The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

4.1 Developing mutual understanding

The quality of learning in a seminar programme depends, among other things, on the quality of the relationships between the seminar leader and the students. Successful seminars are usually relaxed, interactive and inclusive. In part, a good relationship is built on the confidence that students have in the seminar leader. This confidence is influenced by the quality of the seminar leader’s preparation, organisation and promptness. The quality of the interaction in the seminar will depend on how well the students understand why the seminar is organised in a particular way. It also makes sense to put time and effort into getting to know the students, even though the module may only last a semester. Students who believe that the seminar leader is genuinely interested in them will treat guidance they receive in a much more serious manner. It is also worth spending time helping students to work together, as this will be important to the success of small-group activities during the seminar programme.

Each group of students has a particular dynamic and an activity that works very well with one group may not work at all with another. Thus, an important objective in the first few weeks of any seminar programme is to find out what works best with any particular group. It is advisable to make the planning for the first few sessions fairly flexible in order to provide scope for adjustments according to the character of the group.