Study Guide

Teaching and the timetable

Staff and students can find their personal timetable on line via the ‘MyExeter’ portal. All module timetables can be checked online. Arrangements for seminars, study groups and tutorials will be made soon after the start of the session. Full details are made known in lectures and on line (by means of ELE: see below). Attendance at all taught sessions is compulsory.

Four main modes of teaching are used in the Department. Generally speaking, your modules in the first and second years will be more broadly based and will cover a wider field, whilst those in the third year will deal with more specialised areas. You will become aware of a sense of progression in your undergraduate career, as the first two years serve as preparation for the more intensive and independent study required in the final year.

Lectures: the most straightforward mode of instruction. The lecturer will often provide the structure, and sometimes much of the content, of the lecture in the form of a hand-out distributed at the start of the lecture, or as a PowerPoint presentation which is also available on line. You should try to compile a set of lecture notes for each module; however, there may be occasions when it pays to lay your pen down and just listen, in order to gain a broader overview of the subject-matter. It is vital to realize that notes taken in lectures are not sufficient in themselves, and that you must read widely on your own from the recommended reading, and develop your own ideas. There will usually be some time to ask the lecturer questions at the end of the lecture.

Seminars: usually involving much smaller groups of students than the lectures, with greater responsibility placed upon the student and more discussion. You will be assigned to a seminar group for each of your core modules. You will be expected to prepare short presentations which are intended to develop the material covered in lectures, and to defend your viewpoint in the company of your fellow-students. Emphasis is placed upon student-led learning and, ideally, the tutor conducting the seminar remains as far as possible in the background.

Study-groups: seminar groups are usually subdivided into study-groups of three or four students which meet independently between seminars. You are expected to organize your own meetings, to discuss the work together for the next seminar, and to decide who is to present the results of your discussions at the next seminar. This gives you a valuable opportunity to work with other students and to take responsibility for your own learning.

Tutorials: usually conducted on a one-to-one basis in the tutor’s room. Normally the tutorial is employed for the return of written assignments, and it also provides you with the opportunity for individual discussion of issues which may not have been satisfactorily covered in lectures or seminars.

Independent study

When you see your timetable, you may be surprised by your apparently small workload: a module typically will provide one lecture per week and one seminar per fortnight (though more for language modules). However, most of the work is done outside the lecture and seminar room, by you, working alone in the privacy of your own study or in the library. You should allocate at least ten hours per week during the two teaching semesters for each 30-credit module (so twenty hours for a 60-credit module), including contact time. The more time you put in, the more benefit you will derive from the modules.

You will also benefit from discussions with others. Opportunities for discussion are provided formally in seminars and study-groups, but students are also encouraged to set up their own reading groups, to take part in online discussions, or simply to talk through issues and questions with friends over coffee!

Seminars and oral presentations

Attending and contributing to seminars is just as important as attending lectures and taking notes. The ability to give a confident and well-structured oral presentation to your fellow-students is one of the key skills we aim to develop through your undergraduate education.

Most modules include contributions to seminars at Levels 1 and 2 (check the module sheets for details). Short oral presentations (five to ten minutes’ length) are assessed by feedback from the lecturer and the other students and may in some cases count towards the module mark.

At Level 3, what is normally expected is an oral presentation (of, say, 20 minutes) by an individual student. The topic and date of this will be arranged in advance by the module teacher. The presentation is assessed by the module teacher, using a standard form, of which the student subsequently receives a copy with brief oral feedback. Students in the class also assess the presentation on a form which is returned anonymously to the teacher and which is taken into account in making the assessment. Both teacher and students use the same assessment criteria (see below). Normally between 10% and 20% of the total module mark is allocated to this element.

Module directors and seminar leaders will give you specific guidance about what is expected; but here are some general guidelines, which hold good for seminars at all levels.

Accuracy of Content

Prepare the material accurately, with careful reference to relevant primary (ancient) sources and secondary material (modern scholarship). Where appropriate, draw attention to the difficulties or ambiguities in the ancient evidence and to differences in the way that modern scholars interpret this evidence (this is especially important at level 3). Prepare a presentation that matches the topic set and the time allowed for giving the presentation.

Clarity of Argument

Think out in advance the main points you want to make and the way they fit together into a connected argument. Give a short introduction, explaining the scope of your presentation and your main theme, and round off the presentation by summarising your main findings and conclusions.

Clarity of Presentation

Give the presentation in a way that highlights your main points and the stages of your argument (it is sometimes useful to list these numerically). Speak slower than in ordinary conversation, allowing enough time for your fellow-students to take notes otherwise they are not going to get the full benefit from your presentation. Some points need repeating or rephrasing; this also gives others time to write down your points. It is often useful to give exact references as you go along to the page references (or book-chapters, or line references) of the set text or source being discussed or to the relevant passage of the secondary sources used. Use the board to write up references or to give key words or drawings. For longer presentations you may want to use a short handout, OHP or PowerPoint presentation; if you want this to be copied for all students, take it to the Dept Office in good time (at least one day) before the class. Otherwise you will need to do (and pay for it) yourself. At level 3, the handout and/or PowerPoint presentation forms part of the assessed material.

Personal Interaction

Speak clearly and loudly enough so that you can be heard by everyone in the room. Try to maintain some degree of eye-contact with your fellow-students from time to time throughout the presentation. It is better to prepare a presentation in advance so that you can give it by referring to your notes than to read the whole text. Prepare to take questions after the presentation and to respond positively and co-operatively to questions even if they may seem challenging or critical of your presentation.

Study groups

Study-groups are widely used within the Department in conjunction with seminars, especially at Levels 1 and 2. They help you to extend the range of contexts in which you discuss academic work, they enable you to play a more active role in your learning, and they develop your interpersonal skills.

Study-groups take two main forms: within seminars and outside them. In both cases, the whole seminar group is broken into smaller groups, say five groups of four students.

Frequently, the subject for a seminar is subdivided into topics and each study-group is given a topic. The study-group discusses their topic and then, in the plenary seminar, one or more of the group speak on the topic. Either a spokesperson for the group can give a short oral presentation or the group as a whole can make comments or answer questions.

Another use for study groups is for those studying language, e.g. working together through part of a text and helping each other to resolve difficulties. This can be very useful as a way of reinforcing seminars on set texts. Study groups can be used within the seminar. For instance, you may work in study-groups for the first 10-15minutes of the seminar (using different parts of a room), and then have a plenary seminar, in which each group addresses a given sub-topic.

Study groups can also be used at other points within the seminar, to vary the learning process or to deal with difficulties that arise in the seminar.

You can arrange your own study-groups at the usual seminar-time (if seminars are held in alternate weeks) or at times of your own choosing. You can look for an unused class-room, or find a space in DH, or use the study space on the ground floor of the Library, or use a sitting room in a shared student house or Hall of Residence. You should use a regular time each week or fortnight and hold the study-group for a reasonably long time (e.g. up to an hour or more if it is proving useful).