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English Language Support: Academic Discussion Skills

Academic Discussion Skills

Seminars, sometimes known as tutorials, are an important part of learning at university.  To get the most out of them you need to be able to interact effectively with other students in a small group.  In Academic Discussion Skills, we focus on the language and skills you need to successfully participate in seminars.



Important Information

  • Academic Discussion Skills is a course consisting of 4 sessions.
  • Each session is 90 minutes long.
  • The course runs for four weeks
  • There are regular start dates each month.

Scroll down to find more information about each session and its learning outcomes.

Next course starts

1 - Comparing different perspectives

In a seminar you need to examine issues from different perspectives and move beyond your own position. This workshop will help you with the language needed for comparing perspectives in discussions.




In this session, you will:

  • consider problematic issues from different perspectives.
  • compare your ideas and give reasons to support your view point.
  • practise using a range of language comparing perspectives.



2 - Arguing and counter-arguing

In a seminar you have to consider different sides of an argument. This workshop will focus on how to support views and oppose views in a discussion. We will cover useful language - exchanging opinions and agreeing and disagreeing: the key functional language needed for successful debating.



In this session, you will:

  • participate in a structured debate.
  • reflect on your participation in this debate.
  • learn new vocabulary and expressions for exchanging/giving opinions.


3 - Building on a discussion

Engaging in a discussion requires active listening. To do this you need to understand the previous speaker, ask for clarification if necessary and then build on what that speaker said. This workshop will focus on developing your strategies to check your understanding of the previous speaker and practice the skills needed to build on and develop the discussion further.

In this session, you will:

  • look at active listening strategies.
  • practise linking- in to previous speakers and building on what they said.
  • learn phrases for referring to what other speakers have said.


4 - Taking your turn

Finding the ‘right moment’ to make your point in a seminar can be difficult. Just when you want to give your opinion, someone else jumps in, or the discussion moves on before you get to say what you want. In this workshop we will concentrate on effective and appropriate ways to have back-and-forth interaction in a discussion.


In this session,you will:

  • learn new expressions for entering into a discussion.
  • practise taking your turn.
  • look at how to ensure your language is appropriate and polite.