Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

2-Minute Mentor: Teaching Graduate Seminars

Teaching graduate seminars

  • How can I increase my confidence when I’m teaching advanced students?
  • How do I balance my experience and knowledge?
  • What course objectives should I focus on in graduate seminars?

Click below to watch CTE’s 2-Minute Mentor video on this topic:

Video Portal Video Player Video Platform Video Management

Teaching Graduate Seminars video transcript (doc)

Strategies for teaching the key ideas of a discipline in small groups

When a class is small and the students are advanced in the content of a discipline, there are several broad approaches to designing class activities that can make use of the group and the collective experience and knowledge of the teacher and students.



Teach your students about the types of questions normally asked in your discipline.

As a class, students can work collaboratively to identify interesting and appropriate questions for their field. The questions can be framed as good research questions, good test questions for a graduate course, or good comprehensive exam questions.

After the list of questions is winnowed down to just the best, work with the students to identify the common criteria that make these questions “good.”


A student or the whole group presents a thesis statement or a position.

The statements could be hypothesized answers to the “good” questions generated in the activity described above.

The group presents evidence or arguments in support of the statement and opposed to the statement. Encourage students to provide arguments for both sides.


Self-reflection tasks ask students to examine their own thought processes as they identify interesting questions and develop guesses as to the answers.

Encouraging self-reflection is a good response when the group answer is “wrong” or, at least, different from what you or the field has concluded.


More about teaching graduate students

The following links provide more information about approaches to teaching graduate seminars:

Additional materials are available in CTE’s Essential Guide to Teaching.

Some useful articles on the teaching of graduate seminars:

  • The September 2010 issue of Teaching Matters (pdf) explores the connection between “signature pedagogies” and engaged learning.
  • The April 2005 issue of Teaching Matters (pdf) focuses on the value and power of using discussion among students to recognize the tacit dimensions of professional knowledge and to integrate the specialized language so common in specialized fields.
  • These authors (pdf) suggest that a graduate seminar can be structured as a mini-research conference: Sivilotti, P.A and Weide, B.W., “Research, Teaching, and Service: The Miniconference as a Model for CS Graduate Seminar Courses,” Proceedings of SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 2004, pp. 487- 491.

^Back to top^

Support for Fall Flex Teaching!

CTE has created a website for helping faculty create flexible courses that can shift between in-person and online. Visit the Flex Teaching site.