than the lecturer was. Guess poor guy was afraid that he will be accused of grade inflation or something, so he really under-marked everything. We did complain about the whole process, though, as a lot of the time we asked him something in the seminar and his response was that he will look it up for us for next week. Well, thank you very much, I can look stuff up for myself outside the classroom. I think they scrapped the whole thing after 2 years, too many complaints.


Crikey, I wouldn't be too happy with this! I barely feel confident teaching undergrads as a second year PhD student, I certainly wouldn't have done when I was an undergrad. It doesn't sound right to me, I don't see how an average second year undergrad can have enough knowledge and experience to teach/mark someone in the year below, unless they have some other background that makes them more suitable. Some of our undergrads have even complained that they have PhD students running their seminars and want 'proper' members of staff! KB


I agree with Keenbeen - I don't even feel confident when I'm helping undergrads. I can't imagine how I'd feel if I was an undergrad again and tutoring the year below me - I'd be pretty awful I'm sure! We're not allowed to mark exams/tests here, only homework which doesn't count for anything. I wouldn't be happy if I was an undergrad with an essay marked by some student in the year above. It feels much better to have had it marked by some doting old prof!!


I have to say I used to do this and found it generally a very positive experience, as it was well managed and set up.

The setup was that it was only possible by fourth year undergrad students (for those who, like me, took a 4 year first degree) and there were coordinators who ran things very well - so if the tutor or the student had a problem it was easy to get things sorted out. I also experienced it as a first (and second) year and I felt more comfortable talking to someone more "on my level" who had perhaps only gone through the same thing a few years ago and tended to be able to focus in on the problem better.

I think it also works depending on subject. In my subject (mathematics) it was a case of marking the students problem sets for various classes. These generally had a well defined answer so it was perhaps easier than a subject that was more based on written essays and open to more interpretation.

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For dscoursive/research based assignments, I think this is a ridiculous set up. Having marked all years of undergrads, even those who get good firsts in the third year do not have it sussed, they still make big gaffs. How the hell are they supposed to guide other people? Don't they have PhD students to teach where you are? Plus, as Sneaks suggests they could very well be in the same social circle; it also seprates the student/tutors from their peers, a sad situation for an undergraduate. Aside from all this, it devalues the whole lecturing set up, like, anyone can do it... which is what they (meaning cammy and his entirely budget led cronnies) are trying to do anyhow.

I could mark 125 2000 essays in a week, I've just got my count up to 29 in a day. But that's after 5 years experience and it would be an exhausting week, with nothing else in it workwise, so no it is absoluetly not fair to do that to a final year student.

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Do they get paid?

As an undergrad I would have been very annoyed at MY tuition fees going to someone who was not qualified i.e. hadn't even got a degree themselves! And even if they are not paid, then as an undergrad student you are paying - is it over £3k per year now? for TUITION - which involves assessment, so you would expect that the marking of assessment was good quality and from qualified individuals.


Oh they do get paid for it. PhD students tend to get used for tutoring 3rd year courses and the UG's and Masters tutor 1st year and 2nd year. I agree, I would have been very uncomfortable with another UG marking my work too. When I was doing my degree we had PhDs for tutes until 3rd year and then we had the lecturers for tutorials in the final year. It's so strange.