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					Professor John Walmsley


                                            Seminars

                             Organisation and participants' roles


Structure and organisation of this paper

   1.      Aims of the seminar
   2.      Participants’ aims
   3.      The place of the seminar in the constellation of learning formats
   4.      Seminar structure and organisation
   5.      Seminar roles


1. Aims of the seminar

Among the aims of the seminar are:

   -    to disseminate information
   -    to develop reasoning and argumentation skills
   -    to practise oral communication
   -    to develop written communication
   -    to develop team-work
   -    to develop presentation skills


2. Participants’ aims

In the course of the seminar, bear the following aims in mind as among your own personal
aims for the seminar:

   -    to learn how to learn
   -    to learn to think
   -    to learn how to ask intelligent questions
   -    to learn how and where to acquire information
   -    to learn how to use information properly
   -    to learn to understand major research questions, methods and results
   -    to develop transferable skills, e.g. analytical and problem-solving skills, presentation
        skills
   -    to practise and improve your time-management


3. The place of the seminar in the constellation of learning formats

The seminar constitutes only one form of university leaning, which includes other important
components such as lectures, private reading, AGs (Arbeitsgemeinschaften, - working
groups), workshops etc.
These forms differ in purpose and format.


LECTURE            READING             SEMINAR             AG                 WORKSHOP
unsupervised       unsupervised        supervised,         formal or          supervised
                                       guided learning     informal
                                                           unsupervised
                                                           working-group
summarizes main offers important       encourages          self-organised     envisages new
information     information            students to think                      product as end
                                                                              result
and / or                               all participants    all participants
                                       contribute          contribute         all participants
offers new,        offers research                                            contribute
unpublished        results             encourages          encourages
research results                       students to         students to        encourages
                   in the form of      engage in           engage in          students to
                   library             discourse           discourse          engage in
                                                                              discourse
                   electronic media                        develops
                                                           planning skills    develops
                                                                              planning skills


4. Seminar roles

There are basically three seminar roles: participant, presenter and mentor (usually a member
of staff).

Most, if not all, students will (should!) find themselves in a double role – of participant and
presenter in the same semester. For your examinations, the role of participant is as significant
as that of presenter: in oral examinations you will be expected to be able to communicate
fluently and freely, to argue, and to respond to arguments. It will NOT be sufficient simply to
know your topic well. You will be expected to have read round it, and be able to place it
convincingly in its wider scientific and historical context.


4.1 Participant

As a participant you need to:

   -   prepare properly for the meeting by reading at least one piece of literature an the topic
   -   come with an open mind
   -   listen carefully
   -   learn to identify major issues
   -   learn to distinguish different positions, and who is associated with them

Your own contribution to the seminar will be:

   -   to think carefully about what you have read and heard
   -   to bring in any unanswered questions you may have
    -   to look out for incompatible or conflicting views
    -   to offer supplementary evidence, observations etc.

Take the opportunity to practise:

    -   summarizing information concisely and clearly, both for yourself and others
    -   putting your own point of view and justifying it
    -   asking questions to ensure understanding
    -   participating in a discussion according to the rules of discourse


4.2 Presenter

It is the presenter’s job:

    1) to research the topic as discussed with the mentor (using materials from other courses,
       reading, electronic media resources etc.)
    2) to get the main ideas across to the participants
    3) to present the main issues clearly, with the arguments and evidence for and against
    4) specify the sources you used

and also, therefore:

    -   to prepare handouts/media which may be required (in good time)
    -   to clarify the task
    -   to clarify the purpose, place and extent of your own contribution (including limits)

as well as:

    -   to think about the foundations for your own position
    -   to introduce carefully any new terms that appear in the presentation but which cannot
        be known by the participants


4.3 The Mentor

The mentor’s main tasks are:

    -   to offer an introductory statement which will:
                - raise questions in the minds of the participants, to which they may expect
                answers
                - conceivably, offer a praecognita
    -   to encourage the students to think
    -   to stimulate the students to ask intelligent questions
    -   to help clarify issues
    -   to bring all the participants into the discussion
    -   to ensure that all points of view are heard
    -   to give a final summary
The final summary may include a consideration of:

   -   What phenomena have been explained? (= description)
   -   What were the limits of the area under discussion?
   -   What are/were the central issues?
   -   What are/were the major positions on these issues?
   -   Which researchers are associated with which positions?
   -   Which are the major publications in the area?

plus an evaluative comment on the quality of the presentation.

The mentor may not (necessarily) see it as his or her job

   -   to determine who speaks when
   -   to adjudicate
   -   to provide “correct” answers


5. Seminar structure and organisation

This seminar is characterized by the principles of rotation (i.e. different presenters, meeting-
by-meeting) and presentation-by-pairs.

The procedure is as follows:

   1. Assignments will be agreed in the seminar during the first two weeks of the Semester
      The assignment may be:

               - an essay
               - a problem or a set of problems to solve
               - an area of research to summarize and report on

   2. Presenters produce a written version of their presentation in advance (about 4,000 –
       4,500 words in length - i.e. about 15 to 128 hand-written A4 pages). This will allow
      the mentor to check your English.

   3. Presenters prepare transparencies for the OP and/or handouts for the participants.
      The handout may or should include:

               - a delimitation of the area
               - a description of the “instrumentarium,” where necessary (including e.g.
                       definitions)
               - coverage of the main issues
               - the main outlines of the arguments
               - References (i.e. all the literature referred to in the presentation, but only that);

   4. Presenters make their presentation orally in the seminar

   5. Questions requesting clarification

   6. Discussions of the issues raised
7. Closing comments by the mentor, including:

           - summary of the main points
           - connection with the wider topic of the seminar
           - suggestions as to ways in which the topic could develop
           - evaluative comment on the presentation

8. In case of illness:

           Presenter: let both your mentor and your partner know as soon as possible.
           Mentor: in the event of the mentor being unable to attend, there is no real
           reason why the seminar should not take place successfully.
           In this case, ensure that one of the participants takes minutes which can be
           circulated to all participants at a later meeting.
 later meeting.

				
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