Paper Seminar

Using Paper Seminar activities to facilitate the development of strong writing skills
Time and Effort
Student Activity Time Medium
Instructor Prep Time High
Instructor Response Time High
Complexity of Activity High
Classroom Considerations Movable tables and chairs / extra support staff


Paper Seminar has students formally present an original paper to a small group of peers. Within the group, one or two students are respondents to the paper. In contrast, the group discusses the paper’s content, interpretation, and underlying assumptions and values.


Use it when you want...

  • To provide students a framework to engage in discussions,
  • To exchange/explore ideas students have brought together from their research and their reading, to focus students’ attention and feedback on their work and the work of others, or
  • To avoid having to listen to multiple presentations from the entire class.

What students will need

  • There are no special requirements for this approach


The following workflow guides how to facilitate a Paper Seminar learning activity within a classroom.


  • Assign papers.
  • Determine a timeline that gives students adequate time to prepare for and conduct the seminar.
  • Give students guidance on critically reading the paper and preparing a formal response.
  • Prepare a critique handout for respondents to use in class.
  • Plan for sufficient time, as this activity may occur over several sessions.


  • Assign students to groups. Students will be responding to peers’ papers in their group.
  • Determine who will serve as a respondent for each paper. For groups of four, assign one respondent; for groups of six, consider assigning two.
  • Explain the time frame and tasks to students.
  • Give the first presenters five to ten minutes to present their papers to their groups.
  • Give respondents ten minutes to respond using the handout provided.
  • Give groups twenty minutes to discuss the paper.
  • Collect papers and response handouts from each group.


  • Provide feedback/grade based on the quality of the paper and feedback provided.
  • Provide feedback to students on ways to improve feedback for future assignments.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documentation

  • None


Example 1

Survey of World Geography professor wanted to allow students to integrate and synthesize key concepts during class sessions. She assigned students a writing assignment in which they would be required to apply a range of ideas covered in class to a hypothetical situation and present their essays in a Paper Seminar. Students were organized into groups of four and assigned one formal respondent for each paper. She asked respondents to pay particular attention to how well the author applied course concepts and theories to the supposed scenario (Barkley 326-327).

Example 2

In Principles of Marketing, the professor wanted students to explore a marketing planning strategy in-depth. She developed a Paper Seminar activity that applied to real-world problems. The assignment was to write a persuasive memo to a company’s owner stating their position on expanding to an online distribution system. Students were to include information that would counter expected objections. The professor broke students into groups of four. In class, students get into their groups. Each person presented their memo. Each student in the group was assigned a role (owner, chief financial officer, or accountant) and provided feedback based on that perspective. Then, the group determined an effective marketing decision based on the memo (Barkley 325-326).


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 324-329.

Keywordswriting, group, collaborative, revise, formal, paperDoc ID119854
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2022-07-21 14:10:30Updated2024-04-16 12:50:47
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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