Lectures, seminars, advice and feedback hours: What do I need to know?
Whilst I have touched upon what these words mean in my previous posts, with the A-level exams soon finishing, you will probably be starting to think about the jump from school to university, so I thought it would be useful to summarise the main things you need to know to prepare for the academic side of things.
In short: lectures are when an academic staff member (or sometimes a guest lecturer) delivers a presentation on a specific topic to provide you with the key background information that you need to know.
Usually, you only have one or two lecturers for a module, but sometimes you may have a different lecturer every week or fortnight. They specialise in their field so have a wealth of knowledge on the topic that they are talking about.
Lectures are usually an hour-long but sometimes two, and very rarely are longer (at least from my experience in PAIS) (you will usually have one lecture per week, per module).
If the idea of listening to a lecturer talk for an hour scares you: don’t worry! Your first-year lecturers will know that this is a completely different learning method for you and will ease you into that style of teaching. Furthermore, don’t forget that your lecturers were once undergraduate students too! They will do everything they can to make it as engaging as possible. Also, it’s okay if you lose focus sometimes, we have all been there – trying to make notes with little sleep and worrying about missing something important. As long as you try your best, attend your classes and don’t just play games and go on Facebook during your lectures (aka focus on note-taking, whether that be by hand or typed) – you will be just fine!
*Shout out to Steven Kettell for my last lecture ever*
Seminars are probably more like what you are used to in school. This is where you discuss relevant readings, theories and ideas in small groups, led by your seminar tutor (who is usually different from your lecturer). Some tutors have “seminar questions” that they like to focus throughout the hour, and others prefer the session to be led by the students where students deliver a presentation which the rest of the seminar then links to.
Just like lectures, you will have one seminar per week, per module.
To prepare for your seminar, you will be required to do some “readings”.
Whilst the word “reading” is easy to define itself, your university academic experience will probably revolve around “readings” so it is really important that you know what is expected of you.
Each module as a “Reading list” with various primary and secondary readings for each week. Ideally, you should read one or two primary readings and one or secondary readings (depending on their length, focus, the topic, etc).
Your tutors will help you decide what to read in preparation for the seminars (and assessments), but really, there is a lot of flexibility. The most important thing is that you read a few things every week for each module, which may or may not be from the reading list (as long as they are relevant) so that you are in a strong position to be engaged during the seminars.
Usually, the required readings are a mixture of academic journals, articles and books which discuss specific topics in a lot more depth. Although I have found that sometimes using Wikipedia to read about a challenging topic before doing my readings is really helpful (as long as you don’t rely on it as the sole source, and definitely don’t reference it!!).
Advice and feedback hours:
Advice and feedback hours are held by the academic staff who teach you so that you can come in and ask any questions you have/discuss anything relevant to the module/get some feedback on your essay plans, etc.
They are usually an hour or two long 2/3 times a week and you can visit them in their office without booking. There may be a short queue outside but they will do their best to see everybody.
If their advice and feedback hours conflict with your timetable, you can also email your tutors to request another time where you both will be free.
BEST OF LUCK!
Shanita 🙂 xo