Some Suggestions for a Seminar Experience


A seminar format seeks to foster a collaborative climate in which all seminar participants share in and contribute to the conversation.  We seek to avoid an authoritarian environment in which the seminar participants are lectured to or in which a few control the conversation.  No single person should monopolize the conversation. While it is not the role of the facilitator to "call on you," he or she certainly can in order to keep the conversation moving around the table.  

In a seminar, the responsibilities and roles of facilitators and participants are thus equally shared.  Simply because its someone else’s turn to be a facilitator for a particular session does not lessen everyone's responsibility to participate and contribute to the conversation. Unlike a lecture format, no one can assume a passive, observational role in a seminar.  The key word in a seminar format is "conversation."

It is also important to keep your comments focused on the question at hand and work at making your comments distinct and precise. Think about giving others the opportunity to add to the conversation. Put as much energy into sharing your ideas and speaking aloud, as you do in truly listening to others share their ideas. While any conversation can wander off course (which can be very creative and insightful), a seminar conversation should attempt to be anchored to the assigned texts, generating and "wandering off course" with questions and conversations based upon those texts.

It is important to come well prepared, having read the assigned text thoroughly, with a eye on its anthropological implications. While the facilitator will have isolated specific text passages for discussion and have questions relating to those passages, seminar participants should also write out questions concerning areas that for them need clarification, areas of research and theory implications, and/or areas of general interest. Then add those questions to the conversation when appropriate given the flow of the conversation at hand. Certainly do not come to the seminar and try to wing it.


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