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A Good Tutor is the Ultimate Critical Friend

When reading Simon Creasey's article about delivering tough feedback, we found it interesting just how many of his key points are the same as what makes a good tutor. At Oxford Summer Courses, we use the tutorial teaching method for all students aged 16+, the same technique that has been honed at Oxford and Cambridge for over 800 years.

How it works: after you've researched and written your essay (arts and humanities) or problem sheet (sciences), you have an intensive 1-hour, 2:1 session with your tutor who carefully attends to your arguments and answers, pushing you to justify your conclusions and helping you clarify any muddled thought. It's always demanding, but the intensity pushes you to come up with your very best work. If you're interested in experiencing this unique teaching method, learn more about our academic courses in Cambridge.

As a former Political Theory tutor, I know that when teaching, it can be hard not to rush to telling someone the solution, and it takes time to train yourself (I find sitting on my hands helps stop me interrupting). But good tutoring is like midwifery, according to Socrates. The tutor's job is to help the student reach the answers, not to tell them. This pillar of independent learning and critical thought is the cornerstone of our academic model.

Learn more about our teaching methodologies that focus on fostering independent thought and critical learning.

There's a fascinating parallel with business: the concept of Radical Candour developed by Kim Scott (who was a boss at Google, YouTube, and Twitter) argues that honesty is the best policy. A good boss creates the right environment for honest and open feedback, delivered with care at the right time. It's the combination of caring personally and challenging directly (see below), avoiding points-scoring or overbearing criticism:


The academic world and the business world have different ways of describing this phenomenon, but it's essentially the same thing at heart: creating space for learning requires a sincere and caring teacher who values the student enough to challenge any errors or mistakes in the spirit of learning. It requires egos to be left at the door and skill in how criticism is delivered; a combination of intelligence and emotional intelligence.

When we started Oxford Summer Courses, we placed tutorial teaching right at the centre. Over the last 10 years, it's what's made us different from other summer schools and more authentic to the teaching we were lucky enough to receive at Oxford University. The academic world has known about the benefits of this way of learning for 800 years; the business world is starting to catch up. For a detailed overview of what makes our courses unique, visit our academic overview page.

Ready to Apply for Oxford Summer Courses?

For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, join us for summer 2023 where you can discover over 40 academic subjects taught by expert tutors. You’ll also meet other like-minded individuals from around the world and make friends for life! Apply today and choose from two stunning locations: Oxford and Cambridge.

Discover why students choose us by visiting our Why Choose Oxford Summer Courses page. For more details on what’s included in the price of a course, check out this page.

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Discover the parallels between effective tutoring and delivering tough feedback. At Oxford Summer Courses, our tutorial teaching method fosters independent learning and critical thought. Learn how Radical Candour principles align with creating a supportive environment.

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