Anna Blanch offers six suggestions for doing well in graduate-level seminars. She offers some very helpful comments after each, so make sure you go and read her post for yourself. Here are her tips with some comments.
- Read intelligently. Don’t do the bare minimum; make yourself process, question, and synthesize.
- Volunteer to go first (or early) in the semester. I’m not as confident as she is that this will impress your professor or get you some slack in the grading (it doesn’t in my seminars), but she is right that the beginning of the semester can often be an easier time to prepare for a presentation.
- Speak in the first 10 minutes. This was my favorite. Nothing is more frustrating when you’re leading a seminar than having good students in the class who don’t participate. It’s not good for the class and it’s really not good for you. So, get the ball rolling early. Do not let the first class session end without contributing in some way.
- Keep the conversation going. I’d disagree slightly here. You do want to make sure that you’re participating, but it’s really the instructor’s job to keep things rolling. If a discussion starts to bog down and it really hasn’t accomplished what I want it to, I’ll stir the pot some more to keep it going.
- Thank your professor. With presents. Valuable ones.
- Think about instigating some after-seminar dinner or drinks ritual. A seminar is all about learning from other students as well as the instructor. Don’t let the learning stop at the door. (That’s actually what drove setting up this blog in the first place.)