Seminars are not simply about learning in a given subject discipline they are also about learning to learn. All participants bear some share of responsibility for the success of the individual session but the tutor has a particular responsibility to structure the seminar in such a way as to enable participation
Students introduce themselves to each other in pairs, according to some formula such as ‘three things you want other people to know about you’. Pairs then introduce each other to the whole group.
When starting on a new text or topic let the group know you will be doing this the week before. Informal buzz groups agree a shortlist of areas they think the class should consider. You then collect these ideas onto a whiteboard / flipchart. (You can of course slip in your own ideas as well.) The group then prioritises the topics and discusses the order in which to approach them. These could then either be pursued in the whole group, or you then break the class into groups and allocate (or let them choose) one of the identified topics to each group, with a task (e.g. find three quotations which illuminate this subject and put up an argument for your choice).
In small groups: give out on handouts a critical extract, or a set of propositions, which encapsulates a particular approach to the subject in hand. Each group has to prepare (on the spot) an argument either for or against this case. Debate then held in the main group. Allocate to pairs different quotations from the text you are using ….Pair then has to make a three minute case (to share later) for the significance of this quotation.Posters. Small groups make a poster of their main points. These are then pinned up for the groups to circulate and read
Set up small group discussion on whatever topic you’re working on, perhaps with a target in mind e.g. the 5 most important aspects of a literary movement, or writer’s techniques, or the key contexts for understanding a particular literary development. When the groups have come to some decisions, ask each group to send an ‘envoy’ to another group, to find out what their views/decisions were. The envoy should be prepared to go back to their own group with fresh ideas to see whether they want to stick by their original thinking, or temper it in the light of the ideas of another group.You can add in a third reconnaissance trip to a new group if this seems likely to yield fresh ideas.
Sometimes students are thrown into discussion before they have had the opportunity to think.
Do some of the following:
The above tips are adaped from the Higher Education Academy English Subject Centre (visit the seminar teaching home page for the full version)