Today's seminar topic was in my opinion the most interesting I've had so far on this module, so if I'm ever going to blog about it this is the moment to do so! Attendance today was really crap due to essay deadlines and various illnesses doing the rounds, but the brave souls who made it in managed to pull off some good discussions. To put it in context, we've had a series of lectures on the main EU institutions (council, commission, parliament) and one on the democratic deficit, and it was the last topic the module convenor had asked us to focus on in seminars. The essay questions attached to this class were on the democratic deficit and the role of the European Parliament in representing European citizens. The content varied a bit between the two groups, but a general outline was as follows:
Both: open with a brief discussion of what democracy is, the different types of democracy and where they are relevant in the context of the EU (representative democracy in Parliament, direct democracy with referenda), and the different conceptions of representation that have been put forwards. (Here it helps that I know their political theory module inside out!)
Both: get onto the democratic deficit, what it is (the reading offers several definitions and relevant factors), and the relevance to the countries the students adopted in their first seminar.
Group B: segue into talking about the European Parliament essay, with some general essay-writing talk
Group A: discussion of whether the EU was democratic
Group B: position game, meaning people stand in a line taking positions on a controversial question - in this instance whether the EU is democratic. (for various reasons I didn't use this with group A)
Both: Quick bit of groupwork dealing with what a Euro-democracy (phrase nicked from the core reading) might look like, whether it is possible, whether we should bother
Both: end with a discussion of how the democratic deficit essay question might be tackled. I've been trying to have a bit of essay drill wherever possible - it gives me a chance to instill the basic knowledge without taking time away from the topics, and them a chance to ask general questions at every point in the term.
Both: five minutes or so at the end for general questions the students may have about the module and any announcements I have - in this case that the homework for their next class is to find a relevant news clipping, and the fact that I'm going to be sending some of them a survey on the seminar experience. (I will be picking a certain number of names at random, but also happy to have volunteers if anyone feels strongly enough!)
The discussion was pretty calm and relaxed, I think I've cracked the optimum seating arrangements in each room (in one room we push two or three rows of desks together to make a big table, in another we push the tables aside and get the chairs in a circle), and there was less resistance than I thought to not having individual handouts this time. (the department is trying to discourage tutors from using these, so I've been trying to reevaluate when they are necessary)
In other news, I FINALLY have heating and hot tap water in my flat, so tonight I'm going to have my first bath of the semester! It feels like some insane luxury to be able to heat the whole place at once and not have to plan in advance which room I want to work or eat in...
XKCD comics for teaching
12 hours ago