PARTICIPATING IN SEMINARS AND TUTORIALS
University seminars and tutorials take place under a broad range of circumstances, but all require
students to participate. But how, specifically, do you participate?
Contributing information relevant to the subject being discussed is one obviously necessary
activity. This alone, however, will not sustain a productive seminar. So, what happens in a
In terms of content, a productive seminar is one in which a subject is defined, explicated and
evaluated coherently and fully. Pertinent issues are discussed in a manner which helps
participants to understand their meaning, scope and connotations; discussion focuses on the
issue at hand; relevant information is contributed, elaborated and evaluated; and the issue is
considered in reference to other related issues and the course as a whole.
In terms of process, a productive seminar is one in which all the participants take responsibility
for each of these tasks. This involves more than merely contributing information.
The following ideas offer you some hints on how to participate in an effective manner:
1. Do not miss classes.
2. Prepare yourself for each seminar by making short notes on your required readings for the
week. These notes should be clear enough for you to be able to make use of them for essays and
later review, but they should also be the basis of your personal agenda for the week's discussion.
You might wish to make a note of those ideas or contentions that you find important,
interesting, questionable or challenging. These provide you with an excellent entree into the
3. Always be prepared to speak to your peers. This might require some courage on the first few
occasions, but it is very useful for you to accomplish this basic social skill early in the course. I
have almost invariably found students to be kind toward each other and respectful of each other's
4. However, do not forget that active listening is as important to a productive discussion as is
talking. So listen carefully to your peers. If you do not understand, do not hesitate to ask a
speaker to repeat the point. If you have not understood, the chances are that others have not
understood either. You will sometimes have a partial understanding of what someone has said. In
this situation, the best way to confirm understanding is to restate in your own words what you
think the speaker meant to say. These restatements serve at least two useful purposes. First,
they improve communication among member