Though flexible and designed to be tailored to the student when possible, these tutorials have a few basic components that come with each course: reading, discussion, and writing. I’ve found these three components must be present in some form if a student is to improve their intellectual and analytical skills. However, developing and enlarging a student's mind, heart and soul (rather than assigning easy-to-grade busy work) is the focus.
By “reading” I mean the most fundamental source material for the course—the backbone. We will use only primary sources and texts. All assigned reading should be completed before class for the best experience for the student and that student's fellow classmates.
Next is discussion: primarily our face-to-face conversations during class and paper/project conferencing one-on-one with me. Students meet once a week for a live, interactive online class with their tutor and classmates. The class format is a Socratic discussion, which means the conversation is guided by the tutor asking questions in order to aid the students to arrive at a better understanding of the material. Though tutor-led, lively student participation and responsibility is encouraged and required for a productive and meaningful discussion. These conversations often lead to unexpected insights and discoveries! Also, to ensure every student has space to discuss, each class cohort will cap at 12 students.
The final component is writing: students engage with their source material by 1) writing out their thoughts in their weekly notebook, which should contain their impressions and reactions, questions, analysis of the source material, etc, before class, 2) writing an argumentative essay on a topic of their choosing about the source material, and 3) working on a creative project inspired by/relating to our source material (which may or may not inclue actual writing, depending on the project).
During paper conferencing, I will work one-on-one with each student, guiding and helping them coherently develop their own ideas for a creative project and essay.
I prefer to call these courses “tutorials,” as I love the model of education that views the authority figure simply as a student who is still learning, but a little more experienced and further along in their academic journey. The goal is to tutor or coach the young person and guide them to a place of greater independence, maturity, and understanding in a topic or area of study. Each student should also view themselves as essential to the learning of every other student in the class. If they don't come to class prepared and ready to go, everyone suffers.