What is a seminar course?
Although “seminar” can mean a course with different speakers at each class, here we are using it to mean a small, discussion-based course. In a seminar course, students do assigned reading and then, under your guidance and direction, grapple aloud with the ideas they’ve read. They learn to form arguments and support them with facts; they learn to communicate coherently and courteously with those who disagree.
Why teach a seminar course?
Advanced material in many disciplines, especially the humanities, cries out for discussion in depth. As you help your students explore the ideas, you convey why they’re important to you and to your students. Seminar courses are often cited by students as the most meaningful and transformative of their college career.
Developing a seminar course
To develop an effective lab or field course, we recommend these steps:
Create a syllabus that’s not just a list of readings and assignments, but a robust statement of learning goals and outcomes.
Plan your strategy and questions for the small group.
Get feedback on your teaching midway through the term, so you have time to make changes in the same quarter.
After it’s over, reflect on your experience and interpret your end-quarter evaluations thoughtfully.
Tools for seminar courses
Here are some tools for teaching a seminar course. The links will take you to other pages in Teaching Commons where you can learn more.
How to communicate with students
Seminar instructors usually use email and/or a Learning Management System, or LMS (e.g., CourseWork) to communicate with students.
Outside class, of course, your students will do lots of reading, so plan and structure that to be as useful as possible with these reading tips.
Assess your students’ learning by having them write, present, and create projects. Here are good resources: