Listening and Speaking for Seminars: QuICK

Following on from the lecture the seminar is probably the next big hurdle and to discuss the seminar in terms of just one skill is to leave half of it out. The two key skills here are listening and speaking and seminars can be an essential part of your learning at university especially if you benefit from talking ideas out or want to try out your developing competence in your field in a supportive and colligate environment. This week the mnemonic (easily remembered word) is QuICK.



Content and Context



photo credit: UK in Italy XXIV Pontignano Conference via photopin (license)

QUESTION: Seminars are the ideal place to ask any questions that may have arisen in the lecture, the reading or related to the coursework and assessments. They are also a good place to address any problems you may have encountered with the materials, your assessments or your study of the field in general, but try to stay on topic as seminar time is a precious resource, you may want to book a personal tutorial to cover things as well.

INTERACTIVE: Seminars are much more interactive and student focused than lectures can be. In the UK HE sector most Seminars (but perhaps not all) will be between 15-25 people where lectures can be a couple of hundred even at a small institution like Winchester. In that it’s an interactive session it can be much more difficult to prepare and plan for it. But, focusing on the moment is just as important as it is in a lecture.

CONTENT and CONTEXT (yes I’m cheating but I only have one C in Quick!)

Firstly, when you are speaking in a seminar, you have a clear context (the subject you are studying, the reading or lecture being discussed or expanded upon, and/or the application of knowledge gained from one or both) all this serves as a scaffolding to support what you are saying and make it easier for your colleagues (whatever their language) to understand you.


ELTSU students discussing British Painting in their TATE Britain. Photo: I Preston


At the same time both you and your course-mates have all signed up to study this particular field and presumably are interested in it, (at least generally if not always specifically). When they are listening to you in seminars they will be much more interested and focused on what you are saying not how you are saying it. Another important feature to keep in mind here is that language teachers have to be specially trained to do this well, most people won’t notice little grammatical or pronunciation slips (with technical jargon it’s not uncommon to hear varying pronunciation among native speakers of the language dependent on dialect, subfield or education).

The last point here is that in interactive speaking (which seminars feature within) you need to focus on fluency even if this comes at the expense of accuracy. Some seminars can be quite fast paced and if you take too much time to formulate your response or question the talk will have moved onto another aspect, (which you may have missed because you were worrying about grammar). Stick with the talk in the moment and say what you have to say, (even if you’re not sure how to say it).

KEEN: Don’t be afraid to be passionate, even out-spoken at times. Seminars are one area where international students with differing expectations and educational experience can be an invaluable asset to the group as a whole. You might be the only representation of a particular cultural viewpoint on a novel, or a business practice. Don’t keep these to yourself and don’t suppress them; enrich everyone’s experience and they’ll make sure they keep you around and involved.