When the times comes to select courses for the next semester many students in Germany have the option of taking part in a ‘block seminar’. Courses that follow this system take the reading of an entire semester and structure them into several intensive seminars. These seminars usually run over the course of two consecutive weekends, and once completed students are free to carry on with their individual research, handing in their papers at the end of term.
Block seminars are a great way to study a subject in more detail and free up time in your schedule, however completing the reading is essential in order to keep up with the fast moving and lengthy discussion.
For the past two weekends I took part in a block seminar on Romanticism. Although I shuddered at the thought of having class from 10am to 4pm on both Saturday and Sunday, having never previously studied Romanticism, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to fill in a few gaps in my knowledge of English literature, as well as give me an insight to the Romanticism module students are required to study in their final year at Leicester.
The English course at the University of Leicester is structured chronologically, starting with Old English in the first year, and finishing with a module in Postmodernism in the final year giving students a broad sweep of English Literature.
On the first day, any fears I had of being stuck listening to a monotonous day long lecture quickly vanished. The weekend was structured into presentations, group activities and discussions on topics as wide ranging as the French Revolution and ‘The Gothic’. As a class of thirty we effectively taught each other, and our instructor helped to facilitate discussion by highlight interesting ideas. There were ample coffee breaks throughout the day to keep everyone motivated, and the day long seminars allowed a range of perspectives and opinions to be voiced. By the final day of the seminar we were actively conversing about Romanticism, a topic a few weeks prior we knew little of.
– Gives you an in depth understanding of a subject
– Classes takes up a small part of semester, giving you more free time
– You get greater flexibility when it comes to choosing a research topic.
– The fast moving discussion can leave you feeling a bit out of your depth.
– Requires a lot of concentration to actively participate throughout the day
– You have to be super-organised, and read the texts on time to understand the discussion.
Verdict: Overall I would thoroughly recommend at least trying out a block seminar. I found it an enjoyable experience, and good practice in forming and sustaining a verbal argument. The flexibility of the course also appeals to me. Just make sure you read the texts so the weekend isn’t lost in a haze of bewilderment!