No-Tutor Seminars


Brief description

Tutors leave students alone in a seminar group to discuss material previously circulated and read. The discussion is recorded, and the tutor listens to the tape afterwards and makes ('written) comments on some of the important issues raised.

Aims and skills

To improve the level of student participation in seminars and to eliminate the authoritarian/hierarchical/dominating tendency of the tutor (by eliminating the tutor!). To give students responsibility for their own learning. To enhance the coherence of a group at the beginning of a seminar programme and to encourage an informal atmosphere.

Courses used in

Third-year course on Nature and Environment in Western Society.

What the teacher does

Selects and circulates some reading to the seminar group in advance - it may be most effective to get subgroups to read different sides of an argument (see example). When the seminar begins, tell them why you are going to leave. Suggest a way of structuring the seminar time (see example) which the group may wish to follow. Point out the importance, for the group, of allowing everyone to contribute and/or put in the suggested structure guidelines a mechanism whereby this will happen. Leave a tape recorder and tape with the group. Listen to the resultant discussion after the seminar. Write down and circulate to the group observations on the discussion at a later date (see example).

Problems for the teacher

Finding an appropriate topic and appropriate readings, such that discussion is likely to be generated and maintained. Providing a structure which will work, and not allow domination of the discussion by one or two individuals. There is 'extra' work involved in writing down and circulating your observations afterwards, but the method can be very successful.


The Geography Discipline Network would like to thank the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) for permission to reproduce material from this publication.

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Page updated 7 July 2000