Socratic Seminars Limit Original Thought

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Socratic seminars are a teaching method used increasingly in the classroom.  Ideally, this method would promote analytical skills in students. However, in reality, it does nothing but create an aimless discussion.

Socrates’s intent when it came to this method was to make a student-led discussion revolving around open-ended questions.

Socrates believed students could improve their reasoning skills and ultimately move toward more rational thinking and ideas more easily supported with logic,” said Heather Coffrey of Learn NC.

Modern teachers have butchered this method, often asking questions that are designed to elicit a certain response. When the question has a specific answer that teachers are looking for, it often causes students to repeat the same information over and over during the discussion. It kills original thought and limits the discussion. The original role of teachers in Socratics is simply as moderators or facilitators of conversation. However, teachers often insert themselves into the conversation more often than necessary, taking away time from students.

This method requires that a class has outgoing kids who can engage and keep the discussion going. These same outgoing kids also hold the potential to hold back other students who are soft-spoken. Discussions often have a select number of kids who dominate the conversation, leaving little room for anyone else who isn’t as aggressive to input their thoughts.

Teachers use points as a way to incentivize students to participate in discussions. In most cases, this can bring down a conversation, as it promotes students to meet their talking minimum before clocking out of the discussion. In order to reach this talking minimum, many students simply spew meaningless comments that add little to the conversation. This echochamber is amplified even more when discussion questions are very one-sided. The conversation then becomes redundant, as students go around the room answering the question the exact same way, with little to no variation in answers.

In order to bring the Socratic method back to its roots, teachers and students must make changes. Teachers improve the conversation by asking open ended questions and allow students to draw their own conclusions from the text. They can also slow down kids who often monopolize the conversation and give others the opportunity to share their thoughts. On the students’ end, they should come to realize that when practiced right, socratics can be beneficial. Voluntary and intelligent contributions to the discussion have to be made in order to use the socratics full potential.

Unless these key changes are made and put into practice, socratic seminars will continue to be a redundant and meaningless teaching method. Otherwise, using this method in class does nothing to aid students in their learning, and has no place in the classroom.