Seminar Speaking Skills: Designer Babies

What is a designer baby?

A designer baby is a baby genetically engineered in vitro for specially selected traits, which can vary from lowered disease-risk to gender selection. Designer babies represent great potential in the field of medicine and scientific research, but there remain many ethical questions that need to be addressed.

Seminar Lesson

The aim of this lesson is to develop the students’ ability to listen to a scientific lecture, read two related documents and discuss the key points in a seminar. The lesson includes everything you need to run a successful academic seminar (teacher notes / lecture listening / two reading texts / discussion question). Lesson time: 3 hours.

Designer babies: the science and the ethics of genetic engineering

By Dr Joanna Webb (2018) from The Friendly Brain.

A slower version of this video is available here

The lesson

Full example of the lesson is available here


‘Designer Babies’ Seminar Discussion – 1x listening & 2x texts

This is an academic seminar discussion lesson. Students take notes on a short scientific lecture and two short texts. The students use these notes to take part in a 20 minute academic seminar. Example. Level: ***** [B2/C1/C2]  /  Video [05.05] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP


 Academic Seminars

Seminars for academic English students. What is a seminar? Seminar procedures and seminar practice lessons.

                          Seminar Phrases

Download Seminar Phrases

What is a seminar?

What is a seminar?

Generally, it is a small discussion on a specific topic among a group of students. At university it can be a central part of the learning process from lecturers creating seminars around pre-reading texts or post-lecture discussions. Commonly, at university English language centres seminars have become a feature of testing English speaking  though fluency, conversational skills and ability to discuss complex subjects.

Why have seminars?

  • explore topics in more depth.
  • share ideas in a way that will advance your thinking
  • learn from other people’s experiences and background knowledge
  • improve transferable skills for career development

Pre-seminar Procedures

Students are often given pre-texts and pre-listenings before the seminar to prepare. Students are expected to read and listen to texts carefully by making detailed notes and come to the seminar fully prepared.

A Seminar Test 

  • Students work together in groups of 4-6
  • Teachers provide a set of questions.
  • Students discuss for 25-30 minutes (approx 5 mins per person)
  • Students summarise the key points in the last 5 mins
  • Students CAN refer to their texts and notes
  • Teachers monitor and give feedback at the end.

The seminar process

  • The group are called into a room and they sit around a table.
  • The questions are given out and students have 2 minutes to read and prepare by taking notes.
  • The seminar begins with an opening statement – we’re here today to discuss…
  • The students then begin to discuss the first question.
  • Each student should make a contribution by referring to their notes / texts.
  • The seminar should flow with students adding to what was previously said.
  • Once everyone agrees the question has been addressed in full, then they move onto the next question.
  • Important:  not all the questions have to be answered but they should be discussed in order.
  • Once the students begin to approach 25 minutes, they should bring it to an end by each one summarising a main point raised.

key points to a seminar

  • It should be a flowing conversation with everyone involved and contributing.
  • The teacher / tutor should not intervene if it goes quiet but let the students manage the discussion.
  • Students have to show confidence and demonstrate thorough awareness of the texts.
  • Dominant students are penalised for not sharing and including others.
  • Students should be penalised for just reading notes.
  • Key debate phrases should be used to should conversation skills – agreeing, disagreeing, interrupting, etc…


Seminar Speaking Criteria x2

There is a basic seminar speaking criteria to assess seminar speaking skills which has four key criteria: Language accuracy, language range, pronunciation and communicative effectiveness. Also, another seminar criteria that includes ‘reference to materials’. Example / Level: ***** [B1/B2/C1] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP


Independent Learning seminar

This worksheet is based on four videos. Students listen and take notes on the videos and then summarise their ideas on the worksheet. Using their new knowledge they formulate an Independent Learning action plan. With all this information they have a 20-30 minute seminar using a set of questions.  Videos Level: ***** [B1/B2/C1] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP


Academic debating at university, debate phrases and key processes. Click here.


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Seminars are small group discussions. Seminar phrases and advice. Click here.

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