Participating in seminars and working with other students is an important part of university study which usually involves group discussion of material presented either in a lecture or in set reading.
You are certainly not alone if you have any of the following worries about seminars:
Developing your skills in working with others and in orally presenting material will help you to take a full and active part in seminar groups. Participation in seminars is sometimes assessed, so it's a good idea to think ahead about how to develop your skills in this area. Being well prepared and knowing something of how a group works will help you to feel less concerned, and to get the most out of your seminars.
You will get more out of any seminar if you do some preparation for it, and spend some time going over what you've learned afterwards.
Before the seminar
During the seminar...
After the seminar...
One of the things about seminars that causes anxiety is the idea of speaking out in a group of people that you may not know well, or at all. Working out some strategies beforehand will help you to deal with this anxiety.
When preparing to speak...
After the group
Be honest if you don't know the answer to a question asked by other members of the group or by the seminar leader. Similarly, if you have nothing relevant to say on a point, there is no need to pretend.
Some of the following strategies might also help when dealing with questions you are unsure of:
- It is the quality not the quantity of comments that matter in a seminar discussion; interesting and relevant points are the most valuable.
- Seminars aren't to test how much you know on a subject, but to help you learn about it.
To really make the most of seminars you will need to both participate in the discussion and listen to others.
How to improve your speaking skills...
Do you talk to people or at people?
- People who talk at you are listening to themselves; they leave no space for a response.
- People who talk to you consider you and your response carefully.
What you can do:
How to improve your listening skills...
How well do you listen?
- Do you take in what other people say?
- Do you give others room to speak?
- Do you use encouraging non-verbal signals?
- Do you 'switch off' when bored or if you dislike the person?
If you struggle to tune in to speakers try some of the following techniques: