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Why seminars can sometimes be frustrating

Have you ever sat in a seminar and felt like an alien?

I'm sure we have all experienced at least one seminar at some point in our university career which we did not enjoy. Here are a few of the factors that can make a seminar a frustrating experience.

Fighting to contribute

You get through semester one in your first year, where no one spoke except the lecturer, to semester two where people are fighting to contribute. Have you noticed it is always the same people? They dominate the classroom by being the first person to tell the lecturer what they want to hear. Some call it regurgitating facts; others call it teaching your grandmother to suck eggs. These people don't want to have a conversation about the text; they want to confirm to the lecturer that they know what they are talking about and boost their own egos in the process. In one moment you realise you have nothing in common with them. What happened to creative thought? Individualism… It's almost as if they have been brainwashed by critics and contribute to confirm that the brainwashing has worked. A girl sitting in the far corner relentlessly puts her hand up to be heard, but instead the lecturer calls out the same name, the person who is loudest and regurgitates Spark Notes. It becomes a game to see who can collect the most brownie points. It gets to the point where you decide to sit back and let them fight it out.

Being spoon fed information

People do Bachelor of Arts degrees because they want to express themselves creatively, but at times it can feel like we're being spoon-fed information. You make a contribution to hear that they don't specifically say that in the text, but hold on, you haven't explained your logic. The lecturer will express their interpretation of a period or a text but explain it like, that is what it is; in other words, that is what you are expected to write in your essay. We are being spoon fed interpretations of texts, the lecturer’s interpretation is the correct one. The notion of there is no right or wrong way to interpret a text has been thrown in the dustbin. It started in secondary educational institutions where teachers spoon feed students what to put in exams. This process of spoon feeding programs people to become like robots and drains creativity. University should be the opposite of that. University is about finding your own unique voice, challenging academics who think they know it all, finding out about concepts and subjects you knew nothing about before. Above all, it is about reading a text through your eyes. Finding your interpretation of a text, which will be individually and amazingly all you. Interpretations are like fingerprints.


Is it one of those seminars where nothing has been achieved? The lecturer spent hours talking and it was as if the lecture was being repeated. You get a seminar handout to do on your own, but the questions are too complicated for the time you have to complete them in. You did not get a chance to finish reading the novel set because you are a slow reader and could not finish it in one week, or you could not get a copy of the text from the library and have no money to buy it. No one else, except you and one other, has read the text because they admit they could not be bothered, therefore, the lecturer says they are not allowed to go through a text you stayed up until 2 am every day to finish reading in time. You prepare yourself for the seminar by doing the Moodle activities set for that week, then the lecturer turns up and decides to do something else. Even though you spent hours analysing a poem as a pre-session task… Frustrating to say the least.

However, not all seminars are frustrating. I am sure we have all experienced lots of seminars which have been productive, helpful, thought-provoking and positive. According to academic staff, results are linked to attendance. Students who attend university regularly are engaged, receiving support from lectures and seminars and keeping motivated. Sitting in a lecture or seminar can be an inspiring and fascinating experience because the academics who speak are passionate and incredibly knowledgeable about the subject. Make the most of your university experience and the £9000+ tuition fee you are paying, by attending as many seminars and lectures as you can. No matter how frustrating it can be at times, it can only get better.