Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Reading Seminars
Originator David Livingstone & Ian Shuttleworth
Department School of Geosciences, Queen's University of Belfast
Tel. +44 (0)1232 245133
Fax. +44 (0)1232 321280
E-mail D.Livingstone@qub.ac.uk, I.Shuttleworth@qub.ac.uk

The ability to read critically is a skill - indeed a transferable skill - that is frequently undervalued. This exercise was devised to encourage students to:

  1. grasp the overall argument of a piece of writing;
  2. interact with the main concepts and discuss them with fellow students;
  3. come to grips with difficult concepts;
  4. apply insights from one arena to another domain of inquiry;
  5. present the findings of group discussion.
The purpose of the innovation is thus to prepare students to read critically and so to better equip them for self-directed styles of university learning.

The class is divided into small groups (usually of five people) and each of these groups reads a different text selected for its relevance to the course, its conceptual content, and its espousal of a particular perspective or methodology. Group discussion is structured around a number of questions prepared for each piece. In addition to answering these particular questions, students are also required to provide a synopsis of the main argument of the paper, and then to consider how the author would approach a particular geographical research project. Thereafter student presentations are designed to introduce the whole class to the perspective of each of the authors and to the ways in which their outlook would affect their approach to geographical problems.

The exercise lasts for three hours and has received a positive response from students. For many students it is their first sustained contact with some of the concepts current in contemporary Human Geography and so their knowledge of the subject and its conceptual diversity is broadened.

Keywords:

Critical reading
Discussion
Group work
Presentation
Seminars


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