How to select the right seminar class
You know you’re at a competitive university when at the beginning of October you find yourself never leaving your laptops’ side in case seminar signups go online. That’s because objectively seminars will be incredibly important in you university experience, and they can make or break your entire module experience. For PPEists seminars will mean different things whether they are Economic, Politics or Philosophy ones. For Economics, seminars are crucial to deepen your understanding of the topics covered in class, while for Politics and Philosophy they are chances to push the boundaries of your critical thought and analysis. In any case seminars are crucial and because at Warwick you get to choose your own, it’s important to make strategic choices. Make sure you’re around an internet connection and device when seminar classes go online because students are assigned seminar times on a first come first served basis.
First off: how do you select a seminar? You do so on Tabula. Once you’re logged in, click on the “small group teaching” section, and that is where you’ll find all the seminar classes. Click on one and then confirm your choice. The most important aspect of choosing your seminar time is to ensure that it will not clash with outer selected seminars and lectures. You must make sure of this yourself, and you can do so by opening your tabula timetable and ensuring you’re free for the seminar you’d like to take during the whole of the running of the module. If it’s a 30 CAT module make sure you check lecture times for term 2 as well or you could run into problems. If you do select a seminar that does not end up working with your schedule you can either select another by removing yourself from the first seminar, or speak with the PPE office.
Now, after you’ve restricted seminar classes based on time, I suggest that choosing a seminar led by a good seminar tutor will make all the difference. I believe this is more important in topics where you are essentially “re-taught” certain concepts, for example in economics. In these seminars you go through a question set left by the lecturer, first you must attempt them on your own or with a partner but the second half of the class is dedicated to correcting your answers and going through them with the seminar tutor. So what I mean by “re-teaching” seminars is really those seminars that come to terms with and clarify the specific material covered in class.
In any case, my top tip for selecting a good seminar tutor is choosing the seminar led by the lecturer. They will have a deeper understating of the material covered in class and the activities prepared for the seminars. I have never attended a seminar with a lecturer where I was let down by the quality of the teaching. I believe most Economics lecturers are not seminar tutors, so part of choosing a tutor in these modules is luck. However, the best way to get to know your potential seminar tutor is to look them up on their department web pages. All department have these, and they list the names and brief descriptions of all teaching staff. You might want to select the seminar tutor that seems to have the most experience, but beware that is not a guarantee of good teaching skills. Another important research tool for seminar tutors are senior students. Ask them if you’ve taken the same module as you, and if they recommend any seminar tutor in particular.
Another way to make sure your seminar classes will be stimulating, is to partner up with someone you know has interesting thoughts on the teaching materials. This is obviously easier said than done, but if in your first year you notice that being in the same seminar with a particular student really helped your understanding of the module, ask them what seminars that plan to select if you happen to have another module together. This will ensure that discussions in philosophy and politics classes won’t go stale or repetitive.
Seminar groups are, as I’ve stressed throughout this entire blogpost, very important to your academic experience in University. They are essential to deepening your understanding and to have a change to confront your ideas and opinions with other people. So make sure you ask when seminar classes will open to be among the first to select your group and try to do some research beforehand, to secure yourself the most successful seminar group.