Seminar sessions (a new-found freedom)
The transition between college and undergraduate studies is always considered a daunting step, one that marks a shift from the more guided and collaborative learning process within high school to a far more independent one when you reach University. In this blog post I am going to be discussing the flexible way in which seminars are led here at Warwick, especially in regard to the content discussed, as this newfound freedom within the teaching and learning environment is something I have enjoyed whilst starting my journey here. If this blog were to have a soundtrack it would be something like Edge of Seventeen, a rousing anthem about new-found freedom. Just imagine it playing in the background whilst you’re reading this.
Throughout high school and college I became consistently more frustrated with the restraints that such a rigid syllabus imposed on the breadth and scope of what could and couldn’t be discussed within a lesson; the teacher always had to cover a certain amount of content within a certain amount of time. This meant that wider discussion and conversation often had to be reserved for after lessons and in your own personal time, it could never be fed back into the classroom, at least not in the way it often can within the fertile environment of a seminar session. And although there are still syllabus’ present within undergraduate level studies, the focus on student led conversation at University allows for a much more comprehensive learning experience. One rogue question can lead the seminar down a different direction, but a direction that allows for a far more spontaneous and fruitful dialogue to open up between students that just cannot be found at GCSE or A-level.
Perhaps what I am really frustrated is how the current GCSE and A-level approach, I feel, stunts and undermines inspired discussion. There is always room for wider conversation in high school lessons yes, but never too much. And although this does change to become more flexible as you progress through the education system, a rigid syllabus that often rewards memory recall over creativity will always be reflected within classroom conversations. Creative discussions fail when they are not encouraged. This is what changes at University, especially within essay based subjects. You are met, almost immediately, with the freedom to discuss and explore the things that interest you, instead of the things that AQA or Edexcel think will interest you. The transition between college level and undergraduate learning will continue to be an ongoing process for me, and although completing the first term of my degree signals the beginning of this progression, I know that the coming few months will continue to be that of development and growth where I learn more about the advantages of undergraduate studies and perhaps some of the disadvantages too. I think there is something symbolic within the freedom offered by student led seminars at University; it marks a pivotal moment where we as students go from relying on being led to enjoying the freedom of starting to lead ourselves.