There is an innovative seminar room at the Tait Building, C349, which will be available from September 2014. It will seat fourteen students and was designed by the Property and Facilities Department and the Learning Spaces Team to give tutors and students the best possible seminar experience.
Its design, with a U-shaped seating area, swivel tables and chairs with castors intends to promote collaboration, discussion, group work and student-led presentations. It is also flexible enough to allow for a more traditional use in the same session, being easily configurable.
As seminars focus less on delivery of content by the tutor and note-taking by students, the swivel tables and chairs can easily be put away, opening the room to student discussion and collaboration.
To promote an environment where students feel comfortable to collaborate, ask questions, participate and deliver presentations, we recommend you design for learning:
- To encourage participation and interaction, remove the tables and chairs and get students to sit in the U-shaped sofa. Assign the role of note-taker to only one student (or take notes yourself), so students can focus on discussion. Notes can be shared on Moodle.
- Create a friendly atmosphere where students feel they are able and are motivated to participate, even when English is not their first language (see References for more on this).
- Ice-breakers, group work, setting clear tasks, expectations and rules for participation are key here (check Barkley, Cross and Major, 2005 for some ideas).
- Help students collaborate by facilitating group work: help them structure their presentations and prepare questions they can ask after they present; motivate all students to ask and answer questions; summarise key points and clear misconceptions after presentations. This will help students trust the quality of the information presented and will guarantee all students have the opportunity to participate (Dennick and Exley, 2004).
We would like to hear from you: What do you consider to be a successful seminar? How would you use this room? What would you add to it?
Let us know your thoughts by writing in the comments below or email us at Jorge.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barkley, E.F., Cross, K.P., and Major, C.H. 2005. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Dennick, R., Exley, K. 2004. Small Group Teaching: Tutorials, Seminars and Beyond. London: Routledge.
Cortazzi, M. & Jin, L. 1998. Communication for learning across cultures. In D. Mcnamara & R. Harris (Eds) Overseas Students in Higher Education: Issues in Teaching and Learning. London: Routledge.
Jones, J. 1999. From Silence to Talk: Cross-Cultural Ideas on Students’ Participation in Academic Group Discussion, English for Specific Purposes, 18(3), 243-259.
Ryan, J. 2000. Operating effectively as a teacher of international students. In J. Ryan, A guide to teaching international students. Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development (27-34).
Ryan, J. and Viete, R. 2009. Respectful interactions: Learning with international students in the English-speaking academy. Teaching in Higher Education 14(3), 303-314.
Sovic, S. 2008. Coping with stress: The perspective of international students. Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education, 6(3), 145-51.
Turner, Y. 2013. Pathologies of silence? Reflecting on international learner identities amidst the classroom chatter. In J. Ryan (Ed.), Cross cultural teaching and learning for home and international students: Internationalisation of pedagogy and curriculum in higher education. London: Routledge.
Viete, R., and Peeler, E. 2007. Respectful encounters: Valuing each other in teacher professional learning contexts. In A. Berry, A. Clemans, and A. Kostogriz (Eds), Dimensions of professional learning: Professionalism, practice and identity. Rotterdam: Sense, 178-90.