Not only is the seminar system a valuable feature here at Brock University, but we are proud to be one of few schools that are still able to offer this engaging learning component to our students. Seminars are an effective way to complement lecture material and certainly uphold Brock’s mission to educate both sides of the brain.
While seminars are a great way for students to put theory into practice, they may seem a little daunting for those who have never experienced this kind of unique hands-on classroom learning before. So how can you make the most out of seminar? Well, take a few minutes to read the following suggestions and you might just find that seminars aren’t so scary after all…
Be prepared: Naturally, university learning is more comprehensive and requires a higher level of student preparation than high school. As a result, your professors and teaching assistants, or TAs, will also expect more of you as a student. This means coming to seminar having completed the readings mentioned in the class syllabus. Each professor will organize their course differently: some seminars might follow the same reading/activity schedule as lectures while some seminars might make use of additional readings that build upon lecture content. Either way, it is always a better idea to be over-prepared than underprepared. Have your readings done ahead of time, make meaningful comments that seek to understand what it is that you’re learning, and be sure to compile a list of any areas of confusion that may have come up while you were reading. Since seminar often comprises a large portion of your course grade, being prepared is essential for achieving full marks.
Participate: In order to achieve these full marks in seminar, participation is crucial. How can you prove to your TA or professor that you have thoughtfully engaged with the material if you don’t speak up? If you are shy and feel uncomfortable chiming in, talk to your seminar leader about the possibility of handing in your prepared written notes or finding another alternative way to get recognition for your work.
Ask questions: This is where you should seek to clarify those grey areas that popped up while you were reading. Asking questions is a legitimate way to gain participation marks, as it still communicates to your seminar leader that you have in fact made an effort to work through the material at hand. Posing questions is also a productive way to generate class discussion. Remember that no question is a silly question, and you may even have some of the same questions as your peers.
Challenge the idea, not the person: This goes hand-in-hand with being respectful in seminar. Debates can be beneficial in most seminars but it is important to remain objective and courteous. Even if you may disagree with another student’s comment, be sure to address this in a way that won’t put anyone down or embarrass him/her.
Get to know your seminar leader: Although seminars are helpful, they might not clear up all of your questions or concerns. So don’t be afraid to speak to your TA or professor after class or to take advantage of their office hours. More often than not seminar leaders are glad to help and are usually willing to look over your assignments or discuss a potential topic for a paper. In many cases, it is your TA who will mark your assignments so bringing your questions to their attention is a smart move. If their office hours don’t match up with your schedule, they will even work with you to make alternative arrangements.
In summary, being prepared, open-minded, and willing to participate will improve your chances of succeeding in seminar. Not all students learn in the same way so find what works best for you! Good luck!