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Lectures and Seminars

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Lectures are an important part of the learning experience, and will play a central role in your preparation for seminars in the early years of your degree. They are never a substitute for reading, but they will give you a broad framework within which to understand the main themes of the module and the particular material you are reading. Listening to a lecture is not a passive activity.



Seminars are your most important regular commitment, and attendance is compulsory. Seminars are a space in which a small group of students (usually no more than 16) test out ideas about a subject together with a tutor. Contributing to seminars is central to the process of learning. As well as enhancing your learning of the topic of the seminar, contributing to seminars allows you to develop oral communication and group-work skills which are likely to be as important as your writing skills in whatever you find yourself doing when you have finished at Warwick. As such apart from your Personal Tutor, your main source of academic help will be your seminar tutors. Potential employers are usually just as interested in what your tutors have to say about your contribution to seminars as they are in the marks you get for essays or exams, which require a distinctive set of skills. Many of our modules include seminar contribution as part of your assessment.

If you have to miss a seminar, always let the seminar tutor know as soon as possible the reasons for your absence (preferably in advance). For full information on absence please see the Absence from Classes page in the UG Handbook.

What you can expect in a Warwick History Seminar:

  • You are expected to come to seminars fully prepared, having done the readings or other activities required in advance;
  • You should expect to participate in discussions which are grounded in the readings;
  • You should expect a diverse range of teaching activities and teaching styles;
  • Everyone in the seminar (both students and tutors) should expect to be respected and treated with dignity in line with Warwick’s values and our department community expectations [ ]

In some seminars tutors may set, or encourage you to co-create, “ground rules” that are appropriate for the module content or seminar group. However, in general terms, we expect history seminars to be respectful and accountable spaces in which everyone in the seminar (both students and tutors) share responsibility for upholding these values. As Elise AhenkorahLink opens in a new window puts it, “Accountability means being responsible for yourself, your intentions, words, and actions. It means entering a space with good intentions, but understanding that aligning your intent with action is the true test of commitment.”

To achieve this, you should expect to think actively, and reflect regularly, about your contribution to seminars. Consider how to: (adapted from Ahenkorah):

  • Avoid interrupting others.
  • Listen actively, instead of just waiting to speak. Write down your thoughts, if necessary.
  • Be mindful of how much you are talking; consider whether you could try to say more (“step up”), or if you are dominating the conversation (“step back”).
  • Give everyone a chance to speak, without unnecessary pressure.
  • Remember that this is a learning space, and we all make mistakes. If you said something offensive or problematic, apologize for your actions or words being offensive — not for the person feeling insulted.
  • Recognize and embrace friction as evidence that multiple ideas are entering the conversation — not that the group is not getting along.
  • Give credit where it is due. If you are echoing someone’s previously stated idea, give the appropriate credit.
  • Avoid making assumptions about others’ views or project your own. If in doubt, ask for clarification.
  • Speak for yourself. Use “I” statements and do not share others’ lived experiences.
  • Be mindful of the impact of what you say, and not just your intent. Words and tone matter.
  • If you are in a position of relative power (for example if you are in a majoritised social position or are leading the discussion) intervene if issues arise that affect those in minoritized positions.

If you have any questions about how to make the most of seminars, or are in any doubt about the quality of your contribution to seminars, please ask your seminar tutor for advice.