Tutoring and Wardening FAQ

Working for Oxford Science Studies is exciting and rewarding, whether as a tutor or a member of the pastoral staff. Many tutors return time and again to teach with us, even though they may be teaching elsewhere throughout the academic year. The majority of our tutors come from the Oxford area, with many being affiliated with the university in some way, such as graduate students or academic staff. Our tutors draw from a rich variety of educational experiences, and are a diverse mix, including doctoral students, professional tutors, and full-time teachers.

1. What is it like working for us?

As a tutor, working for Oxford Science Studies (OXSS) is fantastic. The classes are small, often one-to-one tuition, and the calibre of student is generally very high. The tutor has the ability to tailor his/her classes to the needs of the students they teach, meaning that there is scope for in depth examination of a topic that may be of particular difficulty, or for a more comprehensive overview of the a given module, if the student has come to OXSS for general revision.

From a tutor’s perspective, the advantage of working with OXSS is that the bulk of the preparation has been completed before the course even begins. Students are organized into classes according to subject (and, for the AS/A2 students, according to exam board) and timetables, rooms, and student lists are arranged for you, before you begin to teach. Should you wish to use them, each tutor is provided with a pack of past examination papers, and their corresponding mark schemes, which are the appropriate level and exam board for the students in the class. Many tutors use these as a basis for their tutorials.

Students are expected to complete homework exercises, during their study periods, but there is time to review this work within the structure of the academic day; accordingly, there is only rarely any need to mark work outside of class (again, this is at your discretion). Due to level of preparation provided to tutors, the main focus of the job is simply teaching! Overall the setting, the friendly atmosphere in the staff room, and the support available from the management team (not to mention the wonderfully diverse students) makes tutoring at OXSS a wholly positive experience.

2. How do the tutorials work?

Students will already be told where they have to go, and the name of their tutor. For the first tutorial (which usually lasts 10 minutes), the standard procedure is to set the students a piece of work – this may be something that the tutor creates, or an exercise from the past-paper folder. The student will complete this work elsewhere and bring it back for review in the following lesson. A day’s teaching comprises two ‘blocks’, usually of four lessons each. Tutors teach one block of students, while their other block is completing exam practice: the two blocks then switch. Lessons usually last 50 minutes.

The format of the tutorial depends on the tutor and the students, but most tutorials revolve around the completion of a past exam paper, with the tutor providing further examples or explanations for problem areas or unsuccessfully completed exercises. There is scope for discussion between the tutor and his/her class about the nature of the work. Within a block earlier tutorials tends to be used to gauge the level of a student, and to find any areas for improvement; later tutorials are generally used to correct mistakes and practice using any new knowledge (either by past exam papers, or more targeted exercises).

After completion of a tutorial block, the tutor must write a brief report (completed online) for the parents. This is an invaluable part of the feedback process, which students really appreciate. Thankfully, this process does not take too long!

3. How does the wardening work?

Wardening is a separate role from tutoring. Wardening is essentially a dual role: supervisory and pastoral. With the exception of day students (who are a minority at OXSS), all students stay on site during the Christmas, summer, and Easter courses.

The warden’s duty is to ensure that all students are accounted for, safe, and happy, during the hours of 10.30pm and 8.00am. All students are given a 10.30pm curfew, by which time they must have registered in their own boarding houses; the warden’s role is to oversee this process. Before the 10.30pm deadline, students are the responsibility of the Entz (entertainment) team. After having ‘checked in’ all the students (and having tracked down any late ones – although this rarely happens) the warden is the primary point of reference for the students in their care. Accordingly, any issues that arise are dealt with by the warden (usually this is little more than homesickness, or students looking for an extra pillow) who will also ensure that students remain in their own rooms after 11pm.

Wardens are allocated their own room in the boarding house, in which they work. Wardens work within a larger structure, including a Head Warden, a Residential Manager, and the rest of the OXSS management team. As such, there is a great network of support available to wardens. Wardens usually work work in pairs, looking after around 30-40 students. Wardens are given full training, including fire safety training.

4. What are the perks of the job?

For tutors, the main perk is being able to focus your energy on teaching a great group of students as the majority of the preparation is completed for you, before you arrive. The pay for this role is very competitive. There are other perks to the job: there is always a staffroom available with biscuits, tea, and coffee, and on residential courses a packed lunch is provided. The staffroom is a great place to meet other tutors, and generally OXSS courses have a very vibrant atmosphere. Finally, each residential course is finished with a complimentary tutor party, where wine and (exceptionally good) cheese are served. On previous courses, this party has been a real highlight. For wardens, the perks include free accommodation and three hot meals a day, free of charge from the canteen (as per the students).

5. What the students are like?

The students that attend OXSS courses are highly motivated and diligent. Most students come with a particular focus (for example to improve in a particular module, or to revise a key skill such as essay structure) and, regardless of the academic level, most work positively throughout their time at OXSS. Although students will only have tutorials for a particular subject for one day, unless they opt for several blocks of the same subject, there is often time to develop a good working relationship with the students. Many students return time and again to OXSS, which is testament to how productive the courses can be – it is always a pleasure to chart the progress of students who return on subsequent courses.

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