In the tutorial every entering student explores a topic of interest to the student and the instructor in a small group, discussion-intensive setting. The objectives of the tutorial are to illuminate methods of inquiry rather than to cover topics comprehensively, focusing particularly on writing, critical reading, oral communication, and information literacy skills. In addition, the tutorial initiates the process of planning for a liberal education at Grinnell through advising conversations between students and their instructors. By promoting close working relationships between tutorial instructors and their students and by combining the roles of instructor and academic adviser, the College provides students with academic advisers attuned to the interests and abilities of their advisees.

A tutorial (4 credits) is required of all students who enter Grinnell as first-year students and of all transfer students below third-year student standing whose previous work does not qualify them for an exemption. A student must complete the tutorial with a grade of C or higher to meet the tutorial graduation requirement and to be eligible to enroll in a “Plus-2” or independent project. Students who receive a D or F in the tutorial must earn a grade of C or better in a course designated or approved by the dean’s office as Intensive Writing (IW).

Tutorials are offered only in the first semester.

Planning Your Tutorial (includes list of current and previous years' descriptions)

Planning Your Tutorial

Teaching Critical & Analytical Skills

Quick links to sections below:


Advising Tutorial Students

The Role and Responsibilities of the Adviser

Advising for an Individually-Mentored Curriculum (Use with Your Advisees)

Information about Your Advisee

  • WebAdvisor – and click on ‘Courses and Academic Information’ tab
  • Advising file – hard copy provided by Academic Advising
  • Talk with your advisee to find out their academic and personal goals

Offices that Support Your Advising

Ethical Use of Sources in the Tutorial

Research Guides

The Writing Lab offers assistance in understanding academic honesty and proper citation in academic writing. We provide informational presentations for Tutorial classes on these subjects as well as individual consultation on citation styles in specific disciplines (APA, Chicago, MLA, and so on).

Evaluation of Tutorial by Students


Tutorial Faculty Syllabi

Kathleen Skerrett organized her 2002 tutorial "Ideas of Love in Western Culture" by focusing on the skills each unit focused on -- reading, writing, information literacy, presenting, discussing.

Chris Hunter's 2008 tutorial "Community Organizing: Empowering People, Effecting Change" used a series of short papers with required rewrites, oral presentations, and a mix of assignments including reflection, description, evaluation or readings, and collaborative group projects.

Sarah Purcell's 2002 tutorial on American Memorials combined academic resources with field trips, examination of objects in Grinnell, music, web presentations and film.

Janet Davis's 2008 tutorial, Technology and Place: Transportation, Communication, Computation, used both formal and informal writing and revision as well as an "anatomy of a research paper" and various presentations to develop students' writing and research skills.

Erik Simpson's tutorial, Comedy, includes six class days devoted entirely to writing workshops; a class blog; a focus on the liberal arts education; writing and oral presentations that culminate in a portfolio; and a plan-poll list of answers to the question "What do you wish your tutorial professor had told you?"

Other Tutorial Syllabi

Tutorial Faculty Syllabi (on the web)

Catalog description

2014-2015 Catalog Description - Tutorial

History of the Tutorial

Fall 2011 marked the 40th anniversary of the addition of the tutorial to Grinnell's curriculum. Below are documents related to the history and growth of the program.

Tutorial Entertainment Information

Tutorial Entertainment Information Each Tutorial is allowed up to $200 for entertainment. In the past, these funds provided pastries for those early morning class sessions. While this is still a common use of the funds, faculty have also thought of creative ways to bring their students together. For instance:

  • Bowling
  • Movies (either downtown or on campus)
  • Pizza party
  • Field trip
  • Food/drink from a coffee shop
  • Craft supplies for class activity
  • Dessert social at faculty home
  • Breakfast at local restaurant
  • Hosted community meal
  • End of semester gathering (often at faculty member's home)
  • End of year gathering in May (often at faculty member's home)

REIMBURSEMENT Faculty should send itemized receipts to the Associate Deans' Office for reimbursement. Expenses in excess of $200 will not be reimbursed, nor will non-itemized receipts. Receipts should include

  • "Tutorial"
  • Faculty member's name
  • Number of students attending
  • Date of the expense
  • Purpose of the expense

LOCAL CHARGES If you use a local merchant, please be sure to sign the charge slip or receipt and write “Tutorial” on it. Please send itemized receipts to the Associate Deans' Office to compare to the charges received from Accounting. If charging at a local restaurant, you need to include the names of people attending. Please be sure that your name is legible.

COLLEGE CHARGES If you use the College Catering Office, please be sure to give them the tutorial account number (10-1070151-52602) and ask them to include your name when identifying the event. If you make catering reservations by email, please cc ASODean[at]grinnell[dot]edu when you send the request. If you need to reserve a college van, please ask Facilities Management to call for the appropriate account number. Again, please make sure that your name is on the bill. If using Local or College charges, please be aware that there is a lag between the dates of the expense and when the invoice is received for processing (sometimes over a month). Faculty members are responsible for keeping track of expenses so that they don't go over budget.

Shared-Theme Tutorials

Shared-Theme Tutorials

Tutorials present an opportunity for experimentation for those interested in developing an interdisciplinary course, and faculty members who have taught shared-theme Tutorials report benefitting from scholarly exchange. New Tutorial instructors also have welcomed the mentoring that collaborative teaching provides.  

Previous shared-theme Tutorials have included

(Context of law in the formation of fundamental political and moral principles for the governmental system; Context of law in the context of an overall governmental system)

  • Religion and Politics (REL / POL)

  • Papermaking (ART / CHM)

  • Human Rights and Human Dignity (POL / SOC)

  • What's "Right" about Rights? (POL / POL)