Not marked. Not assessed. Not important? Not likely!
Seminars are potentially crucial for your learning. Not everyone realises this, because a seminar isn’t part of your final grade and sometimes it can feel like you’ve already got enough information from the initial lectures.
This type of attitude is totally wrong. If a student wants to achieve good grades with confidence and greater ease, seminars and tutorials can make all the difference.
So, what are they for:
- Expanding upon lecture topics.
- Asking further questions.
- Gaining answers to some of your questions.
- Getting closer to what your lecturers may be looking for in your essay and exam answers.
- Allowing you to confirm your understanding of the topics.
How can you make the most of them:
- Do the background reading and exercises.
- Prepare as much as you think you need.
- Note down any questions you have in advance.
- Get stuck in! Ask questions, give answers, participate in the discussions.
- Listen for different views and consider how they differ from your own.
Moving things forward:
- Note information that the tutor deems important…it’s likely to come up in essay titles and exams.
- Research the different points of view, especially if you hadn’t thought about them before.
- Look for new questions that may have risen from the seminar/tutorial work and find possible answers.
- Compare new thoughts and notes with your original lecture notes and initial reading. Do they change your point of view?
- Embrace what interests you. Your seminar work can easily lead to a particular focus that would shape a future essay rather well. Don’t lose sight of these lightbulb moments.
What problems occur:
- Keeping quiet – If you don’t loosen up and use the opportunities available, you’ll miss out on a great deal.
- Lecture extensions – Tutors sometimes use the extra time to tell you more, without allowing you the time to actively work and ask questions. But make sure the tutor isn’t doing all the talking just because you’re not willing to participate.
- Lack of preparation – Another reason why the tutor may be doing all the talking…if you want to gain a greater understanding of what you’re meant to be learning, get the work in!
- Too much time asking irrelevant/simple questions – No question is stupid and you should be brave and ask all that you can. But if you know certain questions can wait for afterwards and are easily answerable in a reference book, it’s best asking the questions that aren’t as simple to get to the bottom of.
- Finding arguments intimidating – University becomes a hotbed of controversy at times. And that’s just in the classroom! It pays to be passionate about what you think. I’ve seen people panic when differences of opinion occur, but that’s all part of the fun and discovery. Even if the tutor argues with you, it might be because they are passionate themselves, or it could be a test to see how far you’ve considered your own position. You’re likely to be told quickly if your argument isn’t going anywhere…so if the argument is pretty philosophical and leading to further questions, you’re probably doing a good job.
Don’t miss out on how valuable your education is from every angle. Seminars and tutorials are every bit as important as the lectures, essays, exams, reading…well, they’re all as important as each other. Miss out on one and you may do yourself an injustice.
Have you encountered any spectacular seminars? Did a particular tutorial change your ideas for the better? Have you improved your grade after a successful seminar?