Difference between Seminar and Lecture

Key difference: A lecture is when a professor or teacher stands in front of a large class and just gives the information that is required by the students. A seminar, on the other hand, is a more discussion oriented lesson.

Seminars and lectures are forms of education that take place in college and at times even after. Essentially, a lecture is when a professor or teacher stands in front of a large class and just gives the information that is required by the students. A seminar, on the other hand, is a more discussion oriented lesson.

According to Dictionary.com, a seminar is “a small group of students, as in a university, engaged in advanced study and original research under a member of the faculty and meeting regularly to exchange information and hold discussions.” It is “any meeting for exchanging information and holding discussions.” Whereas, a lecture is “a speech read or delivered before an audience or class, especially for instruction or to set forth some subject.” For example: a lecture on Picasso's paintings.

The term ‘lecture’ dates back to the 14th century and originated from the Latin lectus, pp. of legere ‘to read.’ ‘Lecture’ means the ‘action of reading, that which is read.’ In the 16th century, the term came to denote an “oral discourse on a given subject before an audience for purposes of instruction.”

The modern lecture is an oral presentation intended to present information or to teach people about a particular subject. The lecture can be by a university or college teacher or professor, a politician's speech, a minister's sermon, or even a businessman's sales presentation. The lecture aims to convey critical information, history, background, theories and equations to its target audience.

Lectures are often criticized as a teaching method, claiming that most students are not able to pay attention and absorb the required knowledge by listening to a professor droll on about a topic for an hour and a half. However, lectures are cheap for the universities or colleges, as one professor can lecture around 100 to 200 students in the same hour and a half. However, many claim that in this form of learning, there is: no hands on approach; no practical knowledge gained; minimal professor – student relationship; and no special attention on the students learning needs. Due to this many support or sponsor a learning environment similar to a seminar.

A seminar is “a form of academic instruction that has the function of bringing together small groups for recurring meetings, focusing each time on some particular subject, in which everyone present is requested to actively participate.” Basically, it allows a small group of students, such as anywhere between 10 and 40, to discuss the relevant topic or lesson on hand. They are often supervised or guided by a professor, teacher, seminar leader or instructor. Students may discuss the topic, or do an individual/group project or research and present their findings. In a seminar, assigned readings can be discussed, questions can be raised and debates can be conducted.

This form of teaching incorporates all the factors that the lectures tend to miss out on. As they are more hands-on, students tend to learn more and remember more, as they learned by doing instead of just half listening to a professor and memorizing facts and figures. It is relatively informal, as compared to the lecture system of academic instruction. The word seminar is derived from the Latin word seminarium, meaning "seed plot".

Normally, in universities and college, especially in countries, such as the US and Canada, the lectures are conducted for entry level students to acquaint them to the subjects and topic in the particular field of study. Whereas, seminars are reserved for upper-class and advanced students, who are required to learn more and are expected to be knowledgeable in their field of study. However, in UK and Australian universities seminars are often used for all years, entry-level as well as advanced.

Image Courtesy: spilmumbai.com, uio.no

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