The stages of a 12-week tutorial group

July 07, 2017
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Love them or loathe them, tutorials are a part of every degree. In a 12-week semester, every tutorial group follows the same stages – from awkwardness to camaraderie and back again. These are those stages.

Weeks 1-2: Awkwardness

Tutors never seem to understand how to properly introduce new students to one another. The cringeworthy introductory exercises tutors put poor students through really set an awkward tone for the first couple of weeks of semester. Although it does promote early interaction with the other members of your group, it also ensures that your first impression of everyone is them sheepishly describing their degree, their year and one ‘fun’ fact about themselves.

Weeks 3-4: Cliques

From weeks three to four, students begin to shake off their awkward first impressions and get to know each other. As with any time people are forced to spend prolonged periods with each other, cliques form. Initially, these are subtle. Students start wordlessly sitting next to the same people, silently acknowledging the potential for a conversation one day. Sometimes textbooks and stationery get shared in this stage, as things warm up.

The typical cliques of residential college students and uni society friends form, but more unexpected ones can also blossom – the nerd and the jock, the country kid and the international student – beautiful things happen in the clique stage.

Weeks 5-6: Group projects

By this stage, we have reached peak clique. When the tutor allows people to pick their own groups for group projects, everyone’s true colours emerge. If you thought you knew your popularity before this stage, you’ll definitely know after it. The whole process is as intimidating as being picked for a dodgeball team in high school sport and no one wants to have to ask the tutor to place them in a group.

Weeks 7-8: Post-holiday bliss

At this stage, usually after the mid-semester break, something strange happens. Most of the cliques that had been formed collapse, and suddenly everyone starts to get along. It could be the relaxation from the break, or the knowledge that the semester is over halfway done, but all members of the group really start to gel and collaborate. This is when the subject group chats start up on Facebook, and everyone finally feels confident enough to follow each other on Instagram.

Weeks 9-10: Honeymoon period

Everyone lives for the Honeymoon period. There are coffees before and after class, people have organised end of sem drinks, and there are even a few inside jokes kicking around. Positivity in this stage is at an all-time high. Exams are just close enough for everyone to start celebrating the end of semester, but not so close as to cause fear. Ironically, learning and productivity are also at their high-point in this stage because people finally feel comfortable enough to have discussions with each other. But like all Honeymoon periods, they end, sadly and abruptly. 

Weeks 11-12: Separation

By the last two weeks, everyone’s checked out mentally. People stop attending, the mood is sombre and the tutor has started to think about their holidays. At this point, everyone is just there to get exam tips. Most people realise that they’ll probably never have to interact with anyone in their tute group again, and become distant. But that’s not always the case. If you’re lucky enough to still have a friend or two by the end of your 12-week rollercoaster, hold on to them. Keep in touch over the holidays, grab a coffee and make sure you coordinate timetables for subjects next sem, so that you don’t have to face your next tutorial group alone.  

Callum McDermott

Callum studies Arts at the University of Melbourne when he's not drinking any coffee he can get his hands on.