Notes on Leading a Seminar

This Monday I was in charge of leading our seminar on medieval paleography. Leading up to the seminar I was very nervous. However, once the discussion began I was able to quickly get over my nerves. Everyone seemed prepared and discussion came easily (I am very thankful to you all for this). Some of you shared answers to questions that I would have never thought of. It made me realize just how important our collaboration in this class can be. Towards the end of class we even got to experiment with different types of writing instruments which was very exciting. I have displayed above my attempt at writing some early gothic script – it was much more difficult than I had anticipated.

Some things I found helpful for preparing to lead my seminar: I had done the readings ahead of time and had copied out important details with the page numbers they could be found on. This left me with a detailed outline of each individual reading. However, I ended up with ten pages of notes. I know that in order to explain all of these points I had highlighted I would have had to talk for far too long. I then went through my notes and highlighted and annotated topics that I thought would be relevant to our discussions. I used these key themes to base my discussion questions around. Surprisingly, most things that I had included on these ten pages came up anyway, through discussion. Which led me to conclude that when highlighting key points in the readings during your seminar you should not aim to highlight everything but instead aim to spark discussion that will reveal important topics. Your classmates have all done the same readings and are knowledgeable on the same topics so if they are relevant there is a high likelihood they will come up. If not, you can guide the discussion in that direction.

Even though my seminar leading experience ran relatively smoothly, I have an idea of some changes I will make for next semester. I intend to begin preparing for my next seminar over winter break as it is a very tedious and time consuming process (much more so than I had anticipated). I also intend to integrate my questions into my short discussions of each text. I will do this to a) avoid talking alone for a long period of time and b) allow more time for discussions.

Thank you all for your interesting contributions to our discussion this week!

One Reply to “Notes on Leading a Seminar”

  1. Emily,
    I really loved your reflection on leading a seminar. I think you brought up some very valuable feedback on preparing to lead a seminar. The sentence which I found that contained the most insightful reflection was, “Which led me to conclude that when highlighting key points in the readings during your seminar you should not aim to highlight everything but instead aim to spark discussion that will reveal important topics.” It is easy to forget that you are not working alone when it comes to leading a seminar! Rereading your notes as you suggested, and highlighting the most important points is essential to leading a successful seminar. Since I was not in class, I am taking your word from your reflections that it seems that it went extremely well (I have no doubt that it was excellent).
    I enjoyed how you connected the practical applications in class into reflecting on your seminar. Your reflection, “I have displayed above my attempt at writing some early gothic script – it was much more difficult than I had anticipated,” reminds me of the overall process of leading a seminar. Although it may seem easy and appears to be flawless, it is a lot harder. I think your reflection really emphasizes this and displays the amount of work that goes into framing discussions and getting discussions to move in a certain direction.
    For your next blog post (if you do it on leading a seminar), I would love to see an expansion of your ideas on the changes that you want to make for next semester. The points that you brought up are really excellent such as beginning over winter break (I strongly agree with this!). As well, integrating your questions into short discussions of each text, is an important point. I would have loved to see an example of this but I will have to wait for your next seminar! Great work here Emily.

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