Using Paper Seminar activities to facilitate the development of strong writing skills
|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 act as respondents to the paper while the entire group engages in a discussion of 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 on the work of others, or
- To avoid having to listen to multiple presentations from the entire class.
What students will need
- No special requirements for this approach
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can 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 how to read the paper critically and prepare 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 respondents.
- Explain to students the time frame and tasks.
- 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
A Survey of World Geography professor wants to provide students with an opportunity to integrate and synthesize key concepts during class sessions. She assigns students a writing assignment in which they would be required to apply a range of ideas covered in class to a hypothetical situation and to present their essays in a Paper Seminar. Students are organized into groups of four and assigned one formal respondent for each paper. She asks respondents to pay particular attention to how well the author has applied course concepts and theories to the supposed scenario (Barkley 326-327).
In Principles of Marketing, the professor wants students to explore in-depth a marketing planning strategy. She develops a Paper Seminar activity that will apply to real-world problems they will face. The assignment is to write a persuasive memo to a company’s owner stating their position on expanding to an online distribution system. Students are to include information that would counter expected objections. The professor breaks students into groups of four. In class, students get into their groups. Each person presents their memo. Each student in the group is assigned a role (owner, chief financial officer, or accountant) and provides feedback based on that perspective. Then, the group determines 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.