Seminar-style classes

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Seminar-style classes
By Collegeat30 (Collegeat30) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 12:04 am: Edit

I have kind of an odd question. I'm wondering which kind of college specializes in small, seminar-style classes in which discussion rather than lecturing is a large part of the instructional technique.

Is this a feature of LAC education only? Or do some other types of schools feature seminar type classes for the majority of the instruction?

By Pattykk (Pattykk) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 01:48 am: Edit

St. John's in Annapolis and Santa Fe, Thomas Aquinas, Sarah Lawrence, and Shimer Colleges use seminar-style instruction. You usually find some seminar-style instruction in the honors colleges at public universities, although you also take normal lecture classes. I think New College of Florida also has quite a few seminars.

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 07:06 am: Edit

I think most universities, no matter what their size, offer small seminars at the upper level and many also offer freshman seminars. Even at LACs, some introductory courses are lecture style and have fairly large enrolments.

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 07:49 am: Edit

Stanford offers freshman and sophomore seminars. I don't yet know whether they are easy or difficult to get into.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 09:15 am: Edit

Reed (Portland, OR)

By Daffodil22 (Daffodil22) on Sunday, September 19, 2004 - 11:21 pm: Edit

I go to a large state school and my freshman English 101 class is seminar-style (they all are). I like the style of it- makes it easy to discuss writing, etc. I prefer the mixture of small seminar- style classes and large lecture classes though- different approaches work for different subjects.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Monday, September 20, 2004 - 01:31 am: Edit

Small class sizes are one of the main features of most top liberal arts colleges. These days, many of these small classes are taught seminar style, but depending on the professor (and the material) you may still see some lecturing. For the most part, the only large classes you'll see at these colleges are intro course in the sciences, intro psych, intro economics, intro art history,and the occasional film course that is essentially taught as Siskel/Ebert style entertainment.

When you get to mid-size and large universities, you'll really have to check on a school by school basis, because it varies wildly. It is certainly not unusual to have lecture classes with 200 students, but it really depends on the school, the department, and the specific course.

Unfortunately, it takes some legwork to find out because the commonly posted stats (like student/teacher ratio and percentage of classes under 20) really don't tell you beans. The other thing to watch for is large lecture courses with separate "discussion sections". The discussion sections may be led by professors or by grad student teaching assistants.

My daughter is a freshman at a school, Swarthmore, that is famous for small class sizes and seminars.

Her Physics course has 11 people and is taught as a seminar -- 3 hours in the evening once a week with students presenting problem sets.

Her Calculus course has 18 students and is a blend of "lecturing" and students solving problem sets.

Her "Freshman seminar" is a Sociology course on the Globalization of post-war Japan. It has 11 kids and is a pure seminar (with a ton of reading).

Her one huge course is Psych 001 which has somewhere between 60 and 100 kids in a pure lecture format -- pretty much standard for Intro Psych which is a notorious snoozer at almost every campus in the country.

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