1st Edition

A Guide to Teaching Effective Seminars
Conversation, Identity, and Power

ISBN 9780415839907
Published March 17, 2014 by Routledge
176 Pages

USD $46.95

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Book Description

A Guide to Teaching Effective Seminars provides college and university faculty with a new approach to thinking about their teaching and helps them develop a deeper understanding of conversation itself. Seminars often inspire collaborative learning and produce rich educational environments, yet even experienced faculty find these conversations can range in quality. A Guide to Teaching Effective Seminars addresses this challenge by presenting a sociolinguistic perspective on seminars and providing instructors with best practices to manage successful seminars. Grounded in research, data, and her own deep experience teaching seminars, author Susan Fiksdal reveals ways students negotiate perspectives on reading, on conversation, and on social identities and power. By giving readers an appreciation of the discourse of seminars, the book helps to undermine stereotypes about language and people, increase civility, reduce misunderstandings, and foster tolerance for new ideas and diverse ways of expressing them. This important resource is for faculty members at all levels of experience and in every discipline who want practical advice about facilitating effective seminars.

Special Features:

  • Each chapter explores a key aspect of conversation with examples from a wide range of seminars across disciplines.
  • Transcripts from videotaped seminars showcase authentic conversations and negotiations between students.
  • End-of-chapter best practices promote critical thinking and collaboration.
  • A companion website features video clips of the transcripts in the book and additional resources.

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Introduction

Chapter Two: Moving from Lectures to Seminars

Chapter Three: Power and Ways of Talking

Chapter Four: Improvisation and Performance: The Importance of Timing

Chapter Five: Getting the Floor

Chapter Six: Performing Identities

Chapter Seven: Agreeing to Disagree

Chapter Eight: Cross-Cultural Dynamics

Chapter Nine: Electronically Speaking




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Susan R. Fiksdal is Member of the Faculty in Linguistics and French at The Evergreen State College, USA.


"If you have ever dreaded walking into a seminar room, this is the book for you. I spent more than twenty years training graduate students and lecturers to be more effective seminar leaders. I wish that I had had this book then—my task would have been a lot easier. This is a wonderful little book by an exceptionally accomplished teacher and researcher."

- Carolyn Martin Shaw, Professor Emerita, former Provost of Kresge College, and former Chair of the Anthropology Department, University of California, Santa Cruz


"Fiksdal harnesses all the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological power of sociolinguistics to produce an excellent practical guide for seminar facilitators. Readers will find the book extremely useful. It’s a rare book that combines utility with great intellectual depth and theoretical development."

- Douglas D. Roscoe, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of General Education, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

Support Material

Companion Website

Please visit our companion website for additional support materials.