Saturday, 14 September 2013

Developing Socratic Seminars

Following on from our first attempt with Socratic Seminars, attempt #2 was much more successful. Discussion flowed much more freely, no doubt in part due to the wingman formation that we trialled. Learners' reflections indicated that they felt much more confident putting their views forward having refined them with their wingmen first.  Even one of the less engaged learners couldn't help but become engaged in the conversation as the learners started to communicate genuine insights and personal connections with their readings. They were asking more questions to clarify their understanding and prompting others to expand on their ideas for more detailed explorations, so it seems we have turned a corner in terms of building a trusting and safe environment for collaborative learning.

One issue with the wingman formation was that we didn't have enough time for everyone to be in the inner circle, but the learners themselves indicated that this was a small price to pay against the benefits of the new model. In any case, they felt they had still contributed through their feedback and looked forward to being the first in the circle next time. Actually, as I write those words just hit me - they look forward to it! As they expressed their thoughts on how it had gone, there was a real sense of pride from them in what they had achieved and they were lots of congratulations for the previously reluctant participants who had contributed (and presumably gained) much more this week.

As we discussed the place of these seminars in future lessons there was a resounding 'yes' that we employ them regularly so it feels like we've made a real breakthrough.


  1. Socratic seminars are a recommended strategy for one of our teaching programs. I have never been brave enough to try them. I always feel like they are going to take too much time. I am going to have to get past that and give it a try at some point this year. I have smaller classes than I have had in the past, so this is probably an opportune time to take a chance.

  2. I really would recommend it. Visitors to our classroom have noted the freely flowing discussion that happens in our lessons, and I am sure this is down to the dynamic created and practiced through the seminars. Learners themselves request them at times, which shows they buy into the process so I am confident in saying it's had a truly positive and noticeable impact.