Tutorials and seminars
Is there any difference? In theory, a tutorial is where someone teaches or guides a group of people, whereas a seminar is where the group teaches itself under expert supervision. The two techniques reflect in origin different needs; the tutorial has grown from the single teacher/pupil interview in the first years of study; the seminar was originally a meeting of post-graduate researchers to compare findings.
Not all historical problems can be treated in the same way at different levels. Some lend themselves to the tutorial method, as in a confusing or difficult field, where one learns more readily from an expert leading the way through a maze of detail. Others, in which the facts are well known but the issues are debatable and a variety of viewpoints possible, lend themselves better to the seminar approach.
Either approach (and a good tutor will employ each as required) succeeds or fails on one crucial essential: advance preparation by all.
Your tutor should give guidelines each week for the shape of the next session; specific questions to consider, references to consult, arguments to test. But it is up to you to set aside time to prepare, and then when the tutorial or seminar is in progress, to make a positive contribution. Speak up! Speak out!
It is one thing to show a man that he is in error, and another to put him in possession of truth.
John LOCKE (1632-1704)
So don't sit glum and silent, frozen in fear of appearing foolish. Keep alert to the thread of the discussion, and make sure you join in more than once. Don't be afraid of sounding ignorant or making mistakes; we all make mistakes, and we are all of us ignorant in varying degrees, even of the subjects in which we specialize. To confess ignorance is the beginning of wisdom. But avoid the temptation to ridicule others; try to be tactful as well as constructive.
In preparing your contribution to a seminar, don't just gather material so as to swamp everyone with information; digest it, and analyse it, in terms of the question or problem set. Don't just write an essay, all polished and final; a seminar paper must be more flexible than this. Try to build a discussion around five or six main points. Talk from brief notes, or even simple headings. Most novices prepare too much material.
In delivering your contribution to a seminar, think of your audience; watch for signs of boredom or puzzlement. Let important points sink in; if necessary, repeat them. Most novice speakers are either too fast or too quiet - or both. Seminar rooms usually have a chalkboard or whiteboard. You should write up unfamiliar names and perhaps important references.