Is Untutored Teaching Worth Trying?

by Editor

IF you can’t get more tutors, consider alternative teaching methods such as group learning, aka study circles.

Experience shows that people gathering to study a subject in which they all have a common interest can be very rewarding.

U3A Online courses (see separate story) and U3A Network’s resource library are readily available for our members to use.

The full catalogue can be found on the Resource Library page on the Network’s website . Just go to and click on Resource library on the right hand side of the screen.

Mary Peterson of Monks Brook U3A in the UK tells a typical story.

“We don’t worry too much about tutors when we set up a new group. We have a meeting of people interested in a topic and sometimes a natural leader arises at that meeting.

“Otherwise we get a ‘contact person’ who is just the register keeper. It’s usually quite easy to get someone to volunteer for that. Then the whole group is involved in deciding topics for research and how to proceed.

“For instance, when we started art appreciation, no-one who came to the initial meeting knew anything about the topic at all!!!

“Gradually we started to acquire more books between us and, when we found an artist we particularly liked, we researched that one artist for the next meeting. We borrowed videos from the library. We got a camera and projector so that we could project photos up for all to see.

“Then we started taking it in turns to do research and report back to the group…

“All this has just evolved from our enthusiasm for a subject which was completely new to us, and has actually been better than if we’d had a tutor feeding info to us.

“We’ve been happy to learn together and can spend time researching and preparing our one topic each session while others are doing theirs.

“If we hadn’t started our group because there was no tutor we would have lost out so much, so my advice is not to worry too much about attracting new tutors.

“If someone wants to be a leader in a subject they know then great but otherwise foster enthusiasm for group learning.”

Self help has worked with enjoying music in the nation’s capital.

Lee Fuller of the ukulele group in U3A ACT suggests members be encouraged to use their newsletter to seek others interested in starting a self help class.

His Canberra-based ukulele group have done just that. They follow a lesson plan; use a common tutorial and useful song books, CDs and videos.

Sometimes more experienced musicians are available to join sessions and share their knowledge.

As Lee says: “Playing with a group keeps us motivated and enthusiastic and we have fun.”

What about single-session talks?
Many U3As offer a weekly talk, given either by a member or an invited guest. Guests can range from a police expert on Internet fraud to a Centrelink spokesman outlining the latest pension changes.

But what about asking your members? You may have people, specially among new members, who have one or two good talks in them.

Alternatively, you could ask four or five members to present 15 to 20 minutes mini talks on the same subject such as “The person who has most influenced my life” or “My most amazing holiday.”

U3A Wollongong uses its enrolment from to find likely speakers.

After all the usual questions about name and address, and contact details, the form asks:

“Would you be prepared to give a talk to our members at some time in the future? Yes/no.
On what subject……………”